Installing Server 2012 R2 on a HP ML10 v2

I’m beginning to like my new HP ML10 v2, its straightforward, solidly built and above all fits exactly in my budget for my home lab – however I did run into a small problem when setting it up – the complete lack of a decent source of information on how to Install Server 2012 R2 on a HP ML10 v2.

So, armed with a notepad and a lot of patience, i’d like to present my setup guide..

Installing Server 2012 R2 on a HP ML10 v2 – A Quick and Dirty Guide

Although this guide is for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 it does work equally well for all flavours of MS Server 2k12 including Hyper-V Server. 

Additions to the base specification:

  • 1 x 2TB Samsung Hard Drive
  • 1 x LG DVDRW

As the server in its current configuration doesn’t ship with any optical or hard disk drives I dug in my box of spares to see what I could find. For the hard drive I picked out a fairly generic 2TB Samsung drive – ultimately i’d like to install a small capacity SDD for the host drive to speed up boot times, but for now the Samsung will more that surface.

If you found this useful you might like to check out my thoughts on upgrading the ML10 v2.

For the optical drive I found a LG DVDRW and appropriate cabling. I didn’t actually need this in the end so i’ll likely remove this from the server before its “commissioned”.

What you are going to need to install Server 2012 R2 on a HP ML10 v2:

  • HP ProLiant Offline Array Configuration Utility
  • HP USB Key Utility for Windows
  • USB Pen Drive (8Gb +)
  • HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i Drivers
  • Server Install DVD (or ISO and USB boot disk creation software)

Setting up the B120i Disk Controller

As the ML10 v2 is a very low cost server it does omit some handy features found on higher specced models. The biggest omission is lack of an inbuilt version of  HP Smart Storage Administrator.

HP Smart Storage Administrator is a small bootable partition that contains the management software to create, diagnose and troubleshoot disk arrays on the included B120i Controller. While its not included as a bootable option on the ML10 v2, it is downloadable from HP’s website.

The offline version of the software is referred to as the “Offline Array Configuration Utility” but this is functionally equivalent to the inbuilt version of the Smart Storage Administrator. The only real difference is how you boot into the environment.

Download the HP Offline Array Configuration Utility

Once downloaded, you need to burn it either onto some kind of optical media or in my case a bootable USB drive. HP provides a utility for just this purpose.

Download the HP USB Key Utility for Windows

Because i’m primarily an Apple User, I used an older Win7 Pro laptop to create the bootable USB drive, the link above is for an older, 32Bit version that’ll work with Win7.

(Handy tip – when downloading the USB Key Util, don’t run the installer as it will error as it wants to install on a server OS.. simply extract somewhere (desktop for example) and run the hpusbkey.exe file from the extracted location, and the software will load.)

Using the HP USB Key Utility for Windows to create a bootable USB drive

Once you download and run the hpusbkey.exe application, the USB Key Utility is very much a “next, next, next” type of program. Just specify the USB you want to write to, and the source ISO and let it do its thing. If you’d prefer a visual guide of how to use it then check out the following link:

HP USB Key Utility Visual Setup Guide (Slideshow)

(Handy tip – Although it doesn’t seem to specifically state the the USB Utility will only work with HP Specific ISO’s – this is indeed the case. I wasted a good half an hour trying to get the app to build me a Server 2012 R2 USB boot drive.)

Setting up a disk array using HP ProLiant Offline Array Configuration Utility

Rather than reinvent the wheel, here is the link to the official HP user guide for configuring the disk controller using HP Smart Storage Administrator. Although the offline version is named slightly differently (Offline Array Configuration Utility instead of Smart Storage Administrator) once you have booted into the environment, the process is the same.

Download the HP Smart Storage Administrator User Guide from

If you work through the guide, you’ll be able to setup the array how you want it.

Download the HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i Drivers

Next you are going to need the controller drivers for Server 2012 R2 on a HP ML10 v2  – after a lot of digging, I managed to find the correct location on the website.

Download the HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i Drivers for Server 2012 R2

Download and extract the files to a USB pen drive as you are going to need to inject them during the server install. In my case, I added them to a new directory on the Easy2Boot Server Install USB created next.

Optional: Create Server Install USB with Easy2Boot

Check out my step-by-step guide on getting started with Easy2Boot

If you already have a bootable DVD with the Server OS on then you can skip this point and go directly to installing the server. In my case the DVDRW on my MacBook Pro failed a long time ago so burning a copy from the ISO wasn’t an option so I needed a USB drive to boot from.

After some googling I came across Easy2Boot which is a great little freeware project dedicated to creating easy to use usb boot drives.

While i’m not going to go though the steps needed to create the boot drive (it’s a little out of scope) it was very easy to setup, and once i’d copied by Server 2012 R2 ISO into the correct directory on the drive, it was as simple as boot to USB and selecting the ISO.

Check out the Easy2Boot website for more details and very specific setup guides.

Installing Server 2012 R2 (or any other variant)

The install from this point was straight forward. I’ve installed Server 2012 R2 countless times with no issues. As expected, the installer failed to locate a disk drive due to the lack of controller drivers on the install DVD. Simply pop in the USB with the B120i Controller drivers, find them in the dialogue box and the install will continue as normal.

Problems that I encountered installing Server 2012 R2 on a HP ML10 v2

I’m not entirely sure if this is a known issue or just something that’s related to the hardware that i’m using but I ran into a curious issue post install.

Once Server 2012 R2 had installed, I added the Hyper-V role before applying any Windows Updates, the role seemed to install correctly and then prompted for a reboot. Once rebooted, the server would go into a blue screen / reboot cycle on startup, never getting to the login prompt and seemingly corrupting the Server 2012 install.

Naturally I tried a fresh install again with identical results.

On the third attempt I installed every Windows update available before adding the role and everything worked out fine, the server rebooted correctly with no errors and its now running happily. I guess the moral of the story is to make sure everything is updated before installing any roles.

And now for a slight rant..

I’ve worked a lot with Dell servers in the past, and with good results. The Dell website is clear and concise especially when it comes to drivers. HP need to take a leaf out of Dell’s book.

I’m not sure if its down to the companies recent split in two into Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and HP Inc. but the HPE website is terrible at the moment. You would assume that if you need to find storage drivers for the HDD controller (for example) that you’d search for the product, choose drivers and then look for the storage controller, download, extract and off you go.

HP do it differently. Yes they do allow you to search for model name, yes you can see a list of drivers, but don’t expect to find what you need.

What you need to do is identify the controller on the motherboard (in this case the HP Dynamic Smart Array B120i), search for that separately and then hope you find what you are after. I have to download 3 versions before I got one that worked, hence including the direct link in the text above.

In Conclusion

Setting up Server 2012 R2 on a HP ML10 v2 is both a satisfying and frustrating experience. Because of the lack of Intelligent Provisioning (as a cost saving measure) you really need to know the hardware well before installation. No drivers are provided with the server (again, cost saving) and trying to locate the ones you need can be a fruitless task.

However its not all doom and gloom. Now its up and running its a great little server. I’ve tested the hardware with both Server 2012 R2 and Hyper V Server R2 and it works great on both. It’s not yet ready for its “production” role yet – its needs a lot more memory, but it seems a perfectly capable little server.

Server 2012 R2 on a HP ML10 v2

The HP ML10 v2 in all its glory

1 Comment on "Installing Server 2012 R2 on a HP ML10 v2"

  1. Hi Gary,

    I had the same issue of blue screen and I did exactly what you did here. I installed hyper-v role straight away when Windows Server loads first time. I think I have to reinstall the server OS again.

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