Windows Home Server on a virtual machine

Here at Microsoft, when we talk about Windows Home Server, one of the things that comes up pretty often is a question about hosting WHS in a virtual machine under Virtual Server.  Most often people want this because they already have one always-on machine (a doman controller, a media center PC, etc.), and they don't want another.

In discussing the problem, a few key bits of advice have come up, and I thought it would be a good idea to write them down here.

One of the key problems appears when you consider using the WHS to back up the host.  It can certainly be done, but when the host goes down, restoring it is a catch 22.

Dedicate whole drives

Take whole drives & put only one file on each - the .VHD.  Make it as large as possible.

Use external drives

Make all of WHS's drives external.  Consider putting them all in a single enclosure for convenience.  eSATA w/ port multipliers may be a good choice.

Have a 2nd physical machine ready

It should already have Virtual Server or Virtual PC installed.  A laptop is fine.  Make sure it has appropriate ports for the WHS drives. 

Recovery strategy

When the regular host goes down:

  1. Unplug the WHS drives
  2. Carry them to the 2nd host, and plug in
  3. Boot the WHS virtual machine.  (You may need to create a new VM with the existing .VHD files.)
  4. Restore the primary host
  5. Unplug the WHS drives
  6. Carry them back to the primary host, and plug in
  7. Boot the WHS virtual machine