SQL Server install error Wait on the Database Engine Recovery Handle Failed

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Last week I was installing a SQL Server 2014 standalone instance. I did all the prerequisites and then started installing SQL Server. I did not get any warnings or errors in any of the rules or steps during the SQL Server installation wizard, but I got the below error at the end of the installation:

The following error has occurred:

Wait on the Database Engine recovery handle failed. Check the SQL Server error log for potential causes.

I followed each and every pre-check before installing SQL Server, but I still got this issue. In this tip I will show how I went about troubleshooting and fixing this issue.


After many rounds of troubleshooting I decided to do some research on the web.  This was the first time I got this issue, so I had no clue about how to fix except for reading and analyzing the error log files. Interestingly, I found multiple solutions to fix this issue over the internet. Below are three options which can be used to fix this issue. I will explain the first in this tip and the remaining in future tips.

  1. Fix it by uninstalling SQL Server and then reinstalling
  2. Fix issue by using sa account
  3. Fix using by creating a login post installation and connecting to the instance in single user mode

This error comes about because the account which the user selected on the Server Configuration page during installation is somehow not able to bring the SQL Server database engine services online. Either it lacks privileges or it is corrupted. During installation of the database engine services, SQL Server tries to bring online the database services as an internal process, but due to the startup account either being corrupt or not having the appropriate privileges it fails to do so and ultimately the installation fails. There might be a possibility that someone had tried to install SQL Server previously on this machine, but failed to do so and they did not clean the machine properly during the uninstallation.

In this tip I will explain the first method about uninstalling the SQL Server instance which threw this error during installation and then start a fresh install after making a few changes during the setup. We are uninstalling it to clear the machine, so that we will not have any issues during the reinstall.

Here is the install process that failed and how I fixed it.

Step 1: Launch SQL Server setup to kick off the SQL Server installation. Complete all the required details and click the Next buttons to proceed until the last page of the setup window. Click on the install button to start the SQL Server installation.

Step 2: The installation bar will proceed until the end, but the setup will throw the below error during the installation.

Wait on the Database Engine recovery handle failed.  Check the SQL Server error log for potential causes.

When you click on OK button after reading and analyzing the error, the below screen will appear confirming that a few of the features failed to install.

SQL Server features failed to install

I decided to review the error log file to find out more about this error, but I did not get much from the error log file as shown in the below screen shot.

SQL Server Error Log File

Step 3: To move forward, I will uninstall this SQL Server instance and then reinstall it again with some minor changes. Let's go ahead and uninstall it using the "Add/Remove Program" feature in Windows. If you are not able to remove SQL Server instance then you will need to do a manual uninstallation to clean the machine. Make sure to remove all SQL Server related files from the system as well as the registry. Before removing anything from the registry create a backup of the registry first. I uninstalled this instance successfully and proceeded with the next step.

Step 4: Restart your machine after successful removal of the SQL Server instance. Now go ahead and launch the SQL Server setup again to start the SQL Server installation.

Step 5: Fill all the required details and click on Next buttons to proceed until the "Server Configuration" page. You can see below that the SQL Server database engine and SQL Server Agent service account is configured to run with NT Service\MSSQLSERVER and NT Service\SQLServerAgent. Our last installation failed due to this, so here I will change these service accounts to use the local System account to run the installation.

SQL Server Installation Server Configuration Page

Step 6: We can change both service accounts to local System. On the SQL Server Database Engine and Agent service, click the drop down option to select user NT Authority\SYSTEM which is also known as the local system account as shown below.

Select user NT Authority\SYSTEM for the SQL Server services

Step 7: Now click on the Next button and proceed with the installation by filling in the required details and clicking on the Next buttons until the end of the setup. Installation should now proceed and finish with a green status for all features as you can see in the below screenshot.

SQL Server Successful Installation

Now you can check the SQL Server services to make sure they are running. You can also connect to the database instance and run some queries to check that things are working properly.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Manvendra Singh Manvendra Singh has over 5 years of experience with SQL Server and has focused on Database Mirroring, Replication, Log Shipping, etc.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

View all my tips

Comments For This Article

Monday, June 13, 2022 - 10:07:21 AM - Bryan Back To Top (90157)
I was experiencing the same problem as here, switching the accounts during configuration didn't fix the problem for me though.
Then I found out that there is a problem with how windows 11 handles new disks.

The problem is: These new disk have a sector size greater than 4 KB and SQL server can not handle it.

