Upgrading your WD DX4000 to Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials

Update!!! I have created a new image for Windows Server 2016 Standard on WDSentinel DX4000. Get it here

Instructions are the same, except you can create your USB using USB Image Tool which is far simpler this time. NIC Drivers are also now fully compatible.


  • Just like Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2016 is too slow to run on this device. My DX4000 is upgraded to 4GB of RAM, yet still it is far too slow to be functional for me. I will give it a shot for a couple of weeks.
  • This image will keep your D drive intact, it only formats C drive. However, PLEASE BACKUP ALL YOUR DATA FIRST.



The WD Sentinel (DX 4000) Storage Appliance from Western Digital comes with stock Windows Storage Server 2008, I wanted to upgrade it to Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard to make use of the following features:

  • Data Deduplication
  • SMB 3.0
  • Native NIC Teaming

However because it is a headless system (does not have a screen), it was virtually impossible to simply upgrade it. Also, for me to be able to keep the Essentials Dashboard (which is only a feature of Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials) I have to first install Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, then upgrade to Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard.

I finally found this awesome guide to perform the upgrade, it depends on Windows Assessment and Deployment Toolkit to create a WinPE image that will automate the installation of Windows Server 2012 R2.




Because those steps are too complex, it is not an easy task for the average person to go through it, I’ve depended on this guide to create an ISO image that will automate the upgrade for you. The ISO image can be downloaded from here.

So simply follow these steps to upgrade your DX4000 to Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard whilst keeping the Essentials Dashboard:

  • Backup your data
  • Backup your backup
  • Have a recovery ISO image (EMEA) (PANAM) from Western Digital ready in case something goes wrong, here is the manual
  • Download and extract the DX4000_WindowsServer2012R2Essentials.iso
  • Use software like Rufus (http://rufus.akeo.ie/) with the following settings to convert the ISO Image into a bootable USB
    1: boot-disk = ISO (Select the ISO file)
    2: Partition = MBR for UEFI
    3: Filesystem = FAT32
    4: Size = Default FAT32
  • Modify the file “autounattend.xml” on the root directory of the USB to replace “XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX” with your Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials product key
  • Insert the USB into your DX4000 and boot from USB (by holding down the reset button for 15 seconds while starting your device)
  • That’s it, everything will run automatically, after about an hour you will be able to connect via Remote Desktop to your device.
  • After your system is up and running, you can simply mount a Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard ISO and upgrade your Essentials edition into Standard edition (to get use of NIC Teaming and Data Depuplication via the upgrade wizard


  • After like 5~10 minutes from booting with the USB you will be able to use TightVNC Viewer to view the installation status, simply make sure you note the IP Address assigned by DHCP to your device and use TightVNC to connect to it
  • Windows default username is “Administrator” and the default password is “P@ssw0rd”
  • The Intel NIC drivers are not compatible with Windows Server 2012 R2, so do not bother trying to install them, Windows will pick up a default driver which will work just fine
  • The LCD of your system will stop working after performing the upgrade, this ISO image does not have any software to control the LCD

Enjoy 🙂


  1. I am getting a “STARTUP FAILED: 0xD9” on my display with your ISO on a USB stick. I have tried with modified autounattend.xml and your “XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX-XXXXX” original file. 4 different USB sticks created with Windows 7 USB/DVD Tools and from OS X using dd command. Same result every time.

    I have tried the ISO in a VM and it boots fine, but the install do not select OS on the OS selection list, I select the one on the list with ENTER and afterwards getting a error on disk something is not set in the unattend installation.

    My DX4000 is 6TB (2x3TB) edition for the European market.

    1. Hi Jonas, the startup failed error is normal, this is because the LCD cannot detect that the OS has booted up…
      Let me check what might be the problem with selecting an OS and get back to you…

    2. Hey Jonas, turns out the unattend.xml does not choose an OS for you automatically, you’re going to have to select the OS manually, I will work on that later. But for now, just connect using TightVNC and select an OS.
      Regarding the disk configuration error this will only happen in a Virtual Machine, because the disks layout is totally different than the actual device.

