Back home > Testing Windows Server 2008 in VMware


7/2007 - Server virtualization is all the rage these days. If you do any work with servers, you have run across it. It certainly has its benefits and can be quite useful, and as a test environment, nothing beats it. As long as your hardware will support a virtual machine, you can test operating systems, applications, utilities and more in a secure, isolated environment, without having to buy or build a new server. This article will show you how setup a VMware Server virtual machine on a Win2003 server, and then install Windows Server 2008 Enterprise (BETA build 6001, June 2007) in your virtual machine. (full build number is 6001.16606.070619.0730)

Installing VMware Server
Creating a Virtual Machine
Installing Windows Server 2008 in a virtual machine
Installing VMware Tools
Additional Notes
Useful Links


What’s Needed:
• A server or computer running Windows Server 2003.
• 2+ GB of RAM. The more you have, the better.
• 20 GB of free hard drive space (12GB will do if you have limited hard drive space).
• A decent processor. I would recommend at least an Intel P4, 3Ghz processor (or an AMD equivalent).
• VMware Server - This is a free virtualization application you can downloaded from the VMware web site.
(It is assumed for this install you do not have any other versions of VMware installed on your server)
• Windows Server 2008 Enterprise - You can download a trial version or if you have a TechNet subscription, get a copy from there.

Note: If you want to be able to access and manage your virtual machines from a computer on the network, other than the Host computer you install VMware server on, you will need to have IIS installed on the Host computer. Install IIS before you install VMware Server. IIS is Internet Information Server - the Web Server software that comes with Windows Server operating systems.

Overview     Top

VMware Server for Windows Hosts is just an application that is installed and run on a Windows server operating system (it can't be installed on a Windows desktop OS). It installs like any other Windows application. A full install (default) takes up about 250MB of hard drive space.

In VMware, the Host operating system is the OS that you install VMware Server on. The Guest operating systems are the OSes you install in the VMware virtual machines you will create. Once you install VMware Server on the Host operating system, you use the included VMware Server Console to create one or more virtual machines. Once a virtual machine is created, you install a Guest operating system in the virtual machine.

It's important to note that VMware Server virtualizes the hardware that is used by the virtual machines you create after VMware Server is installed. What this means is there is a virtualization software layer that sits between the virtual machines and the actual hardware in the Host computer. This virtualization layer allows the virtual machines to be hardware independent. That is, VMware will install its own drivers that communicate with the hardware.
Note: Not all hardware devices will use VMware drivers. It depends on the hardware and if there are VMware drivers that will work with the hardware.

Generally, you don't have to install NIC, or Video, or Hard Drive Controller driver software in your virtual machines (Guest operating systems). VMware tells a Guest operating system, that you install in a virtual machine, what hardware to use. The Guest operating system does not communicate directly with the hardware on the Host computer.
Click Here to see a screen shot of Device Manager on my test Windows 2008 server. You will notice many devices are named VMware. VMware even added a Floppy controller and drive, along with the SCSI controller and drive, which the test PC does not physically have. This is virtualized hardware.

The virtual machines you create after VMware server is installed, will require sufficient hardware resources to run them. For this installation, we will be creating a virtual machine and then installing Windows Server 2008 in that virtual machine. You should have a minimum of 1GB of RAM to properly run this operating system, so if your Windows 2003 server needs 1GB of RAM to run, then you will need an additional 1GB of RAM for Win2008. The test system I use has 4GB of RAM and uses a P4, 3.0Ghz Intel processor. I currently run Windows 2003 server as the Host operating system, and have two virtual machines running on it. Each OS, the Host and the two Guest operating systems (virtual machines), share the total available RAM in the Host computer, with the virtual machines allocated 1GB of RAM each.

Another consideration is disk space. You will need adequate disk space for your virtual machines. Each VMware virtual machine creates a file that is the virtual machine. Whatever the Guest operating system you are installing in a virtual machine requires for disk space, you should have that much free disk space on you hard drive. It is a good idea to create a separate partition for each virtual machine, and allocate the needed hard drive space to those partitions.
I would recommend 1GB of available RAM and a 20GB partition for this Windows 2008 Server install.
(You can do this with lesser resources, say 512MB of RAM available and a 12GB partition if your resources are limited.)

VMware Server is a free application you can download here. You will need a serial number, and that too is free. Instructions for obtaining the serial number are on the download page.

