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Honestly, friends, I don’t think I “get” Windows Server 8 just yet. With Windows 8 Microsoft seems to be attempting a sort of “grand unified theory” with operating systems. In other words, Windows 8 works just as well in a tablet form as it does with a standard PC form.
But why would we need a touch-friendly Metro user interface in a server OS? Moreover, why would Microsoft abandon the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) for its server tools?
These are questions that I need your help in answering. In the meantime, earlier this month Microsoft released a Developer Preview (DP) build of Windows Server 8 to its Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscribers.
In this tutorial I will teach you how to get the Windows Server 8 DP up and running in a virtual machine. We are going to use the free, open-source Oracle VirtualBox VM 4 as our virtualization platform because (a) it is free; (b) VirtualBox is cross-platform; and (c) it runs the DP quite well, thank you very much.
Let’s get to work.
Determining Prerequisites ^
Your two guiding principles if you are considering installing Windows Server 8 Developer Preview in a virtual environment are:
- Your host computer must support hardware-assisted virtualization (HAV)
- Your host computer must exceed the minimum system requirements for Windows Server 8 DP
You can download and run the Microsoft Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool as a quick way to determine whether your proposed host system supports HAV.
Microsoft Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool
If your computer contains an Intel processor, you can also use the Intel Processor Identification Utility, which serves the same purpose as the Microsoft HAV tool.
Intel Processor Identification Utility
The reason why your host (hardware) computer must exceed the system requirements for the Windows 8 DP is, of course, because you need to allocate at least the minimum specs to the virtual machine itself. Here are the latest minimum system requirements for the virtual machine:
- Processor: 2.0 GHz or faster (x64)
- Disk Space: At least 10.0 GB of free disk space
- RAM: 2.5 GB of available physical RAM
- DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
- Taking advantage of touch input requires a screen that supports multi-touch
- To run Metro style Apps, you need a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 or greater
Obtaining the Bits ^
To get this party started, we need to download the Windows Server 8 DP and VirtualBox. You can download Windows Server 8 DP from the MSDN Subscriptions site. Note that you must have an MSDN license in order to download the software (bummer for us systems admins, I know).
Downloading the Windows Server 8 Developer Preview
Next, you should hit up the Oracle VirtualBox site to download the latest version of VirtualBox. In order to support Windows Server 8 DP, you will need at least version 4 of this software.
Setting Up VirtualBox ^
Once you install VirtualBox, fire up the application and click New from the main toolbar.
Creating a new virtual machine
In the VM Name and OS Type dialog box, select Windows 2008 (64 bit) as the operating system type. Next, click Continue to, well, continue. 🙂
Selecting a guest OS
In the Memory dialog box, provide a value of at least 1536 MB. Don’t be stingy with RAM allocation here, friends!
Next, step through the virtual disk creation wizard, accepting all defaults. Unless you plan on installing additional software in the virtual machine (VM), the 20GB base value should be fine.
Creating the virtual hard disk
Once the virtual machine has been created, select the VM entry in the VM list and then click Settings on the main toolbar.
Configuring the VM settings
In System > Motherboard, ensure that IO APIC is enabled.
TROUBLESHOOTING TIP: If you have difficulty booting Windows Server 8, try changing the Chipset value from PIIX3 to ICH9.
Setting motherboard options
In System > Processor, ensure that Enable PAE/NX is is turned on.
Setting processor options
In System > Acceleration, ensure that both hardware virtualization options are enabled. You may also need to enable HAV in the virtual machine BIOS.
Enabling hardware-assisted virtualization
In Storage, select the virtual optical drive and browse to the Windows Server 8 DP ISO image that you downloaded from the MSDN site.
Mounting the Windows 8 DVD image
If you want your Windows Server 8 virtual machine to access the Internet, make sure you have networking enabled in Network > Adapter 1. The default option, NAT, is fine.
Enabling Internet access
Cool beans! We are now ready to install Windows Server 8 DP!
Installing Windows Server 8 ^
Configure the virtual machine to boot from the virtual optical drive. If the boot is successful, you will see the traditional Install Windows dialog box.
Windows Server 8 installer
You know the drill—click Install Now.
Windows Server 8 installer
Select the version of the operating system that you want to install. The Full and Server Core options should be self-explanatory to anyone who has installed Windows Server 2008.
The Features On Demand installation option gives you a more scaled-back installation of Windows Server 8 with the flexibility of adding in extra features (including core features like Control Panel and Windows Explorer) on an as-needed basis.
Choosing an installation type
Accept the license agreement and click Next to continue.
Accepting the license terms
We are performing a clean installation here, so double-click Custom (advanced).
Choosing an installation method
Make sure the correct virtual hard disk is selected and then click Next to continue.
Selecting a target virtual hard drive
Time to hurry up and wait…
Windows Server 8 installation progress
During first launch there is a brief Settings wizard to complete. Here we assign an initial password to the default, built-in Administrator account.
Windows Server 8 settings wizard
The lock screen in Windows Server 8 looks virtually identical to the lock screen in Windows 8, at least at this point.
Windows Server 8 lock screen
Enter your password and click Submit to log on.
Logging onto Windows Server 8 Developer Preview
As previously stated, Windows Server 8 includes the new-fangled Metro UI, albeit in a scaled-back form from what we have in the Windows 8 DP.
Click the Desktop tile to shift the UI from Metro to “classic” Windows.
The Metro UI
Navigating Windows Server 8 ^
Once you switch into the Classic Windows interface, the completely revamped Server Manager tool appears automatically. Again, between you, me, and the wall, I am unsure why and how this new interface is an improvement over the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). On the other hand, nobody at Microsoft asked me for my input.
From the left-hand navigation bar, click Local Server.
The Classic Windows UI
The completely revamped Server Manager
Besides the new window chrome, many of the Control Panel dialogs look the same as they did under Windows Server 2008 R2. For instance, in the Properties section of Server Manager, you can click the computer name and/or or Workgroup link to invoke System Properties.
Accessing System Properties
In the integrated Services panel, you can start, stop, pause, or resume services by right-clicking the appropriate service entry.
Managing Windows services
Yet another nice enhancement to Windows Server 2008 is a greatly expanded cmdlet set in PowerShell v3.
Windows PowerShell v3
Microsoft added the Fluent (ribbon) interface to Windows Explorer. I do enjoy the inclusion of Control Panel, Uninstall, and System Properties buttons on the toolbar.
Ribbon interface in Windows Explorer
If you point your mouse to the lower-left corner of the screen, you see what Microsoft calls “charms” (the Windows team seems to avoid the term “icon” at all costs). If you click the Start button, it takes you back to the Metro UI.
Windows Server 8 charms
If you click Settings from the charms menu, you can shut down or reboot the system, among other actions.
If all has gone well in your following this tutorial, then you have Windows Server 8 DP up and running. As you can tell, I have strong opinions about this version of Windows Server. To that end, please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments portion of this post—I would love to chat with you about this.
If you want to install the client version of Windows 8:
How to install Windows 8 Developer Preview in VirtualBox