On systems running Windows 11, some new storage devices and device drivers will expose a disk sector size greater than the supported 4 KB sector size.
When this occurs, SQL Server will be unable to start due to the unsupported file system as SQL Server currently supports sector storage sizes of 512 bytes and 4 KB

original src: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/19538089/wait-on-the-database-engine-recovery-handle-failed-check-the-sql-server-error-l

This is an officially acknowledged problem: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/troubleshoot/sql/admin/troubleshoot-os-4kb-disk-sector-size

So basically there are two options:
1. Change the registry key and restart the computer - (note that I'm not aware about any consequences this may have so do this at your own risk, though I think it is safe since Microsoft notes it as a possible solution on their own page).
2. Install SQL Server on a disk that doesn't use the 4kb disk sector size.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 - 3:58:42 AM - CARLOS ANTONIO MATICH CUEZZO Back To Top (88409)
Muchas Gracias, estaba atorado con una instalación de MSSQL Express 16, Saludos desde Argentina. Un abrazo...!!!

Sunday, January 31, 2021 - 7:16:49 AM - Alex Sandro Cesario Back To Top (88133)
Hello Manvendra!

Thank you so much for your support in this article.
I had an identical problem and I was able to solve the case successfully.
Thank you!


Thursday, January 14, 2021 - 8:26:04 AM - Primoz Back To Top (88040)
Hi all!

I had the same problem, but none of this solutions helped me.

I found out that, installation of SQL should be done in English region settings.
Soo... Change Region settings to English (GB), restart PC and during SQL installation select Collation which you want to use.
(SQL installer automatically selects Collation type depending on your OS Region Settings. Double check before proceeding the installation)


Monday, December 14, 2020 - 7:44:50 AM - Hitesh Desai Back To Top (87908)
Thanks a lot for providing useful information

Sunday, May 3, 2020 - 7:42:39 AM - MUSTAFA YILMAZ Back To Top (85550)

Yönergelerinizle sorunumu çözdüm, teşekkür ediyorum

English Translation - I solved my problem with your instructions, thank you

Tuesday, April 21, 2020 - 3:50:26 PM - Ramiro Back To Top (85434)

Thank you very very much this really helps.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - 8:56:03 PM - ANDRE Back To Top (84910)

Thank you! helped me a lot. Very good

Wednesday, January 8, 2020 - 9:12:17 AM - VitorM Back To Top (83653)

Thanks for your excelent tip. Very useful.

Monday, December 23, 2019 - 6:52:53 AM - Abhishek Mitra Back To Top (83502)

Thanks a tone buddy. You save my day.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 - 7:23:18 AM - Flip Back To Top (82984)

After uninstalling an older version of SQL and installing a newer version I had this problem. I solved it by uninstalling it, and then removing the Microsoft SQL Management Studio folders and left-over SQL service account remnants from the registry. I have the feeling it tries to re-use or recover the old SQL NT service accounts instead of make new ones hence failing to start services.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019 - 1:04:01 PM - David Back To Top (82935)


I was unable to select the NTAUTHORITY username -it doesn't exist on my system (Win7). What user should i use/add please?



Friday, October 11, 2019 - 3:39:38 PM - Felipe Back To Top (82745)

Thank you so much for creating this article, it helped me a lot!!!

Monday, August 19, 2019 - 8:10:32 AM - Michael J Doyle Back To Top (82096)

I am expeirncing the same issue installing SQL Express 2014 on a 2012 R2 server. The instructions I have from our vendor for the app that uses SQL for staging indicates I should change the defailt instance from SQLExpress to LLECMBI. Doing so creates the database engine accouint name of NT Service\MSSQL$LLECMBI. If I were to follow your instructions what would the be ramifications of using the local system account NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM as instructed?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018 - 7:28:42 PM - Samuel Back To Top (77327)

Install SQL Server 2014 using local system account "NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM" helped me, thanks!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018 - 12:31:02 PM - Corey Back To Top (76439)

Thank you! this saved me tons of time. It fixed my problem installing 2017. 


Thursday, May 24, 2018 - 5:18:38 PM - Shawn Back To Top (76020)

Thank you! This worked for SQL 2017, too!


Wednesday, May 23, 2018 - 7:40:51 AM - Suresh Back To Top (76008)

 thanks a lot, works on Sql 2012 


Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - 9:01:53 AM - Mona Back To Top (75896)


Thanks a lot. This TIP saved my day. I was installing SQL server2014 and faced the issue.  I came across this post and your solution worked like a charm.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 - 8:51:47 AM - Mary Back To Top (75829)


Thank you , It was helpfull. 



