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Building Windows Home Server 2011 in a Virtual Environment


windows home serverIf you’re holding off on purchasing hardware for a dedicated Home Server (of whichever flavor) while we wait to see how things turn out with WHS “Vail” (now dubbed Windows Home Server 2011), perhaps you’d enjoy taking some of your favorite Media Centers and Media Servers for a test drive without going through all the pains of building a box up from scratch.

With today amazing Virtualization technology we have the ability to run instances of workstations, servers, and other platforms in memory.  Without getting too technical, each “server” or “workstation” may appear to be real to other machines on the network, the PC is actually just a file residing in another computers memory.

I know, awesome huh?  The cool thing is that you really don’t need to know the technology behind it if you aren’t as “geekified” as many of our readers, all you need to know is how to work within the console of the virtualization software…

For our purposes today, we will be using VMware Server.  Why? Because it’s simply the best and VMware Server is a free download!  We are assuming that you understand this and already have VMware Server installed and ready to go but for those who don’t, we’ll have instructions up soon!

Let’s get busy!

From your VMware Infrastructure Web Access console, select Virtual Machine>Create Virtual Machine:


On the Name and Location page of the window that appears, name your new Virtual Machine (VM) something descriptive like “WHS 2011”, select the Datastore, and click Next.


On the Guest Operating System page, click the radio button next to Windows operating system and in the Version drop down box, drop it down to Microsoft Windows Server 2008 (64-bit) as shown:


Click Next and you’ll be brought to the Memory and Processors page.  Adjust these settings carefully keeping in mind that you are “borrowing” resources from the host computer.  So you might find other functions of your workstation grinding to a halt when this particular VM is running. For the purposes of this test environment, I chose to go with 2GB (2048) of Ram and left the processor alone at 1.  Click Next


Click on Create a New Virtual Disk in the next window and make sure you create a virtual disk that is at minimum the 160Gb in size required by Windows Home Server 2011.


Click Next and on the Network Adapter page, click Add a Network Adapter

Click Next and on the Properties page select the default Bridged Network Connection as well as verifying that the Connect at Power On is checked and click Next:


The next page is the CD / DVD Drive page where you will attach to your media which for this example, will be and ISO image.  Click the Use an ISO Image link and in the following Properties window click the Browse button.

Drill down through the datastore until you find the ISO image you are looking for.  In this case EN-US_WHS_PREM_InstallDVD:


***Note: You must have dropped the downloaded Windows Home Server install DVD ISO image and copied it to the “Virtual Machines” folder on your hard drive to have it show up in the datastore.***

Once you have selected the correct ISO, click OK and then Next.

On the Floppy Drive page, select Don’t Add a Floppy Drive and for right now, Don’t Add a USB Controller.

You are now ready to launch the installation for Windows Home Server, so select the power on yoru new virtual machine now and click Finish.

You will see in the task panel at the bottom of your console that the Create Virtual Machine task is running and within seconds, the system is powering of your VM:


By clicking the console tab at the top of the window and then clicking in the black window, VMware will pop out a window showing the boot up sequence of the install CD:


Once the Windows Home Server 2011 install loads, click New installation and on next page check the box, click Install…


and sit back while WHS 2011 is installed….this could take awhile!

Finally, we’re ready to participate in the remainder of the installation, which is fairly standard to any Windows install.  We’ll walk you through it none-the-less.

Start by entering the appropriate geographic information for your setup and click Next:


Click next on the verify date / time settings, then check the “I accept” box and click Next again


Enter the product key that you got from the Microsoft Connect website where you downloaded WHS 2011 and click Next.  In the Personalize your Server section, name your server, give it a password & hint and click Next.


Select the recommended settings for your updates and click Next to complete the server setup and the Server will reboot again, do a little more set up, reboot one last time and Voila! you are finished!


But wait….it’s not finished yet…


In fact…


It really didn’t take that long…but it DID reboot one more time.  Now, surely, our server is ready to use!



Finally!  (Click CloseWinking smile


Stay tuned as we go deeper into WHS 2011 to see how well it performs and if Drive Extender’s removal truly did spell the demise of Windows Home Server!

Until then…hope this helped!


About the Author

Tom AbellPut simply, Tom loves technology! Having been involved in the IT world since leaving the US Navy Submarine Force in 1992, Tom has moved his way up to the top as an IT Systems Engineering. But having spent some time in the Home Automation industry early in his career, he’s never been able to shake his love for creating integrated Home Technology environments and has been running HTPCs and Windows Home Servers for years. With 17 years of IT Systems Engineering experience, Tom's recent OIF 08-09 deployment has rekindled his love for the Connected Home Industry and hence, the website. We hope you like the site, please share it with your friends and follow us on your favorite Social Networks! Read more about Tom on the "About Us" page.View all posts by Tom Abell

  1. cwazynit

    This is an awesome guide! Thanks
    I've been thinking about doing this for such a long time but not sure what the downside is to running whs as a virtual machine on my htpc…any thoughts?

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