Ways to deploy an operating system to a virtual machine

Ways to deploy an operating system to a virtual machine

There are several ways you can deploy an operating system to a virtual machine. As with a physical computer, you can use either physical media or an image that is available either locally or on a network location. Virtual machines make a third method possible: you can deploy a virtual hard disk that contains an operating system that has been prepared for duplication, which is the recommended method. This topic describes each method.

Using virtual hard disks

Using virtual hard disks is the recommended method of deploying operating systems to virtual machines, as long as you heed important considerations about security identifiers and licensing. Computers running the Windows operating system use security identifiers, or SIDs, to uniquely identify themselves. When you use disk-duplicating software, you must take steps to ensure the uniqueness of these SIDs.

The System Preparation tool (Sysprep) is designed specifically for deploying the Windows operating system on multiple computers. Sysprep assigns a unique security ID (SID) to each destination computer the first time the computer is restarted. If you plan to deploy Windows by copying and distributing virtual hard disks, you must use a virtual hard disk that contains a version of Windows that has been prepared for deployment using Sysprep. For links to information about Sysprep, see Virtual Server Resources.

In addition to SIDs, you also need to consider potential licensing issues. Guest operating system licenses are not included with Virtual Server. You must ensure that you are appropriately licensed for all operating systems and applications that you install on a virtual machine.

Microsoft does not provide support for computers that have been installed by duplicating fully installed copies of Windows. Microsoft supports computers that were installed by using disk-duplicating software and Sysprep. For more information about this support, see article 162001, "Do Not Disk Duplicate Installed Versions of Windows" in the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

Using an image

Virtual Server supports ISO 9660 images, the International Organization for Standardization format, of a CD or DVD. You can use these images to perform the same operations as physical media, such as installing an operating system. There are several ways you can use images to deploy operating systems to virtual machines.

  • Configure the virtual machine's CD or DVD drive to capture a startup ISO image that includes an operating system setup package. When you start the virtual machine, it will use the image to start and run the operating system setup package.
  • Use Remote Installation Services (RIS) or Automated Deployment Services (ADS) to copy an operating system setup image to the virtual machine. You must use a remote boot floppy disk in the virtual machine to perform a network-based installation. You use the Rbfg.exe utility provided with RIS to create the remote boot floppy disk. For information about RIS, see "Designing RIS Installations" at the Microsoft Web site. If you have installed RIS, search on "Rbfg.exe" in Help and Support Center for more information about the remote boot floppy disk. For information about ADS, see "Automated Deployment Services" at the Microsoft Web site.
Accessing network resources from the Administration Website may require a software update to the host operating system of the local computer. For more information, see the Virtual Server 2005 Release Notes.
There are a variety of non-Microsoft tools available for creating CD images. Or, if you are using ADS, you can use the tools supplied with ADS for creating and modifying images.

Using physical media

You can use the physical computer's CD or DVD drive to install an operating system from a CD or a DVD. If necessary, you also can use the physical computer's floppy drive to access installation media.

Virtual machines are created with both a virtual CD or DVD drive and a virtual floppy drive that by default are not associated with the physical drive of the computer. To use the physical drive with the virtual machine, you modify the virtual machine's configuration to capture the physical drive. For instructions, see Adding and removing virtual CD or DVD disks and Adding and removing floppy disks.