Install Virtual Server 2005 R2 with our 16 step tutorial
Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 is a good introduction to the world of virtualisation. It’s a free download, and it’ll run on most current hardware — and will support a wide range of legacy and current guest operating systems.
If your clients need to run an old Windows 2000 application on an SBS 2003 machine, or to virtualise their existing systems for disaster recovery, Virtual Server will work without needing the latest server hardware.
A Virtual Server system can be up and running in just a couple of hours, ready for applications and users — and also ready to be used for disaster recovery snapshots, or to be moved between servers to give your client’s users the best possible performance.
1. Start by downloading and install Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1. You’ll find it on the Microsoft Web site, at www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/virtualserver/downloads.aspx. The R2 release adds support for Vista SP1, XP SP3 and Windows Server 2008.
2. Start the install process by choosing the complete option. You don’t need to give the application very much information — just a name and an organisation. The product key is automatically generated, and used for support calls.
3. You’ll next need to set up the port for Virtual Server’s administration Web site (and you’ll need to have IIS on the server). This requires you to choose the user account for the administration Web site to use. It’s best to use the authenticated user option, unless you’re planning on running Virtual Server on public-facing machines.
4. As you’re going to be installing virtual networking adapters that link to the networking features of your existing host operating system, you’ll need to enable any firewall exceptions. The installer will automatically update the Windows Firewall — but if you’re using anything else you’ll need to make the appropriate changes manually.
5. You’re now ready to run the actual install process; this is relatively quick, taking just a few minutes before you’re ready to start installing guest operating systems.
6. If you’re using a Remote Desktop session to install on a server without leaving your desk, note that you will lose your connection temporarily as the Virtual Server installs its virtual network drivers.
7. Once the install is complete you can open the management Web site from the icon installed in the Start menu; this is where you manage your virtual machines, disks and networks, as well as getting performance and event reports. You’ll need to use Internet Explorer as some of the management site’s features require ActiveX controls. The main screen gives you an overview of server usage, along with a list of recent events — without needing a GUI running on any guest operating systems.
8. You’re now ready to set up Virtual Server’s first virtual machine. Under the Virtual Machines section in the left-hand navigation bar click Create Virtual Machine. This lets you create a VM from scratch, or use an existing VHD. If you’re starting from scratch you’ll need to define how much memory to allocate to your VM (the more the better), and how big a virtual hard disk it’ll need. Virtual hard disks are dynamically expanding (so don’t need all the space you’ve requested), and will need formatting. Name VMs carefully as you can soon accumulate a large number that will need managing.
9. Once you’ve finished creating a machine you’ll be taken to the VM’s configuration page. The configuration report will show you just what’s been defined, along with links to virtual CD/DVD drives and network adapters. You can configure the server to start with the host machine, and also to save its state when the host shuts down — making restarts much faster.
10. You’re now ready to start your VM for the first time. While there’s no guest OS in place, it’s a good idea to see if the virtual hardware you’ve chosen is correctly configured. Click on the thumbnail icon to launch your VM.
11. If you’ve had any problems you can use the Virtual Server event viewer to find out just why your VM won’t start. There’s a lot of information here, with details of every change you’ve made — however, at heart it’s the Windows Server event viewer we’ve used since NT, so it’s easy to find the information you’re looking for.
12. Once a VM is running you can see diagnostic information on the configuration page. You’ll get a thumbnail view of its display, as well as details of the current utilisation (with a CPU graph), uptime and network traffic in and out of your VM.
13. Click the thumbnail again to operate the VM using Microsoft’s VMRC (Virtual Machine Remote Control). This needs to be enabled for each Virtual Server. You’re able to define the screen resolution and timeouts and choose how many connections can be made to each VM and whether to encrypt your connections. If you’re likely to be using VMRC for remote administration, it’s a good idea to enable SSL connections.
14. The VMRC in-browser viewer is an ActiveX control. You’ll need to install this before you make your first connection to your Virtual Server-hosted virtual machines. The install is quick, and doesn’t require a browser restart. You will need to use IE 5.5 or later — as the control isn’t compatible with earlier browsers.
15. Once it’s in place you’ll be able to view the screen on the hosted server, just like you’d use any server running Terminal Services, with the full UI inside the Web administration console. Initially you’ll use this to install an operating system — once you’ve installed an OS you’ll also need to install the Virtual Machine Additions which allow guest OS’s to use local resources more effectively (and also handle mouse transitions between the VMRC and the host OS).
16. You don’t need to install virtual machines from CD-ROM or DVD. Virtual Server lets you map virtual CD drives to ISO images. Many MSDN downloads are available as ISO images or you can make ISO images using most CD-burning software, letting you build libraries of install images which can then be added to Virtual Server’s search path, making it easy to quickly configure a new virtual machine from scratch.