Windows: Windows could not determine if this computer contains a valid system volume

It’s unbelievable that Windows Vista and 2008 Server are so dumb. As soon I connect a USB drive to my server and boot, it refuses to use my hard drive for a new OS install and gives me “Windows could not determine if this computer contains a valid system volume” error.

So, why did I have a USB drive connected? Because I wanted to setup a new Windows 2008 Standard Server for the office, but from home during my spare time. I HAD to have the drive connected in order to load my RAID drivers during install. I started playing around with different BIOS settings to see if I can get Winblows to install properly. Disabling USB controller was basically not an option. I looked at my boot sequence settings and my flash drive wasn’t even enabled, so I went ahead and enabled it, but moved it to down after my DVD drive and RAID controller. Tried again, no success. I was lucky that my high end RAID card had a boot partition feature… I created a boot partition, disabled USB and installed Windows.

Anyway… Rob commented with a simpler way which didn’t apply to my remote installation dilemma, but works for the rest (thank a lot, Rob). Remove the USB drive right after RAID drivers are loaded, wait a bit and then try to pick a partition for your OS. That works… the USB issue is something that keeps giving since I ran into another problem with Windows 7 RTM installation. You can check the “related articles” link at the bottom of the page.

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21 thoughts on “Windows: Windows could not determine if this computer contains a valid system volume

  1. Jacob says:

    I have been having the same problem and Ive been stuck with it for hours now. My SATA378 first did not want to show up when I had to choose partition and after a lot of searching I got some drivers on a USB stick. I found the hard disk but when I try to install vista on it it tells me that it cant find a valid system volume. People with the same problem seem to have changed the boot order for this to work. I tried 1. CD/DVD 2. Hard Disk 3. USB and every other combination of those. Nothing worked. If I dissable the USB I cant load the drives I need to even see the partition. I tried using a external harddrive instead of a usb stik but I had the same problem.

    I have also been trying some commands in the command prompt (shift + F10) by diskpart.exe but with no success.

    Please help me!

    • Ali says:

      I suggest that you find a spare hard drive, install Windows on it and load all your drivers, then create an image with Acronis or Symantec Backup Exec and restore that image on your main array. Make sure you have your RAID drivers loaded on the OS properly or Windows will not boot.

  2. Rob says:

    I just wasted 3hrs on this…

    Just plug in the USB drive when you need to install the RAID drivers, then remove it after the drivers have been installed but before you continue to install the OS.

    Frustrating problem! But hopefully solved.

  3. After having the same problem with a USB drive, I found this thread and tried an external USB floppy drive. Windows 2008 loaded fine on my SATA / RAID (HP Proliant). No coincidence that drivers still remain less than 1.44MB, despite we’re working with modern systems.

  4. Chris B says:

    You cannot connect a USB mass storage device until the installation reaches the page with the Install Now button on. At this point, connect any USB Mass Storage devices, then click the button and all will work. (Useful for SBS Migrations and Driver Loads from USB)

  5. Costa G says:

    I just had the same problem and error message during the installation process.
    What worked for me is: i disconnected all the USB connections from the MB.
    I’m talking about the front case ones or any other USB port extensions.
    So basically no USB sticks, external HDDs or anything else connected to the MB and the USB ports.

  6. Mohammed JH says:

    I had the same problem too, I was able to solve it by changing the boot sequence order and unplugging the USB Flash disk.


  7. Look at the integrated RAID motherboard option in the BIOS.
    I disabled this option and I was able to install the OS afterwards.
    My MB has a RAID SATA option.


  8. I had the same problem. I used the USB drive/mem key to load the drivers, removed the USB device and then aborted the installation and rebooted. Didn’t try and load drivers again (as they had been previously copied) and clicked ‘next’ and windows proceeded to install.

  9. BH says:

    I did exactly what Rob did, loaded the RAID drivers from the USB flash drive, then immediately pulled the flash drive and Windows continued to install, and no more “Windows could not determine…” errors.

    Thanks Rob. I wasted an hour on this before doing a desperate internet search and coming upon your advice.

  10. needs help says:

    Im having trouble installing reinstalling windows vista to my laptop which recently crashed. For some reason my disk drive is going incredibly slow so i copyed all the operating system data on my sandisk cruzer drive and entered the boot menu to tell the computer to load up from there. It did and brought me to the install windows page. I selected the partition that I wanted to install windows on and ensured that it had the proper size and for some reason I got the “Windows could not determine…valid system volume” line.

    Can someone explain this or give me a step by step. Its been a while since i’ve had to do this. Much appreciated


    • Most these problems are specific to your system and it’s not too easy to offer assistance. Make sure your install USB is created with a decent tool, like what you find here: It could still be the fact that your system views your USB disk as install destination… just be patient and install it from the DVD instead.

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