USB/SD boot for Nano RRS feed


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  • Hi,

    We are currently collecting feedback on additional scenarios. Any feedback is welcome and recommend using Windows Server User Voice (



    • Marked as answer by Tim CerlingMVP Thursday, January 14, 2016 11:13 PM
    Thursday, January 14, 2016 6:50 PM
  • Hi Tim,

    I know that is an old post, but today I have deployed nano server to an USB stick. It is not complicated, I'll share my expirience

    1. just copied my nano server vhdx to the USB stick (by default, the generated VHDX is limited to 4 GB; so, if you'll use an USB stick less than 4 GB, you should specify the maximum size using the -MaxSize option)

    2. plugged it into physical server and booted from installation media

    3. pressed shift+f10, ran diskpart

    4. select vdisk file=c:\nanoserver.vhdx (assume that C: is the letter of your USB); attach vdisk

    5. used list vol command to know what letter was assigned to the attached vhdx, i.e. it is F:

    6. cd /d f:\windows\system32

    7. bcdboot f:\windows /f ALL /s c: (C: is the letter of usb stick)

    8. again diskpart; select vdisk file=c:\nanoserver.vhdx, detach vdisk


    The first boot of fresh nanoserver instance took about 10 minutes, I think it is by design

    • Proposed as answer by Nikriaz Wednesday, February 15, 2017 4:02 PM
    Tuesday, September 6, 2016 7:00 PM
  • I understand it is not difficult.  I have actually automated the process to be able to install to any disk recognized by WinPE.  The issue is Microsoft support and the ability to select removable media as the destination for the installation.  Currently, as stated in the link in the first post, Microsoft does not support it unless the OEM does, and the OEM gets it to work by hacking their device driver to recognize removable media as non-removable media.

    . : | : . : | : . tim

    Tuesday, September 6, 2016 7:55 PM
  • Hi guys,

    I too have a scenario where I would love to be able to boot Nano Server from SD. I wanted to try to repurpose a Intel NUC box (DE3815TYKHE) which features soldered-on 4 GB of storage that is reported to the system as an SD storage.

    I can deploy an image onto the "SD" just fine, it starts booting, but ends with blue screen saying "boot device not found" if I remember correctly. The same image does works from SSD. I attempted to force sdstor driver into the image but without success.

    Sunday, November 13, 2016 2:42 AM
  • Does the BIOS of the motherboard support booting from SD?

    . : | : . : | : . tim

    Monday, November 14, 2016 3:56 PM
  • Yes, it starts booting from the SD just fine: I get the boot logo with spinning circles for a few seconds, then BSOD. If the SD isn't bootable then BIOS displays error message right away.

    I wanted to try to install Hyper-V Server but the SD is just a tad too small.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2016 3:36 PM
  • You might be in a catch-22 situation.  The vendor may require a BIOS/firmware update to the Mobo to support what you are trying to do, but since Microsoft does not support it, they are not willing to create such an update.  Your best option would be to contact your hardware vendor and have a discussion with them.

    . : | : . : | : . tim

    Tuesday, November 15, 2016 10:48 PM
  • I just want to thank EugenBerend, so far it seems the only clean and neat instruction on the whole Internet how to install nano on an USB. Just installed on DL360 Gen7, works as a charm both on internal USB as well as SD. Boot time is 25 secs for SD vs. 33 seconds for USB (fastest USB2.0 available). So I ended up with SD.

    Just few points for clarification:

    1. Nano *.vhdx could be prepared with "Nano Server Image builder", the UI is straightforward

    2. USB drive should be partitioned (entire disk) and formatted (NTFS). Partition should be activated.

    3. *.vhdx file should be located on the bootable USB.

    4. On the instruction above "USB" and its letter drive refers to USB that going to be bootable for nano. If you just booted from another USB drive (WinPE or Installation media), it is another USB, with another drive letter.   

    • Edited by Nikriaz Wednesday, February 15, 2017 4:13 PM
    Wednesday, February 15, 2017 4:12 PM
  • Additional steps for UEFI

    Using DISKPART to create a UEFI bootable partition on a USB drive will fail. This will also cause the bootable USB installer created by the Nano Server Image Builder to fail. Since all of my attempts at flipping the RM bit failed, I had to find another solution.

    1. Download Rufus.

    2. Use Rufus to create a bootable USB using the Windows Server setup DVD iso. Set the partition to GPT for UEFI and the file system to NTFS.

    3. Delete the "NanoServer", "Sources", and "Support" folders from the USB. Also delete setup.exe and autorun.inf.

    4. Copy your NanoServer VHDX to this USB drive

    5. Follow the steps outlined by EugenBerend above. 

    Note that Nano Server is not as optimized for USB boot as ESXi; Nano is still heavily disk I/O dependent, especially when booting. If you're going to install it on a USB or SD card, you should make sure you use a high speed flash, USB 3 if possible, or just spend $50 on a small SATA SSD.

    I also want to point out that Nano is extremely difficult to manage in a workgroup scenario. It is designed to be joined to an AD domain. In a Workgroup most of the management consoles won't work so you're limited to remote Powershell, which requires jumping a few hoops to get working from a Windows desktop OS.

    Wednesday, June 14, 2017 8:06 PM