If you’re not wincing already by see those feared words “blue screen of death” (BSOD) then allow me to detail how this story got even worse. This situation may affect you if you are running Windows Server 2008 R2 on a Dell E6400 or E6500 series laptop. If you’d like the solution steps skip down to the bottom, although you may not like what I tell you since (at the time of writing) it involves installing Server ‘08 R2 Service Pack 1 beta.
Our story begins with me in Ney York for SharePoint Saturday New York City 2010 this past weekend. I arrived Friday night for the speaker dinner and continued the night with friends for karaoke and seeing the town. I got back to my hotel too late to give my presentation a last run through and make sure everything was in order.
The next morning I arrived at the conference venue early to finish those last minute checks I had neglected the night before. The laptop I use for most of my work (recently upgraded to) is a Dell E6410 with Intel Integrated HD graphics card. I dual boot it between Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 (for Hyper-V and 64 bit VMs.) Not surprisingly I had forgotten to update the graphics drivers on my Server ‘08 R2 install to allow it to connect to a projector. Ironically I had run into this same issue at SharePoint Saturday Michigan earlier this year on my previous laptop. When I faced this issue that time I just installed the latest display driver appropriate for Windows 7 and was good to go in 10 minutes. This time around I was not so fortunate.
Learning from my mistakes the previous time I went out to the Intel site and searched for the latest Windows 7 version of my display drivers. After downloading I ran the installer. Just as the install progress bar hit 100% and popped up the success window everything went to hell as my machine blue screened. “Ohh no, this is not good” I exclaimed to the other speakers in the room. Many of them offered to let me use their laptops if I couldn’t get it working, so thanks to all of them. I didn’t panic quite yet and figured a reboot might solve the issue. I did a hard recycle of my laptop and was greeted by a garbled welcome screen similar to the old days when you tried to tune your TV to a blocked movie channel. Not a good sign. I rebooted once again but this time into Safe Mode and rolled back the display drivers which got me back to square one.
As I mentioned above, the solution to my issue was to install Server ‘08 R2 Service Pack 1 (SP1) beta (download here). Make sure to launch your browser in “Run As Admin” mode to actually start the download. After doing some quick searching across the interwebs I ran across this forum post on Connect. The general consensus from comments is that Hyper-V didn’t mix well with the display drivers on my Server ‘08 R2 install. Some users were able to correct it with SP 1 beta. Since I only had a few hours until my presentation it was worth a shot. I downloaded the service pack beta, ran the installer, and 30ish minutes later I was greeted by the welcome screen. I ran the display driver update again and thankfully this time didn’t have any blue screens. Fabian Williams actually snapped a really good picture of me waiting for the screen to come back up.
There appears to be a semi-widespread issue with Dell E6400 and E6500 series laptops running Server ‘08 R2 and Hyper-V. It may not be specific to those Dell laptops, but that’s where I’m seeing the most comments about it occurring. I was able to resolve this issue by installing the Service Pack 1 beta (at time of writing) so that may be a solution for now. Seeing as I’ve had this issue in the past I may start moving away from Hyper-V and towards VirtualBox or VMWare, but I’ve had really good performance out of Hyper-V so I’m still undecided. Lesson for all of you readers is that you should always test out every aspect of your presentation well before you deliver it and have backups (screenshots, files hosted in cloud, etc.) as much as possible.