Windows Server 2008 is available to TechNet subscribers, or you can get a free trial version here. You will have to go through a registration process to obtain a valid product key. Make sure you download the correct language version (English language DVDs are ...EN_DVD.iso)

Installing VMware Server     Top

The download for VMware Server (v1.0.3) is about 150MB in size. Once downloaded, double click the executable file to install VMware Server. The installation is the same as any Windows application. You will go through the standard series of installation screens and might be asked to reboot at the end.

Installation Notes:
• On a Windows Server 2003 Host, you must be logged on as a local administrator (that is, not logged on to the domain) to install VMware Server.
• A warning appears if you are installing VMware Server on a Windows Host configured as an Active Directory server. You can safely ignore the message by clicking OK to continue the installation, or you can choose to cancel the installation.
• VMware Server must be installed on a local drive, not a network drive.
• If the installer detects that the CD-ROM autorun feature is enabled, it displays a dialog box that gives you the option to disable this feature. You should do this. Disabling it prevents undesirable interactions with the virtual machines you install on this system.

Creating a Virtual Machine     Top

You are now ready to create the Virtual Machine you will install Windows Server 2008 in. A virtual machine is the virtual operating system environment that runs on your Host operating system. In this case, the Host operating system is Windows Server 2003. VMware virtual machines allow you to run more than one operating system on the same physical computer. Each operating system, excluding the Host operating system, is run in its own virtual machine (this is called a Guest operating system), and each virtual machine is isolated from the Host operating system and other virtual machines.

Since we are going to be testing Windows Server 2008, we will first create a virtual machine, and then install the Windows Server 2008 operating system in the virtual machine. This allows us to run two operating systems on the same physical computer, at the same time.

Using VMware Server, you can create many virtual machines on the same physical computer, and run a different operating system in each one - as long as you have the needed hardware resources. VMware Server supports a variety of Host and Guest operating systems, including Windows and Linux. See the VMware Server online documentation for more information.

Creating your first Virtual Machine
Double click the VMware Server Console icon on your desktop or click Start>All Programs>Vmware>Vmware Server>Vmware Server Console. This will open the VMware Server Console. The VMware Server Console is where you add, delete and manage your VMware virtual machines. Choose Local Host in the first window that opens since you will be managing virtual machines on the local PC.

On the Home tab, click on New Virtual Machine. This will start the wizard to create a new virtual machine.

Click next to start the VM Wizard

Choose the Custom Install.

Choose your Guest Operating System.
Since Windows Server 2008 Enterprise is still in BETA, it will not be listed. Choose the closest thing, Windows Server 2003 Enterprise. Also note, the operating system choice here will determine what configuration choices will follow. So if you chose Windows XP, you would see different choices than if you chose Windows Server 2003.

Give your virtual machine a name and choose its location
. The location ideally will be its own partition. The wizard will automatically create a \Virtual Machines directory. (you can change this)

Choose the access rights to the virtual machine. I leave this blank unless you only want certain people to be able to access this VM in the VMware Console on the server.

Choose who can startup and shutdown the VM. Since this is a test environment, leave the default setting unless you have a specific reason to change it. In a production environment, you would probably want to be more restrictive and use a specific account. This option determines which user account the virtual machine uses when it runs. This account is used for actions like network access from within the virtual machine and access to virtual machine resources that are on the network, as well as who can startup and shutdown the VM.


Choose the number of processors. VMware Server can recognize up to two physical processors. Multicore processors are considered a single physical processor.


Choose the amount of memory the VM will use. This depends on how much total memory you have in your server, and how much you want to allocate to this VM. For Win2008, 1GB is a good amount to start with.


Choose the type of network adapter (NIC) you want to use in your VM. VMware server will install its own network driver. This virtual driver will not be the same as the driver your NIC is currently using for the Host operating system. If your Host computer is on a network, and you want to use a separate IP address for your virtual machine (or can get one automatically from a DHCP server), select "Use bridged networking". Bridged networking creates a "bridge" between the virtual machine and the physical NIC in your Host computer so you can access the network in the same way you would with a standard network card. It connects the virtual network adapter in your virtual machine to the physical Ethernet adapter in your Host computer. For more information on the types of virtual network cards in VMware Server, see the VMware Server online documentation. After you install Windows Server 2008 in your VM, you can change the IP address settings for the Virtual NIC, in Control Panel, just as you would in any Windows operating system.


