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Conspiracy Theory -- Virtual Vista

Here are some of the common pitfalls with installing and running Vista and Longhorn inside of VMware VMs.

Chris, I've been trying to get the latest Vista build to run inside of a VMware Workstation VM and it hasn’t been easy. The setup program didn't recognize the setup ISO and asked me for a CD driver. I burned the image to a DVD and was able to install that way. Then, I had trouble with getting on the network. Have you had similar problems?
— Scott

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Scott, it looks like you are experiencing what some are seeing as a great conspiracy. Some VMware purists see the difficulty in getting Vista or Longhorn server to run in a VMware VM as right up there with conspiracy theories such as whether we put a man on the moon, the existence of Bigfoot and the alien autopsy. In other words, some see the installation and setup problems of these new operating systems inside of VMware VMs as an attempt by Microsoft to annoy the primary competitor to its Virtual Server product.

I’m going to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt, but I have been equally frustrated in virtualizing Longhorn or Vista using VMware. So Scott, I feel your pain.

Luckily for everyone, a strong community of VMware users have found workarounds for each problem that have gotten in the way of running Vista or Longhorn in a VM. Here are the top problems that I have run into with running Vista or Longhorn in VMware, with their solutions:

  1. Windows Setup does not recognize the CD/DVD drive and asks for a driver. While Windows setup has no problem reading from the CD to load all of the initial setup files, it runs into trouble once the GUI portion of setup starts and it looks for a 32-bit driver. The most basic workaround for this problem is to burn the Windows Vista or Longhorn set-up image to a DVD and then have the VM attach directly to a physical drive. If you want to connect the VM directly to an ISO image file without having to burn the image to a DVD, you will find guidance on how to install the CD/DVD drivers during Vista or Longhorn setup in the VMware discussion forum, "Latest Public Vista Build will not install from ISO."
  2. After installation, you find that the OS does not recognize the VMware virtual NIC. In the past, Windows 2000, XP and Windows Server 2003 natively supported VMware’s virtual NIC. That’s no longer the case with Windows Vista or Longhorn, at least not at the moment. You can get the network going by simply installing the VMware tools. This will install the NIC driver and allow the system to access the virtual NIC.
  3. After running dcpromo on a Longhorn server, you cannot log in as Administrator. While this problem appears to be a bug entirely unrelated to VMware, I have heard of a few people being baffled by this one and thought I'd share it. Basically, following the reboot after the dcpromo process, you may find that when you attempt to log in as Administrator, you are prompted that the user name or password is incorrect. After trying to reenter the password a few times, the thought that you may need to completely rebuild the OS from scratch creeps into your head. Before doing so, try clicking the "Switch User" button. Then click "Other User" and for user name use the following syntax: \. So the Administrator in the MCPMag domain would log in as mcpmag\administrator. Note that the GUI will even tell you that you are logging in to your domain, so in theory there is no reason why you'd need to specify the domain name as part of your login credentials. I’m sure this will be fixed in later Longhorn server builds, but if this problem stops you in your tracks, hopefully this workaround will get you through.

Scott, hopefully these tips will allow you to successfully set up Vista or Longhorn in a VMware virtual machine. I’m sure that some of you probably have run into issues that I have not mentioned. If so, please post any issues and discovered workarounds as comments to this article.

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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