Standalone Hyper-V Server Part 2 – BIOS & RAID Configuration

As much as I love vanity pictures of a server being assembled, we are going to skip that and jump straight to the BIOS and RAID configuration of an assembled server. This is a very important first step when setting up any server. However, since this has already been covered by manufacturers and bloggers extensively, I will just be listing the checklist of items I always check with some basic guidance. If you aren’t familiar with 100% of these settings, that’s fine. That's what search engines are for! 

  • Update BIOS to newest version.

    • The BIOS is a very important piece of software. Update it to hopefully avoid any bugs or compatibility issues. Refer to the manufacturer documentation for guidance.
  • Update RAID firmware
    • If your RAID fails, you either lost data, or lost time recovering data. Updating the firmware is a quick way to decrease the odds of a software related failure. Refer to the manufacturer documentation for guidance.
  • Reset the BIOS and RAID to default values
    • It says to do this in the install instructions you didn’t read for the BIOS and RAID firmware updates.
  • Configure the BIOS
    • The following are the items I often change. I always flip through each page of the BIOS, and make sure there aren’t any really strange defaults.
    • Correct system time
    • Set BIOS to pause on error
    • Enable Intel Virtualization Technology
      • This is required to run a hypervisor
    • Set memory to speed and timings specified in manufacturer specifications.
      • If you don’t do this, you will almost always be running slower than need be and/or less stable.
    • Enable Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d) with interrupt remapping.
      • This will increase your reliability as well as give you some virtualization specific capabilities.
    • Disable the onboard storage controller
      • Since you are classy and always use a dedicated raid card, disable the onboard storage controller. It is just slowing your boot time down and initializing unused hardware.
    • Disable PXE boot on NICs
      • If you have a PXE server for deploying your hypervisors, do this after your windows install. There really isn’t any reason to have a boot option that can wipe your server just waiting to execute.
    • Adjust cooling/acoustic/fan profiles
      • As long as noise isn’t an issue, I would set these to the performance setting. The server should get louder before it clocks the processors down.
    • Configure your BMC/IPMI module
      • Only if relevant. This is really dependant on your environment. It can offer a good way to administer and monitor your server.
    • Set boot mode to UEFI
  • Configure the RAID
    • The following are only common settings. There may be much more needed. Consult your RAID documentation.
    • This is only for the OS disks. The data disks should be presented in JBOD form to Storage Spaces.
    • Create a RAID 1 for the OS
      • Generally, the default stripe size is fine. It shouldn’t make much of an effect on an OS drive for a hypervisor.
    • Initialize the virtual drive
  • Configure the boot device as needed.

If each of these is configured you should have a solid baseline configuration, but it is a good idea to run through each page in your BIOS andlook for poorly configured defaults. Perhaps the most important point, don't change a setting unless you know what you are doing! You can create a lot of problems for yourself with just a couple of poorly thought out 'tweaks'.

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