Server stack in a box

I've installed a virtual machine on my laptop so that I can work with the Microsoft server stack. Here are the steps I went through, just in case you want to follow along.

You will need:

  • Windows Server 2003 install disk
  • Install disk for SQL Server, BizTalk, SharePoint, and any other server components you want to test.
  • Internet connection
  • 10 GB free hard drive space
  • At least 1 GB memory

I recommend that you get an MSDN subscription for all of the install disks that you need. Be sure to request a license key for Windows Server 2003. Click on Certified Partners Downloads and Product Keys. Drill down to Windows Server 2003 under Operating Systems in the left-hand panel.

Download Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1. The download requires a Live ID and registration, which is mildly annoying. An MSN or Passport login will work, too. Fill out all required fields if you want your download.

After you complete the install, you can access the administration interface at http://<your machine name>/VirtualServer/VSWebApp.exe?view=1. It only works in IE, not Firefox. And you need to specify your machine name, not “localhost”.

In the admin page, create a new virtual machine. I chose the name “FullStack” because I intend to install the full stack of services on this box. Choose a reasonable amount of memory and maximum hard drive space. I chose 512 MB of memory and 10 GB max hard drive, which is a bare minimum for my purposes. The virtual drive file will dynamically grow to this max, but I don't want it getting out of hand. In the future I may need to up these numbers. Also I’ll try moving the virtual hard disk to an external drive so I can keep the notebook drive clean.

You'll want to attach your virtual network adapter to your real network card so that other others can gain access to it. Simply choose your NIC in the drop down. I chose my wired vs. wireless NIC just to be safe. The Internal Network selection should allow you to access the VM from the host machine only, but I couldn't get that to work for me.

Once your VM is created, click on the screen thumbnail to remotely control it. The first time you do this, you’ll be prompted to enable the Virtual Machine Remote Control (VMRC) server. Just check Enable and hit OK. You will then be prompted to install an ActiveX control. Once you do, you should be able to see your brand new box prompting you to “Reboot and Select proper Boot device or Insert Boot Media in selected Boot device”. This was so cool, I just had to take a picture.
Virgin VM

Now you can install the guest OS. I have ISO images for the install disks rather than physical media. So I changed the CD/DVD settings for the VM. First, copy the ISO images to the VM folder in “C:\Users\Public\Documents\Shared Virtual Machines”. Then, remove the existing “Primary Channel” attachment by selecting it and checking “Remove”. Add a new one by selecting the *.iso file from among the known ISO images. Now the ISO image will appear to be a physical CD within the VM. You can switch to a different ISO image at any time – even while the VM is running – by going back to the CD/DVD settings.

I'm going to see how far I get with this configuration. I'm also considering VirtualBox as an alternative to Microsoft Virutal Server. It would be nice to get out of the browser.

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