Installing Windows Server 2008 on an Old Machine

I am looking at various testing scenarios on the new Windows Server 2008 operating system. The first step is to install Server 2008 and I ran into an interesting issue with device drivers today. First of all, I decided to follow the installation ReadMe advice and install Server 2008 onto a second partition on a machine that already has one older OS. So I grabbed an old (circa 2003) Dell Optiplex GX270 desktop machine with 1.5GB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. I popped a bootable Windows Server 2003 disk into the machine and launched its install. I configured the drive into a 20GB partition (for Server 2003) and left the rest, about 40GB, for Server 2008. I installed Server 2003 as normal, specifying all kinds of information such as Admin password, and so on. Next I copied the Server 2008 files onto the machine, and while in Sever 2003, double-clicked on the Server 2008 setup.exe file. I aimed the install at the 40GB partition. Server 2008 installation is stunningly simple and proceeded without any problems. With Server 2008, you specify most information (machine name, administrator password, and so on) after installation rather than as part of the installation process. See the image below for the initial configuration dialog. After Server 2008 installed however, my screen resolution was stuck at an ugly 640×480. The old Dell machine has an old Intel 82865G Graphics Controller that Server 2008 didn’t recognize. I churned for a couple hours searching the Internet for either a Server 2008 or even Vista driver (the idea being that Server 2008 shares much of the Vista codebase). But there is no such graphics driver. Ameet Chitre, a senior manager in the Windows group, showed me what to do. In essence, Server 2008 can use an old driver, so the trick is to swindle Server 2008 into installing an old driver not designed for Server 2008. Basically you can’t directly run the driver setup program, but you can get Server 2008 to accept the driver’s underlying .inf file. This is a general principle: when installing Server 2008 on an old machine, find old device drivers but trick Server 2008 into installing them by pointing directly at the associated .inf files. It’s one of those things that seems obvious in retrospect. Here are the specific steps I took to install the 82865G Graphics Controller driver:
Download file R126991.exe from the Dell drivers page. Double click on the R126991.exe file which will extract it to the machine. Inside the R126991 folder there’ll be a setup.exe but it will not install the driver — the setup will throw a "wrong OS" error message. The trick is to go to Computer | Manage | Diagnostics | Device Manager | Display Adapters. Right-click on the current VGA entry and select "Update Driver Software". Then select the "Browse my computer for driver software" option (but not the "Search automatically" option which will throw a "the best driver is already installed" error) and then select the "Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer" option (but not the Browse button which will let you point to a directory but not at an .inf file which is what we need). Now select the "Have Disk" option, and then Browse to the ialmnt5.inf file in the win2000 subdirectory of the R126991 directory. Click Open and the old driver will be forcibly installed. After a reboot, the Windows Server 2008 machine now has pretty nice graphics.
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One Response to Installing Windows Server 2008 on an Old Machine

  1. Hawkz says:

    Thanks for that! I knew that sort of trick would exist, finally I get some native resolution 🙂

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