Installing Windows Server 2008 inside VMware Workstation

Do you want to test Windows Server 2008 but remain hesitant to throw it on a production server? Test it for free with VMware Workstation.

Many data center managers are interested in testing Windows Server 2008. But you can't simply jump the gun and...

use it in a production environment right away. Windows Server 2008's functionality and compatibility with existing applications needs to be tested in a secure test environment. VMware Workstation makes the perfect place to test it. Here we explain why you should use VMware Workstation and how to run Windows Server 2008 from Workstation.

Benefits of testing Windows Server 2008 with VMware Workstation

Why test Windows Server 2008 in VMware Workstation? Here are just a few of the reasons:

  1. Snapshot functionality and Snapshot Manager - With snapshots, you can easily save your Windows Server 2008 configuration at any point in time, make changes and go back to that point at which the virtual machine (VM) was snapped. This is excellent for testing installation, patches, configuration changes and application installs. While snapshot functionality isn't really unique with virtualization products, Workstation's Snapshot Manager is. No other virtualization program has a snapshot manager as robust as Workstation's. With the Workstation Snapshot Manager, you can view all of your snapshots in a treed display and move back and forth, through time. Here is what it looks like:


  2. Guest OS teaming – With teaming, you can configure multiple VMware Workstation guest VMs to start up all at the same time, as a team. What this means is that you could have a Win 2008 DC, an Exchange 2007 Server, and say, a Windows 2008 OCS Server, all as different guest VMs. You can push a single button and start that entire group of VMs, together.


  3. Private Networking – With Workstation's private networking (also called "host-only"), you can take your entire team of guest OS systems (or just two machines), put them on a private network, and only allow them to communicate with themselves. This is the best way to prevent your Windows Server 2008 testing from interfering with your current Windows Active Directory domain.

In my opinion, any way that you can use virtualization to test Windows Server 2008 is a decent option but some options are better than others. So what are the other VMware tools options for testing Windows Server 2008?

  • VMware Server – One benefit of VMware Server over Workstation is that it is free. However, for desktop virtualization testing, I think you will like the ease of use of Workstation better.


  • VMware ESX Server – Certainly you aren't going to buy ESX Server just to test Windows Server 2008 but if you already have an ESX Server installed, using it to test Windows Server 2008 is a great idea!

How to install Windows Server 2008 inside VMware Workstation

Installing Windows Server 2008 inside VMware Workstation is not much different than installing other new guest operating systems inside VMware Workstation but there are a few things you need to know. So, here is how to do it, step by step:

  1. If you don't already have VMware Workstation, you can download a fully functioning limited-time demo at this website: VMware Workstation Evaluation.


  2. Obtain Windows Server 2008 either on a DVD or a downloadable ISO file that contains that DVD. Make sure that the version of Win 2008 matches the hardware of your computer. Thus, if you have an AMB 64-bit CPU, you need the Windows Server 2008 AMB 64-bit Edition.


  3. Make sure that you have the latest version of VMware Workstation to ensure that you have Win 2008 as a listed guest OS. In my case, I have Workstation 6.0.1 and Windows Server 2008 is listed.


  4. Open VMware Workstation and click New Virtual Machine on the Home tab.


  5. Take the default and Select that you want to create a Typical virtual machine.


  6. For the VM type, keep the default of Windows and select the Windows Server 2008 version for your hardware (32-bit or 64-bit).


  7. Enter the VM name of your choice. I called my VM "Win2008-1" because I plan on having multiple.


  8. In the next tab, you are asked what kind of network type you want to connect this VM to. I recommend private networking (host-only) if you have an existing Windows AD domain. However, if you aren't concerned with that or if you need interaction between your VM and, say, the Internet, then you may choose the Bridged Networking option.


  9. For Windows Server 2008, the default virtual disk size is 24 GB. If you choose not to use dynamic (allocate disk space now), then this disk space won't really be used until it is needed. I recommend taking the default and clicking Finish.


  10. At this point, you need to setup the VM to boot the Windows Server 2008 media. You can either insert your DVD and map the virtual CD/DVD to it or direct it to the ISO file you downloaded, like this:

    Make sure that the drive is "connected at power on".


  11. Depending on the amount of RAM you have in your host system, I recommend changing the amount of RAM for the VM to one or two GB (although it will boot and run, very slowly, with the 512 MB that was allocated by default).


  12. Now, Power On / Start your new Windows Server 2008!


  13. Go through the normal Windows installation process, entering your license key, accepting the license agreement, etc. and let the install complete.

    After the files are copied, expanded, and the OS is loaded, you should see this:

  14. Now, don't forget to load the VMware tools!


The Snapshot Manager, teaming of guest VMs, private networking and ease of loading Windows Server 2008 make VMware Workstation an excellent choice for testing Windows Server 2008. In fact, in my opinion, VMware Workstation is the best desktop OS testing tool I have found.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Davis (CCIE #9369, VCP, CWNA, MCSE, CISSP, Linux+, CEH) has been in the IT industry for 15 years. Currently, he manages a group of systems/network administrators for a privately owned retail company and authors IT-related material in his spare time. He has written hundreds of articles, six video training courses - including the Train Signal VMware ESX Server video training series. His websites are HappyRouter.com. and VMware Videos.com. 

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