And a Pirate shall save ye…

Note: It has been brought to my attention that a number of readers have objected to this article because it demonstrates engagement in, and promotion of, software piracy. Unfortunately, the laws of Canada do not agree with this assessment. In Canada, the downloading of any software is still completely and 100% legal. It is what you do with that software afterwards which determines potential illegality. Since I had a purchased and completely legitimate product key for Windows Server 2008 R2, my actions of downloading a copy of that O/S from file sharing networks and using in conjunction with a fully legitimate product key was still legal in the eyes of Canadian law.

Let me tell you of a little story, where the Pirate came to the rescue.

I had a devil of a time doing an install of Windows Server 2008 R2 on this very server. I had recently obtained a pair of 1u servers, the Altus 1640SA units from Penguin Computing (yes it’s a Linux shop, but the hardware is generic), and intended to put Win2k8r2 on one, and BSD (probably FreeBSD) on the other. The hardware came with two processor sockets, but had only one populated with a single AMD Opteron 2216 and 4 sticks of 1Gb PC2-3200 ECC REG memory. The real beauty of these units are their expandability – I will be able to upgrade to dual quad-core Opterons, 48Gb of RAM, and the boards may even be able to take six-core Opterons with a BIOS upgrade. There are four 250gb drives, three of which I have made into a RAID-5 array with the fourth as a hotspare (my storage needs are not great).

I checked out the hardware for the Windows machine six ways to Sunday, and everything appeared to be as clean as a whistle. RAM (MemCheck98+), drives (SpinRite), motherboard (QuickTech Pro 2004) all check out flawlessly. Quite literally, flawlessly.

I had downloaded at least 4 different copies of Windows 2008 R2 from various sources (Dreamspark, Technet, Microsoft, etc.) in an attempt to install it. Each of these copies had been confirmed as being subtly different from each other (they are NOT the same ISO just from different sources), and none of these copies appeared to work. More below.

I had burned at least 8 different copies using three different machines (workstations and laptops). I had gotten the burning software to use the slowest settings (x4) and enabled a consistency check of the burned media every time (each time it passed… go figure).

I had even created a bootable USB drive with w2k8r2 on it. No dice.

Each and every time I tried to install Windows, about 15-59% of the way through I got an 0x80070570 error which explains that the files had been corrupted and could not be extracted. The % at where the process stopped appeared to be perfectly correlated with the DVD I had made. That is, a particular DVD *always* crapped out at a certain point every time.

The only exception had been that two DVDs managed to get beyond 90% done (before they crapped out) the very first time they were used… AND ONLY THE VERY FIRST TIME THEY WERE USED. Afterwards they crapped out at a much sooner point, and always at that point.

What is really strange is that if I used one of the four ISOs and created two different DVDs, each DVD would crash at a different point during the install. There was no consistency between DVDs from the same ISO, only within each DVD.

Googling the 0x80070570 error, I had come across several different resources that advocated different solutions such as pulling most of the RAM (did that), clearing the BIOS either via the jumpers or pulling the battery (yup), restarting the install without rebooting by simply returning to the start of the process and overwriting the previous attempt (ditto) and pulling all hardware except for a single drive (uh-huh). NOTHING WORKED. I even broke the RAID array, turned off the RAID functionality in the BIOS, and attempted to install onto just one drive. NO DICE.

After about two weeks of this, I was at a loss as to just what the %#*@&^%$ was happening. This clusterfrack was independent of hardware (fully checked out), independent of source material (four separate ISOs), independent of install media (various DVDs & USB drives) and independent of setup conditions (BIOS cleared, etc.).

In fact, I would extend the hardware independence to completely separate computers — I had an older Socket754 Athlon 64 as a web server that I tried to upgrade and that also threw the 0x80070570 error. I replaced it with these 1u Altus servers because of that inability to install w2k8r2.

Then, in my darkest hour, a Pirate came to the rescue.

I downloaded a pirated version of w2k8r2 from the infamous BitTorrent site The Pirate Bay (complete with crack, which I obviously blocked from being downloaded because I didn’t need it), extracted it to the USB drive (I was sick of burning DVDs by that point), and… voilà. IT INSTALLED.

Granted, the on-board COA was bogus, being nothing more than a string of the letter “B” repeated, but once I entered mine and authenticated with the Microsoft servers, everything was perfect.

So here is the tally:

  • Official ISO from DreamSpark did not work.
  • Official ISO from TechNet did not work.
  • Official ISO from Microsoft did not work.
  • Official ISO from another person (an IT guy I know) did not work.
  • Pirated ISO from BitTorrent site… WORKED.

That’s just sad.

What’s even worse is that none of the three Microsoft sites that I downloaded from had a checksum for me to confirm that the download ISO was exactly as intended. Remember, just because you managed to download something doesn’t mean that it downloaded completely or correctly. A checksum is something you can use with a third-party downloading plug-in such as DownThemAll to ensure that what you download has been downloaded exactly as intended (assuming the file provider also provides a checksum, that is!).

BitTorrent, on the other hand, has checksums baked into the protocol itself. When you download something off of BitTorrent, you can rest assured that you are getting the files exactly as the original poster of said files intended. That is why BitTorrent files cannot be “poisoned” by a third party or corrupted by the download process itself – any attempt to do so would cause the checksum to report that what you downloaded was not the same as what the original poster intended, and your BitTorrent client would automatically try to replace what it sees as “damage” or “incompleteness” to your downloaded files.

If only Microsoft offered BitTorrent downloads and/or checksums, I may have been able to avoid two weeks of frustration.

But hey, at least I was saved by a Pirate! Arrr…

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