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Pre-configured VHD (Virtual Appliance) available from Microsoft

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The Microsoft Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) format is the common virtualization file format for

  • Virtual PC (host: Windows XP or 2000, guest: multiple PC-based operating systems)
  • Virtual Server (host: Windows 2003, Small Business Server or XP, guest: Windows 2003, XP, 2000 and NT4 SP6a)
  • Windows Server 2008 with built-in hypervisor Hyper-V (host: Windows 2008 64-bit, 64-bit and 32-bit guests: Windows 2008, 2003, SuSe Enterprise Server 10, WIndows Vista, Windows XP)

Microsoft’s has introduced the Run IT on a Virtual Hard Disk program so that customers can try Microsoft’s and its partner’s products downloaded as a pre-configured virtual hard disk, i.e., virtual appliance, for free in their own environment , for 30, 60 or 90 days, without the need for dedicated servers or complex installations.

Windows Server 2008 VHD’s:

Pre-requisites: Microsoft Server 2008 Hyper-V must be installed on a physical machine. A 64-bit system with hardware-assisted virtualization enabled and data execution prevention (DEP) is required. You should have a clean install of x64 edition of Windows Server 2008 to be able to use the Hyper-V technology. Detailed pre-requisites are availabe here.

Full Install:

Core Install:

Application VHD’s:

Pre-requisites:: Microsoft Virtual PC or Virtual Server


Pre-configured VHD

What is it used for?


Exchange Server 2007 SP1 VHD

Evaluate the new capabilities of Exchange Server 2007 SP1.


Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 R2 VHD

System Center provides you a solution for operating system deployment, patch management, software distribution, virtual application streaming and more (product homepage and Configuration Manager Techcenter)


Windows 2003 R2

Windows Server 2003 R2 simplifies branch server management, improves identity and access management, reduces storage management costs, provides a rich Web platform.


Office SharePoint Server 2007

Office SharePoint Server 2007 is a collaboration and content management server that supports all intranet, extranet, and Web applications across an enterprise within one integrated platform.


Forefront codename “Stirling”

An integrated security system that delivers comprehensive, coordinated protection across endpoints, messaging and collaboration servers, and the network edge. It simplifies management and provides critical visibility into threats, vulnerabilities, and configuration risks


System Center Essentials 2007 SP1

System Center Essentials 2007 SP1 is a new management solution specifically designed for IT professionals working in midsize businesses troubleshooting user problems, automating management tasks, managing multiple systems, and diagnosing and resolving IT problems


Windows Vista

Dekstop OS

None of Microsoft’s partners are offering pre-configured VHD’s on Microsoft’s site at the time of writing. I am wondering why this is so?

Written by paule1s

January 21, 2009 at 11:56 pm

Top 10 Posts and Searches for Q4 2008

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Written by paule1s

January 8, 2009 at 10:08 am

How to convert a VMWare VMDK to a Microsoft, Xen VHD?

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Written by paule1s

December 14, 2008 at 3:53 pm

Virtual Machine Disk Image Compression

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Experience with running out of storage

Background about sparse files, Windows NTFS and VHD

VHD Pre-Compactor & Compactor

When you create a new VM you can pre-allocate all the storage in one shot or let the storage grow on demand. In the latter case, the VM uses a sparse file

VMDK Wipe & Shrink

3rd Party (Not from MSFT & VMW)

Rsync: for transferring files between machines


Why run de-frag before compacting a virtual disk?

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As explained in the article on vhd pre-compactor, the pre-compactor zero’s out the unused blocks. The compactor can then collapse some of these blocks. Ideally if all the zero filled blocks are at the end of virtual image file, then the file can just be truncated. This is essentially what de-fragmentation does. It takes all the free blocks and moves them to the end of the disk as it tries to make all the blocks for the files on the disk to be contiguous.

Written by RS

November 25, 2008 at 6:33 am

What does the vhd pre-compactor do?

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Files are represented on disk by a sequence of blocks. The operating system maintains a list of free blocks and used blocks. When files are created by a program, the operating system takes some of the free blocks, marks them as used and attaches them to the file. Similarly when the file is deleted the blocks as part of the file are put back on the free block list.

However the deleted blocks are not zero’ed out. So consider a virtual image which at its peak had 3GB of used blocks, but since then a lot of files have been deleted and is currently using only 1GB. There are 2GB of free blocks on the system, but these blocks are not necessarily zero, they may contain the contents of some files which have been deleted.

The pre-compactor zeros out the deleted blocks. It does this by creating a large file and writing zeros to it. The operating system keeps giving it all the free blocks and the pre-compactor just zero’s them out.

Then the compact tool can collapse these zero blocks and realize some savings. Ideally one should run defrag on the disk before running the pre-compactor (see article)

Written by RS

November 25, 2008 at 6:29 am