Today I tripped over an annoying issue when attempting to install a Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 instance. About 30% of the way through the installation an error was thrown up:
Could not find the Database Engine startup handle
Not the world’s most informative error message, but something to search for on Google nonetheless. Unfortunately in this instance the collective wisdom of the internet was for the most part wrong, misguided or just plain unhelpful.
So what was actually the problem? And how did I fix it (because fix it I did)?
Well during this past weekend I decided to give Microsoft Virtual PC a test drive. I’ve long been a fan of the free VMWare Server, but having heard recently it was to be discontinued I thought it time to consider the alternatives. So I ran up a virtual machine, installed the operating system, waited for hours while it completed the seemingly endless series of Windows updates and reboots required to bring the virtual machine up to date, before finally I was ready to install SQL Server 2008 R2.
I pointed the virtual machine DVD drive to the installation media ISO I had downloaded ages ago off MSDN. It opened the file with no apparent drama, and after clicking on Setup.exe the installation process proceeded as per usual. As mentioned above it got part the way through before raising an error I hadn’t seen before, “Could not find the Database Engine startup handle”.
At this point I should explain that I’ve successfully installed instances from this copy of the installation media without issue.
After much trial and error, following bum steers and red herrings off offered by many a self appointed “expert” on various technology forums, I got to the bottom of the problem.
Turns out Microsoft Virtual PC has trouble reading ISO files properly. Burn the file to a real live physical DVD and the install works. Extract the contents of the ISO to a file folder, then run the install from there and the install works. However run it from the ISO like I have successfully done with VMWare server and it crashes and burns.
The moral of the story? Virtual PC is actually pretty good, probably a tighter integration with the host operating system than VMWare Server offered. Also you tend to get what you pay for, so take what you read on techie blogs and forums with a large dose of caution.