      I think your problem now would just be in being able to boot from USB stick…simply plug in the USB stick into a normal PC (with a screen) and tell me what happens, maybe Win 7 USB/DVD tool is not working for us and we need another way to create a bootable USB. or maybe you are not being able to boot from it on your device correctly…

      1. I am trying with Rufus to create a USB now. Now it works. Rufus need to be set to:
        1: boot-disk = ISO (Select the ISO file)
        2: Partition = MBR for UEFI
        3: Filesystem = FAT32
        4: Size = Default FAT32

      2. not sure if you ever addressed this; however, if you instead use a different key value pair for the ImageInstall, it will not prompt you for this.



        using /IMAGE/NAME or /IMAGE/DESCRIPTION with a string value will result in a prompt if it is not spelled “exactly” as you would find in the WIM file descriptor.

        dism /get-wiminfo /wimfile:\install.wim

    3. Did you ever resolve what was causing the 0xD9 error? I’m getting it as well. The MS tool fails at 99%, but rufus appears to write without error. I’m re-downloading the iso to make sure that it wasnt somhow corrupt.

  2. Hi there —

    Just thought I’d let you know that you can actually add the Essentials Dashboard to your Windows Server Standard 2012 R2 install. It’s a feature in Roles called “Windows Server Essentials Experience”. I know it works, because I actually did it on our server at the office. This would skip the extra step of upgrading from Windows Server Essentials 2012 R2 to Windows Server Standard 2012 R2… 🙂

  3. Hello,

    Thanks for doing this, I have a question, I have 4 new unused 6TB drives, will this install create a raid 5 across all 4 drives or does it expect to use the pre-existing raid that shipped with the unit?

  4. So I downloaded the four files in the place you added, I just add all files to a DVD emulator to be booted as a USB drive correct?

  5. So if i wish to use your method to install 2012 on to dx4000, i can put in any kind of drive into all 4 bays and create my own storage pool? e.g. no need to follow the WD compatible drive list?

  6. Hello Guys,
    Thank you for this post?
    Did someone managed to install it easyly with those bits, I am thinking of buying that NAS to have W2k12 Standard on it with DHCP/AD etc… However I am wondering about the fan, i have read that they go full speed and cant be moderated if not original OS. What happen if the Installation fail after the partitioning ? Is the device bricked ? Or can we recover?
    IIs the power consumption reasonable ?

  7. Ok, Recently took ownership of a dx4000. Replaced the 2gb with 4gb, and downloaded the above image. Used rufus ( mbr for uefi, fat32/fat32, selected the iso) and replaced the xxxxx in the serial area. Booted, and received the 0xd9 error, which I understand is really not an error, but proof that i did the recovery boot process correctly. Plugged in a patch cable, and I never get a dhcp address. tried on multiple usb drives. Booted the image on a phyiscal machine, and it gets to the “select your os” so I know the image wrote properly. I have also tested and verified that my dhcp server functions. Any things to try?

    1. Where do you receive the 0xd9 error? You should not be receiving this error.
      My guess is that the image is not booting on the device correctly.

      To test this, download the stock image from WD and make sure you can recover your system using the stock image: http://download.wdc.com/private/PANAM_SvrRecovery_1_7_6_21.iso and the using manual: http://www.wdc.com/wdproducts/library/UM/ENG/4779-705064.pdf

      This will give you a better understanding of what exactly goes wrong.

      1. I get the 0xd9 shortly after it says “starting recovery”, after holding the secret button in the back while booting. Downloading the panam now. I will also try the win7 dvd tool.

      2. Disregard my denseness. I’m crating the bootable cd from the panam iso now. I’m also trying a different usb drive, as a ton of others on the wd forums have had issues creating a bootable usb, most have tried 3-5 different usb drives before finding one that works.

  8. Hi, first of all thanks for your post, after a few days of fiddling arround i sucessfully got my Win2012R2 DX4000 NAS up and running. Now there is on question popping up how will i be notified if a drive fails? is there a Hardware alert and if so, can it be acknowledged until the replacement drive is bought and installed. Oh and do you know if there is a probably thirdparty “Agent” the may notify me by mail?

    Cheers Ingo

    1. Sadly I don’t know the answer to your question. I have tried multiple times to find a simple solution to getting the same software that WD has OOB but I wasn’t successful.

    1. Okay got this working. It HAS to be a Server 2012 R2 Essentials Key. Glad to have Microsoft Imagine with free access to all editions

  9. Hey everyone, im struggling my ass of to do a recovery on my DX 4000.
    i downloaded recovery IOS and went through all the steps. when its done it keeps staying at Loading OS” then gives a Invalid Nic Num” error :((( so when i restart it only stays at Loading OS” for hours.

