Installing Vail onto a Virtual Machine Part 1 – VMWare Workstation

by Nigel Wilks on April 26, 2010 · 17 comments

in Guides

With the release of the much anticipated Public Beta of Windows Home Server Codename “Vail”, many of you will be wanting to try out the new features but may not have access to suitable hardware. However, if you have a 64 bit PC running a 64 bit OS then you can probably install Virtualisation software such as VMWare Server or Workstation and run through Vails feature set during the Beta.

Before you continue with the guides you need to ensure your PC is can support a 64 Bit OS guest (generally a machine fitted with a processor capable of hardware-assisted virtualisation such as the AMD-V™, Intel® VT or VIA® VT processor will do). Microsoft provide a free utility to check your machine meets the requirements, the Microsoft® Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool. One word of caution with this, most manufacturers turn off the Virtualisation features in the BIOS, and some hide them in obscure menu systems. The HP system I used to create this guide kept the settings in the Security menu which took a while to find.

For these guides, I’ve picked VMWare Server and Workstation as both of these will run 64 Bit Guest Operating Systems on a 64 Bit Host. If you choose a different tool, then ensure it can do the same. As Vail is 64 bit only, you need that capability.

As a personal preference, I choose VMWare Workstation, it is not a free version but there is a 30 Day Free evaluation period which will allow you to test out the Beta sufficiently. The VMWare Server product is free but in my opinion, not as user friendly. VMWare Workstation certainly seems to be better suited to the consumer; and certainly more palatable for the less technically minded people amongst us.

VMWare Workstation 7

As I mentioned above, you can download and register a copy of VMWare Workstation 7 and obtain a 30 day evaluation key. Once you’ve done that just run through the installation accepting the defaults and after a reboot, just run the software.

VMWare Home Screen

VMWare Home Screen

From the Home Screen, you’ll want to Create a new Virtual Machine.

Choose Custom (advanced)

We need to choose Custom (Advanced) because the Wizard doesn’t know about Windows Home Server, and it doesn’t work very well. So choose the Advanced option and we’ll step through what is required.

Leave the default values above and click Next

The default option gives us the most compatibility with other software; not that we really care about this for testing Vail so accept the defaults by choosing Next. You’ll see that the image is also compatible with VMWare Server 2 which could be useful if you choose to switch to that product when your evaluation period is up.

Choose 'I will install the operating system later'

To stop VMWare being clever and detecting our target OS and running an “Unattended Installation” we need to choose to install the operating system later.

As Windows Home Server Codename Vail is based on Windows 2008 x64 we can tell VMWare it’s that OS. That will help it assign us the right VMWare Tools later.

Give the Virtual Machine a name. You can see here I've referenced the current Vail Build Number 7495.

You now need to give your virtual machine a name, this isn’t the computer name but the name that will appear in the VMWare Home screen. As this is a Beta build, I like to put the level of the build in the name in this case 7495. You can also choose to rename this later on from the Home Screen if you need to.

A single processor should be sufficent for testing, use more if you desire.

Now that we’ve done the basics, we can now choose what sort of specifications we want to give the server. Bear in mind this will take resources from your host computer, so don’t go too mad as your performance will suffer. For the Beta, the minimum spec will suffice but you can increase these later on anyway so start low and increase if required.

Choose the amount of RAM to install to the VM. Remember 1GB is the minimum but for testing purposes it's fine. You don't want to impact your PC to badly.

The next screen offers three different choices of Network types. Bridged Networking offers a network set-up as though it was a truly separate PC. It will receive it’s own IP Address. For the purposes of the Beta, this will give us the best way of testing Vail.

Choose Bridge Networking if you want a separate IP address (recommended)

The next screen allows you to choose your SCSI adapter. I haven’t experimented with the different options presented in VMWare Workstation 7 but the recommended LSI Logic SAS one functions well.

Accept the recommended LSI Logic SAS driver.

Now we get to choose to create a Disk. This is in effect just a large file on your PC, you may wish to exclude this from your Windows Home Server backups when you have finished creating the system to save on backup space.

Choose Create a Disk

Choose SCSI

Make sure you pick at least 160GB. Which should be plenty for testing.

160GB is the minimum requirement for Vail. There isn’t much point creating a larger disk for the Beta; but you can edit your settings later and add additional disks if you want to experiment with Duplication.

Give the disk a name; I would just accept the default.

Don’t forget, this is just a file name for the disk on your physical PC. If you change it from the default, give it a meaningful name and also take a note of where it is placed in case you want to exclude it from your PC backups later.

Review your settings.

You are now presented with a summary of your Virtual Machines settings. You can change any of these later if you desire.

Initial configuration complete. Click edit Virtual Machine Settings.

