Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How to Flash Google Search Appliance to Dell R710 BIOS

You can reuse a decommissioned Google Search Appliance as a decent server.  The newer Google Search Appliances are Dell R710 PowerEdge servers.  You can differentiate it from the older Google Search Appliances by its square LCD.  The older version had an LCD with rounded corners and was based on a Dell 2950.  You can also use the service tag to look up the server on the Dell support web site and ensure you have a Dell R710.

The two Google Search Appliances I have converted have 48GB RAM, 2 Sockets with 4 cores each, and 6 x 1 TB SATA drives.

The conversion process is pretty simple--but this is about as invasive as you can get--so proceed at your own risk.  You may end up with a brick.

  1. Clear the BIOS password.  Unplug the power.  Open the top cover and look just behind the left CPU and memory area.  There is a double jumper.  You will be moving the back jumper to the alternate position. Then plug in the power and start up the server.  You should see a message saying the BIOS password is disabled.  Power the server back off.  Unplug the power.  Move the jumper back.  The jumper location is marked on the schematic on the inside of the cover if you have any problem finding it.
  2. Erase the hard drive setup.  Power on the server.  Hit Ctrl-R when you reach the PERC controller post message.  Up arrow to the controller and hit F2.  Choose clear configuration.  Confirm and all the logical drives should disappear.  You can make a new logical drive at this point if you wish, or do that later.  Hit escape and then CTRL-ALT-DEL to restart when prompted.
  3. Make a bootable USB drive. You will need a small blank USB thumb drive to boot off of temporarily.  Make the thumb drive bootable using Rufus which is widely available.  Here is one location.  Run rufus, set the file system to FAT32 and the bootable OS type to MS-DOS.  Make sure you have selected the correct drive before you hit start!
  4. Download the latest Dell BIOS.  Navigate to the Dell support site.  Change the Operating System in the Refine Results to BIOS.  Wait a second for the page to refresh and open the BIOS item in the list below.  Click download and choose the non-packaged version which will be named like: R710-060300C.exe.  Copy that file onto the root of the USB drive and give it a short name like r710bios.exe.
  5. Put the USB drive in the R710.  Power the server up and after post completes press F11 to enter the boot bios manager.  Down arrow to the hard drive entry and choose your USB drive from the pop-up.  The server should boot from the USB drive and come to a dos C:> prompt.
  6. type r710bios.exe /forcetype.  You need the forcetype switch to override the normal checks to ensure the server is the correct model--which is why this is dangerous but worked fine for me.  The server will apply the bios and when finished prompt you to press a key.  The server will restart and the Google BIOS messages will be replaced with the stock Dell firmware messages.
  7. Congratulations!  Install your OS!
Edit: Here is Google's page on re-purposing.


  1. Thank you! Worked like a charm for me, too! Greatly appreciate the detailed steps and links.

  2. Worked for me as well. Thx.........Steps were perfect.

  3. Worked like a charm. I also had to enable "Hardware Virtualization" on my server.

    Hit F2 to enter system settings, go to Processor then change it to enabled. Save config when you exit.