Choose the SCSI controller you will use in your VM. Again, this is a virtual driver and is not dependent on the actually controller and hard drive you have in your Host computer. My test system uses a SATA controller and hard drive and I chose the LSI option. If you choose the BusLogic controller, you receive a warning message that Windows 2003 does not support this. There will also be another screen where you choose what type of Hard Drive to use, IDE or SCSI. You can choose SCSI on this screen too.
Also note that you cannot change the SCSI adapter type after you create the virtual machine.


Choose to Create a new virtual disk since we are creating a new virtual machine and will be installing the operating system from scratch.


Choose a hard disk drive type. Choose SCSI. Again this is a virtual disk and virtual driver.
Note: if you plan on moving your virtual machines to VMware ESX Server or higher, these versions do not support IDE virtual machines/drives.


Specify how much disk space the virtual machine will use. For Windows Server 2008, 15GB is fine for testing. You can even go down to 12GB. A new install of Windows Server 2008 requires about about 8GB of drive space. That is just for the base operating system - without anything added. Choose the option to allocate now and the new 15GB virtual machine file will be created. Virtual Machines actually exist as a single file on the hard drive. This file will have the extension of .vmdk. If you want to split the virtual machine file into 2GB files (instead of one big 15GB file), you can do this too. This is not usually necessary unless you have a specific reason to do this.


Name the virtual machine file. This can be whatever you want. Notice the .vmdk file extension.


The Virtual Machine will now be created. This will take several minutes. Note: if you create a VM on an existing partition that is already being used, this process could take much longer. Using a new, blank partition makes this process go much faster.


You will now have a new tab with the new Virtual Machine. Now that the VM is created, you can install Windows Server 2008 in the virtual machine.


Installing Windows Server 2008     Top

Installing Windows Server 2008 is done in the same way as you would on a stand alone computer. You insert the Windows Server 2008 DVD in the DVD drive of the Host computer, and click on "Start this virtual machine" in your newly created virtual machine. VMware will boot the DVD from the DVD drive and the installation will begin.


The first screen you come to in the install is the language and keyboard layout screen. Make your choices and click Next.


The Install process begins. Click install Now.


Enter your Product key. You can uncheck Automatically Activate if you like. You have 30 days to Activate after you install.

Choose the operating system you want to install.
Server Core is a non-GUI version of Windows Server 2008. A new option now available for Windows Server operating systems. We are not installing Server Core for this installation.


Choose the Custom Installation.


Choose the hard drive to install Windows on. Notice that Windows recognizes the 15GB virtual hard drive (the virtual machine) we created.

Note: On this screen, you can click the Next button if you want Windows to use all the drive space and perform a quick NTFS format. If you want more control over the creation and formatting of the partition,
click on Drive Options (advanced).

Advanced Drive Options. Click on New to create a new partition.


Use all 15GB of space and click Apply.


Format the drive and click Next.


If you have installed Windows Vista, the installation of Windows Server 2008 is very similar. Windows will now install files and reboot twice.


When the installation is finished, Windows Server 2008 will boot up and you will prompted to create the password for the local Administrator account. You might be wondering where the screens are for Computer Name, Network Configuration and Time Zone. These screens are no longer presented during installation. You configure these settings after the install, the first time you login, using the Initial Configuration Tasks window.


After your first login, the Initial Configuration Tasks window automatically opens. This window makes it easy to set up the server. There are different sections, each with a series of tasks. It is a good idea to run through these tasks and get them completed. However, since we are installing in a Virtual Machine, we first need to install the VMware Tools before we go any further.


Installing VMware Tools     Top

VMware Tools is a suite of utilities that will enhance the performance of your Guest operating system. They are included in the installation of VMware Server. Once your Guest operating system has been installed, in your virtual machine, the first thing you should do is install VMware Tools. VMware Tools will install enhanced video, mouse, and network drivers as well as utilities to configure your virtual machine. See the VMware Server online documentation for more information about VMware Tools.

To install VMware Tools, click the VM menu option, in the VMware Server Console, and choose "Install VMware Tools".  Note: you cannot install VMware Tools, in a virtual machine, until the Guest operating system has been installed first.