    When i go through the steps through my browser it wont accept my password!! plzzzz help anyone

  10. Mine is not detecting on my LAN while stock recovery ,not windows server 2012 essential installation working .how to completely reset the device ? please help.

  11. After struggling for almost a month trying to set this little box up (after a firewall lock-out) your instructions worked like magic. Thank you.
    Downloaded the ISO, used Rufus with the prescribed instructions, modified the xml file, inserted the USB, reset the DX4000, went for lunch, logged in using TightVNC, selected OS, cup of coffee later logged in remotely.

    1. Hi,

      Trying to get this to work but i keep getting a “windows could not apply unattend answer file’s diskconfiguration setting”.

      I have 2 500gb drives installed and i can see them via disk part etc…

      Not sure where i am going wrong?

      1. I think that happens when you try to install 2012 on drives that don’t have the original WD image on them. At least in my case that is what caused that error. IOW there were no partitions configured so when the answer file told it to install 2012 on partition 3 there was no partition 3.

      2. You will need to perform a Disk Recreation or something like that with the WD Recovery ISO (chose the 2nd option) edit the whitelist files with your 2 500GB, put that USB in and perform recovery on your DX4000 … once Disk Recreation successful, you can now install the 2012 version via recovery.

  12. Hi,

    Tried the 2016 img today.

    I can connect via tightvnc but all i get is a dos box with:

    wpeinit -unattend:X:\unattend.xml

    Cant see any install progress etc..

    1. Installation should kick off automatically. If it didn’t then for some reason your disk allocation might be different than expected which prevents the script from finding the correct path for the WIndows Setup.

      To check, use the following command sequence:
      – diskpart
      – list disk
      – select disk x (where x is the disk of the usb stick, you should be able to tell by its size)
      – list volume
      Note drive letter given for the volume. Then use the following command to start Windows Installation:
      – E:\WindowsSetup\Setup /unattend:E:\autounattend.xml (where E is the drive letter you got from the first step)

      Another reason you might be having this problem as well is if Windows Setup has started and exited because your disk allocation was not as expected as well.
      If you take a look at the autounattend.xml in the root of the USB stick, you will find the tag contains instructions on which partition of format (Partition ID 3 on Disk ID 0), again, using diskpart, use the same command sequence as above to figure out the correct partition and disk that you want to install windows on and tweak it in the xml file and try again.

      1. I used the re create storage from the recovery ISO to create the storage. I can see that drive listed as Disk 0 via diskpart but it has no partitions.

        And the usb key was assigned the Drive letter C so i was able to run your command to get the setup started but it failed on the disk configuration.

  13. Hello everybody,
    do not worry about the display messages. They can all be safely ignored.
    There is a serial port J23 on the mainboard. This port can be used to set up a raid, access the bios and – as I did – install Debian with OpenMediaVault. It works really great. I am currently creating a video series about it. Check it out: https://youtu.be/amUXkdGdcTg
    Next videos every sunday.

  14. This was a life saver. In combination with a Linksys USB 3.0 network adapter the Widnows 2016 ISO has allowed me to recover my Western Digital DX4000 after both network ports failed.

    Of course I was a bit behind on my backups. This has allowed me to recover some files dear to me. If you’re ever in Utrecht (The Netherlands), I owe you beer!

  15. Do I need to add a “Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials product key” even to the xml when installing using the Windows Server 2016 Standard-Image? Or which other keys should work?

    1. Check the autoattend.xml in the root of the drive. In the tag you will find details about your disk layout. This basically tells the installer on which drive to install Windows. Try (Shift + F10) on the screen you sent me, to open command prompt. Run diskpart to check the current disk layout then set configuration in the xml file to match it.

      1. No Matter what I try I can’t get it to ready the files from the USB stick.

        It drops into cmd when I click OK ……….. it shows I am in X:

        When I use disk part to show the drives is states drive C:

        I have tried editing the unattended xml file to reference both C: and X: with the same result.


  16. Hi,

    Ain´t there a way so stop dx4000 from checking disks compatibility?
    This is the most annoying problem to me…

    Received a diskless unit, struggling to make it work since I don´t have any of the compatible hdd at hand.

