Windows Hyper-V Server 2008: Part 1

27 10 2008

As I’m sure some of you geeks out there know, Microsoft released Windows Server 2008 recently.

Here’s the Wiki on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyper-V

To ‘wow’ us all, they released a free distribution of it as well, specifically called “Windows Hyper-V Server 2008“.  This is different from the other versions of WS 2008.  How?

Let me explain.

Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V (not the free one) comes in 3 flavors: Standard, Enterprise, and Datacenter.  But let’s be honest; when does Microsoft ever just release fewer versions than we can count on our hands?  Here’s the real product list, for those of you interested.

If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that since it’s only been a short while since Hyper-V has made its début, that you already know what the benefits to using it are, and thus you’re Google searching like crazy to figure out how to make use of the free version of WS 2008 and to utilize virtualization “on metal”, as it’s being called; virtual machines that run on hardware emulation instead of just software codebases.

So how do I set it up? you might ask.  After you install Windows Hyper-V Server 2008 (the free one, which I shall generally refer to as “Hyper-V” from now on.  Blast MS and their mile-long titles.) you’ll quickly notice that although it comes loaded with enough libraries to run a basic Vista-esque welcome/login screen, you’ve got nothing but good old cmd.exe to work with.

Here are the basics about what you’ll need:

  • A 64-bit processor is a must for Hyper-V.  Although remote management tools come in x86 (32-bit) and x64 versions, Hyper-V itself will only let you use a x64 processor.
  • Hardware virtualization is also a must.  That’s a hardward thing, of course.  You either have it or you don’t.  If you don’t, Hyper-V won’t be allowed to visit your box.
  • DEP (or, Data Execution Prevention) will also be a requirement.  I’m not going to bother explaining what it is.  You’re computer needs to have it.

To test your processor, I *HIGHLY* recommend using SecurAble (click for the download), a tiny little download that will tell you very directly if you have all of the above things on your processor.  For extra information about what each of these 3 attributes are, just visit http://www.grc.com/securable.htm for details.  Keep in mind that if SecurAble tells you that you don’t have Hardware Virtualization or DEP, you might just have it disabled in your bios.  Just restart you computer and at the first little graphic, start wacking F2, F10, Del, or some other hotkey to get you into the bios options.  Enabling either of these options won’t damage anything… it can only help!

For Linux users, SecurAble also runs under Wine or Crossover, so you can download the tool just like anybody else.

Chances are that if you’ve bought a decently new system in the last 6 months, you’re running 2/3 of these things already.  I tend to think of DEP and the Hardware Virtualization as a 2-for-1 deal.  An x64 processor would almost surely have these things, assuming you didn’t buy your box from a cheap vendor.

So, let’s move on.

This is how to get it running:

  • Download it.  It’s 900-something megabytes, so no CD is going to do the job.  If your computer doesn’t have a DVD drive on it, then your box likely is a little too behind the times.
  • Lauch the DVD.  If you’re only experimenting, the last thing I’d do is nuke your system to install Hyper-V.  Try it on a single partition first.  Dear goodness don’t nuke the whole system yet.  This is hardly a robust process.  I’m going to assume that you’re taking my advice:
    1. You could run the installer from your existing operating system, and just install it to an empty partition.  If you do this, then I guess you won’t need to burn it to a DVD.
    2. Alternately, you could boot from the DVD, which will eventually ask you for a partition to install on.
  • Install Hyper-V.  It doesn’t take very long.  After all, it’s what we call a “server core“, not the full-blown product.
  • Start up the computer in your new “Windows Server 2008” installation.  For me, I deleted a Linux partion and consequently nuked my GRUB bootloader.  Windows OSes always overwrite the bootloader, which is normally bad for Linux; it orphans the partition and you have trouble booting up into it.  For me, the new bootloader installed by WS 2008 was a good thing, since it restored my options to boot the computer!
  • Log in with the “Other User” account.  This was confusing for me at first, as there was no default account to log into.  All you have to do is log into “Other User” with the username “Administrator” and a blank password.  It will welcome you and tell you that you need to set a new password.  Leave the original password field blank, of course, and then type a new password twice.
  • You’re in! Hyper-V will tell you for an unusually long time that it is “Preparing your desktop”, which is extra odd since there is no desktop in a “server core” version of WS 2008, which Hyper-V is.  Eventually you’ll get to see two things:
    1. A command prompt, which is in the background.
    2. Another glorified command prompt, running the built-in utility which can be accessed from any command prompt by typing:
      hvconfig

Now, as promised, Hyper-V is running.

So how do I install operating systems on top of Hyper-V?

Good question.  The process can only be performed remotely, via a “Hyper-V Remote Manager” update found on Microsoft’s download pages.  The program is downloaded as a standalone windows updater.  It is only available for Windows Vista with Service Pack 1, though they offer x86 and x64 versions of the utility.  Hyper-V itself will be running on x64 architecture, however the remote tool can be in either version.

Here are some links to the Hyper-V Remote Manager tool, and a couple of documents about setting up Hyper-V.  I’ve downloaded these files and uploaded them here.  I found broken link after broken link finding these things, so I’ve posted them here.  These were up to date as of the time of this post.  Note the “.jpg” extentions.  Remove those.  Wordpress only lets me upload visual media 😉

The links look broken.  They’re not.  Wordpress thinks that they are images.  The x86 and the x64 versions of the Vista remote manager tool need an “msu” extention, while the other two are information documents that had a “docx” extention.

The annoyances you will face will be covered in my future posts about this process.  Trust me.. you’re far from happily running your favorite OS installations side by side.

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