Wednesday, April 11, 2018 - 3:49:32 PM - Joao Back To Top (75678)

I'm having the same problem however in a clustered environment. Windows Server 2012 R2 and SQL Server 2016

Would you help me ?

Friday, April 6, 2018 - 8:53:22 AM - Agha Back To Top (75624)

Thanks works for me

Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - 11:54:14 AM - Earnest Back To Top (75320)

 Thank you very much! You save me hours and hours of work.


Monday, January 29, 2018 - 8:10:46 PM - rick Back To Top (75058)

glad i found this post   saved me hours of time ty ty




Tuesday, January 16, 2018 - 4:51:49 PM - marlei taylor Back To Top (74971)

Thank you! This information was very valid to me today as I was working on data recovery and new install of SQL 2017 where I ran into the same error above on Windows Server 2012. Even though this is a post related to a different version, I went ahead, and changed the service account to  NT Authority\system - uninstalled and viola worked sucessfully. Saved the day! 


Sunday, January 14, 2018 - 1:04:25 PM - Asim Back To Top (74955)

Thank you so much, Worked for me.

Was trying for 2 days to make it work. But the NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM did the trick for me.


Thank you.

Sunday, December 24, 2017 - 4:25:38 AM - Hamis Jabe Back To Top (74411)


It worked for me, though i was not able to select the 

 NT Authority\SYSTEM user, i had to use the local admin user like DOMAIN\Administrator and worked fine

Thanks for the info



Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - 5:11:40 AM - Damir Jakovljevic Back To Top (69425)

 Thank you for great explanation. 


Wednesday, October 11, 2017 - 12:22:56 PM - Sined Back To Top (67205)

thank you for your tips

BUT, In my installation process i can't change ( NT Authority\SYSTEM ) its gray and unable to chnage it from local to SYSTEM

I think it matter with non-cluster installation !

Im on admin logon... fresh intall on win server 2012 r2

Do you have any idea



Thursday, September 28, 2017 - 11:05:58 PM - Edmund Back To Top (66702)


Thanks! Worked for me.

Thursday, August 31, 2017 - 7:48:03 AM - ashish Back To Top (65652)


Worked for me. 


Wednesday, July 26, 2017 - 7:09:42 AM - DevD Back To Top (63275)


Thank You! Worked for me.

Friday, June 2, 2017 - 6:00:43 AM - Joern Back To Top (56508)

 Thank you very much. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017 - 7:47:58 PM - harold Back To Top (55540)

 Worked perfectly on Sqlexpress 2016.  Thank you!


Saturday, March 18, 2017 - 6:20:12 PM - Pete Back To Top (51395)

 It worked! Thanks so much for the solution!


Friday, March 17, 2017 - 2:07:58 AM - S Back To Top (51281)

 Thank you so much!!! was able to install without any errors after following your instructions. 


Thursday, February 16, 2017 - 11:53:13 AM - Selva Back To Top (46407)


 thanks you , worked for me

Thursday, January 19, 2017 - 10:18:44 PM - David Shipton Back To Top (45431)

 Manvendra, I wanted you to know that your solution worked. You would think that Microsoft would default this to the system in the first place. - Thanks!


Saturday, January 7, 2017 - 9:32:45 PM - Darren Back To Top (45181)

Nice post. Worked perfectly.

Friday, January 6, 2017 - 2:07:25 PM - Mark Back To Top (45171)

Thank you so much for this tip. I tried to install and uninstall at least 6 times. Much appreciated.


Monday, January 2, 2017 - 1:38:52 PM - satish Back To Top (45081)


 Great tip. Thanks for the snap shots. Also if you like, you can add some screen shot showing the user should add the administrator (User as Admin) and not select Builtin/Administrators during the Windows Authentication mode / Mixed mode screen.


Saturday, December 10, 2016 - 10:03:26 AM - M dev Back To Top (44940)

I tried 3 times, your tip got me Success. Long live. Sincere thanks.

Monday, October 31, 2016 - 4:34:08 AM - Shatskikh Back To Top (43659)

Hi Manvendra
Thanks for your article, Do you know the RCA of this issue? As far as I know, SQL Server support the virtual service accounts. via Technet(https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd548356(v=ws.10).aspx). So, I'm curious. Thanks you :)


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