Configuring my Dell PowerEdge R920 for dual SD Cards instead of Internal HDs

We recently setup a Dell PowerEdge R920 that was in storage to add to our VDI Environment for additional resources.  This server differs from the other R920s in our environment as it has dual SD Cards internally instead of Hard Disks. 

I had to configure the SD Cards in a mirror so we had fault tolerance, so this is the procedure I followed…

1. Power on the server.  The server will undergo a memory test.
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2.  Once the memory test is over, the Dell logo will appear, with 4 options in the top right corner and the system will begin to POST.  Press F2 to enter the system setup.
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3.  Once you press F2, the system will continue to POST, and you’ll see ENTERING SYSTEM SETUP in the top right corner.
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4.  After completing POST, the SYSTEM SETUP MAIN MENU will load.  Choose SYSTEM BIOS.
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5.  Then choose MEMORY SETTINGS.
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7.  Click FINISH. 
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8.  Click EXIT in the top right corner.  Then click YES to confirm.
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9.  When the system reboots, press F11 during POST.
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10. You’ll see ENTERING BIOS BOOT MANAGER in the top right corner.
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11.  When the boot manager loads, choose BIOS BOOT MENU.
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12.  Select the installation method you’re using.  In my case, I have a mounted ISO via iDRAC so I’m choosing Virtual CD. 
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13.  Select the ESXi Installer.  In my case, I’m installing ESXi 5.5 U2 to match the rest of the hosts in my environment. 
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14.  The ESXi Installer will load.
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15.  Press ENTER to continue with the installation. 
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16.  Press F11 to accept the EULA. 
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17.  You’ll see your Dual SD cards ready to accept the vSphere ESXi Installation.  2016-12-22 09_39_41-Remote Desktop Manager [CTCGSSAPP12]

18.  Proceed with your install as you would if installing on disk media. 



Ben Liebowitz, VCP, vExpert
NJ VMUG Leader

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4 thoughts on “Configuring my Dell PowerEdge R920 for dual SD Cards instead of Internal HDs

  1. This article is incorrect. Following the above will set the system memory/RAM in a mirrored configuration. Mirroring the Dell SD module is also set via the BIOS but in the ‘Integrated Devices’ menu.

  2. Hi, Ben.

    I found this article after searching Google for “internal sd card dell poweredge.”

    Just today, and to my surprise, I found a Dell PowerEdge T420 in a Salvation Army thrift store. To say it just kind of fell into my lap is an understatement. I literally tripped over it in a cluttered aisle, then realized what it was. One of the Salvation Army associates kept referring to it as a “build-your-own” computer because they thought is was just a barebones case, because there was no harddrive installed and all they saw was the empty 2nd CPU socket and corresponding empty RAM slots and assumed it didn’t have any components installed at all. Apparently, they did not even bothering to lift up the fan shroud to see that CPU 1 and 2x 8Gb sticks of PC3L were installed. So, I got this “build your own” empty case for $30.

    I was able to plug it in at the store and confirmed the PSU and fans powered up and it at least tried to boot, so I bought it, not really expecting it to work or, at minimum knowing I would need to buy a HDD, a 2nd processor and more RAM for it. I paid for it hoping that I got lucky and the mainboard wasn’t fried or that it had other not obvious problems. When I got it home and connected to monitor, it booted and I was able to access the BIOS and Boot Menu. While inspecting the machine’s internals, I found the dual SD card sockets and a single Kingston 1Gb card installed. This is when I performed the above search and discovered what these are used for. I had no idea you could use SD cards in place of hard drives. Certainly this single 1Gb drive is no replacement, but now that I know this unit “works” at least this far into it, I’m willing to buy a couple of 128Gb Class 10 cards to play around with.

    I followed your instructions in the article to see where it would take me and I got all the way through what looks like Step 14, but then the following screens are different. When I loaded Boot Manager, there was no SD card option but when I selected “Normal” that’s what booted. I presume this means ESXi has already been installed on this machine. A screen that looked like your Step 14 displayed as it configured ESXi. After that, it takes me to a screen that has a full screen box with a gray upper half and a yellow lower half. Text in the gray section states: VMware ESXi 5.1.0 (VMKernel Release Build 1065491) The next two lines have the machine name and specs.

    Below in the yellow section, it says: “Download tools to manage this host from:” and has three lines of http:// URLs

    There are options at the very bottom to select for “Customize System/View Logs” and for “Shut Down/Restart” When I choose either one of these options, an “Authentication Required” gray/yellow dialogue box pops up prompting for a Login Name and Password which, of course, I do not have. So, I can’t even shut it down without entering login info! Haha.

    Is it possible simply to re-install ESXi and configure this login information in the process? I honestly don’t even know what ESXi is, or even VMware really. I mean, I know it stands for Virtual Machine but I don’t have any plans to configure any virtual devices and, as far as I know, have absolutely no need for a “hypervisor.” I don’t suppose there would be any reason to install Win 10 Pro on SD cards would there, if it’s even possible?

    I figured I would just install a matched pair of E5 Xeons, a terabyte SSD, 64Gb RAM and 2 GPUs and use it for video editing and Photoshop, maybe some crypto-currency mining, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. I’d install Windows onto the SD card just as an interesting experiment, but I don’t expect it would be a very high performing instance given the throughput of an SD card?

    I know, I know… it’s like a monkey found a Rubik’s Cube and has no idea what to do with it, lol.

    Any advice?

    1. Wow, that is a pretty lucky find indeed!

      You probably don’t have those options because you mentioned there is only ONE SD card, and not two, correct? The instructions I posted in my blog are to setup the SD slots so they mirror each other for fault tolerance.

      One way to test it is to download the Dell OMSA Live CD (which is a Linux Distro). From here, you can run Diagnostics and such to test the board. I would do that before purchasing another proc and ram.

      Good luck!

      Ben Liebowitz, VCP, vExpert
      NJ VMUG Leader

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