One of the more convenient features of VMWare is the ability to mount an ISO. As the files you downloaded for the Beta are all in ISO format, you won’t be needing to burn these to DVD first.

Click CD/DVD and Browse to your Vail ISO

Editing the Virtual Machines resources is pretty straightforward, and this is where you can come back to later to tweak your setting if you need to add additional hard disks, increase RAM etc.

Now Power on the Virtual Machine

When you power on the virtual machine, you’ll see it start up in a console window much like a standard PC. When asked, press any key to boot from CD and Vail will start installing.

And Vail is off and running!

So; with very little effort and some “borrowed” resources from your Home PC you can be up and running using Windows Home Server Codename Vail in no time at all. You are not quite finished yet though and you’ll want to finish the rest of this guide once Vail has installed because VMWare Workstation comes with a suite of drivers to improve the performance of the Virtual Machine. Installation is easy, but you need to complete the installation of Vail first as these are installed on top of the target Operating System. To do this, click on the VM menu at the top of the VMWare Workstation screen and click install VMWare Tools.

This will then mount an ISO containing the VMWare Tools and the Autplay function will prompt you what you want to do with the disc. Choose to run Setup.exe

When the installation is complete, you’ll be prompted to reboot. Choose that option. That’s it you really are done with setting up Vail in a Virtual Machine now. So check out Alex’s installation guide and see what’s new!

Update: Whilst it’s possible to run a 64bit guest on a 32bit host you’ll need to bear in mind you will be limited to the physical restrictions of your base PC (mainly RAM) and performance will be much better on a 64bit host.

Article by

I'm a Technical Architect based in the UK predominantly working on Windows Server and Active Directory based solutions. I'm also a Microsoft Windows Home Server MVP and moderator/author at I've released the FirePlay for Windows Home Server, WHS PHP Installer, MySql Installer for WHS and Wordpress Installer for WHS Add-Ins as well as co-author of the SanEncore and WHS Health Add-Ins with Alex Kuretz.


toto April 26, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Had done the configuration by myself and then following your brilliant tutorial. “An unexpected I/O error has occured”.
Seems that is doesn’t work on all hardware (my config is Intel Quad Core, Genuine 7 Pro x64).

Nigel Wilks April 26, 2010 at 3:20 pm

At what point do you get the error. I’m running (and have been for some) time on a Quad Core

John April 27, 2010 at 6:16 am

I followed the instructions exactly and had no problems. However, it didn’t set up the default shared folder and when I look under drives there aren’t any drives or folders listed. Does the connector have to be set up on a client first?

toto April 27, 2010 at 6:45 am

The error comes up right while the installer is loading the files. I don’t get to the install menu.

Nigel Wilks April 27, 2010 at 7:46 am

I’ve not seen the I/O error before, but a search seems to imply bad media? Did you crc check the ISO?

John; do you have no shared folders at all?

John April 27, 2010 at 8:33 am

NM, I reinstalled and they are showing up now.

Nigel Wilks April 27, 2010 at 9:49 am

Great thanks for letting me know :-)

J. D. May 1, 2010 at 9:27 am

I have tried twice (and it failed twice the same way) to install the Vail Beta under VMware Workstation 7.0 running on Windows XP (32-bits) but on an AMD x64 CPU dual core with plenty of disk space and 4 GB of RAM.

The first part of the install goes fine, but then it reboots to continue the install and throws a fatal error at about 37%. I’ve saved the logs and looked them over. They’re not of much help figuring out exactly what the install error is.

Does anyone here have any expertise in deciphering the install log errors for usefull information?


Alex Kuretz May 1, 2010 at 10:11 am

At least sharing the fatal error message with us would be a good start. I’ll probably recommend you start a discussion in the forums (we can link it here) as it’s easier to share attachments, screenshots, etc.

J. D. May 1, 2010 at 2:51 pm


Thanks. I’ve created a new topic and posted screen shots and the logs.

James Manning May 25, 2010 at 11:03 am

…”64 bit PC running a 64 bit OS”…

Just FYI, one of the reasons I run Virtualbox is that it can run 64-bit guests on 32-bit hosts as long as the hardware is 64-bit capable. I run 64-bit Ubuntu and Win7 VM’s in Virtualbox on my 32-bit WHS v1 install :)

Alex Kuretz May 25, 2010 at 11:38 am

Hi James, VMWare is capable of this also, Nigel had previously added an update to the end of the article mentioning the caveats of running a 64bit guest on a 32bit host.

JohnH June 10, 2011 at 6:16 am

Thanks for the article. I could not get this to work until I read your write up. I was getting tripped up because I was excepting the default disk size for the VM. It was a little thing, but I appreciate the effort you took to put this together.


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