Windows Server 2012 freezes when starting a Hyper-V guest

I’m going through a process at the moment of upgrading my Server 2008 R2 lab environment to Server 2012. This week I decided I would do a fresh install of Server 2012 on one of my Hyper-V hosts. I backed up all of my VM’s to an eSATA drive, and then performed a clean install of Server 2012.

When the operating system was installed, I added the Hyper-V role and re-created one of my machines in System Center Virtual Machine Manager, then attached the original VHD’s.

Unfortunately, when I tried to power up the first “imported” machine, the Hyper-V host completely froze. No caps or num lock response. I had to hard reset it to bring it back online, after which my first step was to try to start the VM again. Same deal.

I then created a fresh machine, with no OS installed and tried to boot that. Yet again, the Hyper-V host locked up. Even a blank VM with no drives at all caused the Hyper-V host to freeze or lock up as soon as it was powered up.

Given the nature of the problem (no BSOD), there was no crash dump to analyse, and no Windows Event Logs to look through.

At this stage, I was almost certain I had a hardware issue, but this was working fine on Server 2008 R2. Although this server is a white box server build, I have previously found that the Dell diagnostics software that came with Dell equipment that I have previously bought, tends to work pretty well in diagnosing generic hardware issues. I created a bootable USB stick using the Dell diagnostic software, and then ran through all the tests. Everything passed. A burn-in test with BurnInTest from Passmark also succeeded with everything set to maximum load.

I then started doing some research in to the particular hardware combination I had, with interest to Hyper-V and Server 2012. The system is a Gigabyte GA-970A-D3 Motherboard, AMD Phenom II X2 555 and 32GB DDR3 G.Skill RAM.

My initial research seemed to indicate that USB 3.0 on Gigabyte motherboards has been causing issues for people when running Windows 8 and Server 2012. I checked my settings, and it was enabled. I disabled it, again certain this would resolve the issue.

No dice!

The solution is the end for me, was actually pretty simple (as it normally is when you spend hours troubleshooting an issue like this). I just needed to disable C1E support in the BIOS. For good measure, I also performed a BIOS update and disable the Cool & Quiet power options in the BIOS as well.

My VM’s now start perfectly, and I can continue migrating the rest of them on to my new Server 2012 environment.

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