VMware Tools installs like any other Windows application. Choose the Custom Install and then choose the components you want. If there are drivers you know you do not need, you can deselect them, but generally, it is best to install all listed components. Once VMware Tools has been installed, you will be prompted to restart your Virtual Machine. You will also see a VMware Tools icon in the Sytem Tray.


Once the virtual machine reboots, you will login to Windows Server 2008 and the Initial Configuration Tasks window will again appear. Go through the configuration tasks so your Win2008 server is setup. Do the following:
• Set your Time Zone
• Rename your Server. Windows will assign it some random name during the install. Give it a normal name.
• Set a static IP address for your NIC (as a server, it should have a static IP address). It should be on the same subnet as your Host server, but have a different IP address. Note: you can actually create virtual switches and networks among your virtual machines using VMware. Read the VMware online documentation for more information about this.
• For now, Turn off the Windows Firewall. The Windows Firewall will be enabled and configured to block everything by default. Very annoying. For now, disable it until you are comfortable with network communications to/from your virtual machine.

At this point, think of this virtual server as a "real server". You will configure and use it in the same way as if it was a stand alone server. And it will function as if it was a stand alone server running Windows Server 2008. You can access it from the network, make it a domain controller and join PCs to it, install operating system components and applications on it, and all the while it will be running at the same time and on the same physical server as your Host operating system, Windows Server 2003.

Additional Notes     Top

• When working in the VMware Server Console, you can press CTRL+ALT to move the mouse focus from the virtual machine to the Host computer desktop.
• With the focus in a virtual machine, use CTRL+ALT+Insert instead of CTRL+ALT+Delete.
• If you are going to shutdown or reboot your Host computer, shutdown your virtual machine operating systems first.
• If your virtual machine does not boot your Windows DVD because it cannot find a boot device, click the VM menu in the Server Console, click Settings, click the CD-ROM drive listing to highlight it, and in the right hand pane, change Auto detect to the drive letter your Host computer uses for the DVD drive. Then try starting your virtual machine again with the install DVD inserted in the DVD drive.

• I would strongly suggest you read the VMware online documentation along with the PDF help files you can download from the VMware site. There is a lot to VMware Server that you should investigate. There are also VMware forums where you can find useful information and ask questions.
• Like any software, VMware is not without its bugs. Some may affect you, some not. Again, the VMware forums are a good place to find help and information.
• Books on VMware Server are few and far between. I would have thought there would have been numerous books out there on this popular virtualization software, but there are surprisingly few. One I would suggest is
VMware Server and VMware Player by Dennis Zimmer. It is a little expensive, and somewhat crudely published, but it has a great deal of useful information. Especially if you are new to VMware Server.

• Windows Server 2008 is still in BETA so don't expect perfection. Microsoft has announced Windows Server 2008 will go Gold in February of 2008, so there is plenty of time to start experimenting with it.
• One thing that does not work in Windows Server 2008 is GPMC - Group Policy Management Console. At least up to and including the June 2007 CTP. Hopefully, in subsequent builds/releases, this will be fixed.
• Windows Server 2008 reminds me of Vista in that like Vista, it has similarities to its predecessors, but yet in many ways is quite different. There will be a learning curve, but Microsoft supplies an abundance of documentation to help you get started.

If you want to access the VMware Server Console from another computer on your network, do the following. Note: this requires IIS be installed on the Host computer that has VMware Server installed on it.

• Open Internet Explorer on a PC on your network. This will work with both Windows XP and Windows Vista.
• In the URL field enter: https://<ip-address-of- the-Host-server>:8333.
• If your Host server has an IP address of, then use this URL:
• You could alternatively use port 8222, if SSL encryption is not enabled in IIS.
• Once the browser page opens, you will need to enter a Username and Password. This can be any valid Domain user and password or local user and password.
• On the same web page, there is an option to download the VMware Server Console Windows application. Once downloaded to your network PC, you can install it like any other Windows application.

You can use either the web interface to attach to the VMware Server, or the VMware Server Console application installed locally on the network PC. The VMware Server Console, you install on the network PC, provides the same functionality as the VMware Server Console on the Host PC. The web interface has a much more limited range of capabilities.

More information about VMware Server and Win2008   Top

VMware Server Download

VMware Server Documentation

VMware Server Forums

Windows Server 2008 Home

Windows Server 2008 BETA Download

Windows Server 2008 Learning Portal