    I usually use Buffalo Nas units, and still use one Buffalo rack mounted as primary storage/backup, and thought this would be an interesting thing mostly for media center. But, I´m starting to regret it, and thinking on selling it.

    Any tips?

    Thank you

    1. There is a tutorial how to add your HDD to the supported drive list but I couldn’t get it to work

      I installed Debian and OMV Instead

      1. I´ve seen this earlier, and seems a nice option. However, this would limit the unit to a single purpose.

        I would prefer maintain windows server which has many other possibilities.

        My major issue is with the hdd´s. At this momment I can re-create, or do the recovery.
        I´ve been reading about editing the xml, but no luck up until now. Maybe using wrong USB sticks.
        At this momment, the recovery USB, starts and end with “bad storage” message, so went re-create, and stuck on “Loading Recovery”.

        So I tought that would be much easier, if there was a way to skip the disk compatibility instead.
        In one of those videos, he access to the dx4000 bios, I looked carefully if there was some option to remove hdd protection, but seems not.

  17. OK, after using a different USB stick, edited the xml to accept 2 disks (2x500GB, I know is not much, but were the ones I had at hand), was able to re-create, and install recovery.

    Now will try the 2016 version. Any special tips?

    Thank you

      1. Ok, that´s good to know before jump in… 🙂

        How you did it?
        Can you give the instructions or some guide you used to install it?

        Thank you

      2. I used Martin Meise’s guide shared previously by Tom. It is not easy, involved soldering and I had no serial cable around so I had to use an Arduino as a makeshit serial device. But once you get that part done the rest should be straight forward.

  18. Well, soldering and console access shouldn´t be a problem to me.
    I might go that way instead.

    Thank you for sharing you experience

    1. Installed 2016 version… just to test, and OMG!!! it´s a nightmare. Christmas will come before I end up config the whole thing… It´s very, very, very, VERY, VERY, VERYyyyy, SLOW. I guess I´ll go to the 2008 version before I do the migration to Debian.

      1. Hi,

        Sorry to bring this up again.
        Installed server 2008 R2, worked well. However missing some features, made me try again the 2016 version.

        I know it´s slow, but after all config, updates etc, get stable, and as no really hard work is done, will fit my needs.

        Now I have a major (maybe a stupid) problem. After install 2016, installed Teamviewer and Serviio, they were working well and tested. After config the whole thing, now they don´t startup when windows restart. I must logon by RDP, and then they actually load up and are available.

        I see other people complaining about on MS support, but didn´t came up to a solution yet.
        So I kindly ask if any of you had this problem and got around of it.

        Thank you

  19. For now, the solution was to this :

    1 Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.
    2 Locate and then click the following registry subkey:

    3 In the right pane, locate the ServicesPipeTimeout entry.

    If the ServicesPipeTimeout entry does not exist, you must create it. To do this, follow these steps:
    On the Edit menu, point to New, and then click DWORD Value.
    Type ServicesPipeTimeout, and then press ENTER.

    4 Right-click ServicesPipeTimeout, and then click Modify.

    5 Click Decimal, type 60000, and then click OK.

    After this, seems to all ok.

    1. Does anybody know if there is an alternative pick up point for the centre pin on the serial input? My middle track got pulled off the board 😦

  20. I did a fresh install using the Windows Server 2016 ISO.
    Everything is running, but Windows Update is making troubles.
    Can’t install any updates, Windows is reporting 0x800705b4 errors.
    Anyone having the same problems and managed to install Windows Updates?

  21. After upgraded to Server 2016 I got stuck on the” Loading OS Please Wait”. What should I do from here? I also tried to RDP and unable to connect :(.

    1. Hi,

      You must read instructions carefully.
      “Loading OS…” message is normal, since after upgrade the LCD screen is unmanageable.
      During the install, you must use TightVNC to keep an eye on installation, and for the first run, then you can configure RDP or use Teamviewer to access your server.


      After like 5~10 minutes from booting with the USB you will be able to use TightVNC Viewer to view the installation status, simply make sure you note the IP Address assigned by DHCP to your device and use TightVNC to connect to it
      Windows default username is “Administrator” and the default password is “P@ssw0rd”
      The Intel NIC drivers are not compatible with Windows Server 2012 R2, so do not bother trying to install them, Windows will pick up a default driver which will work just fine
      The LCD of your system will stop working after performing the upgrade, this ISO image does not have any software to control the LCD”

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