How to run Virtual Server under XP (or what to do when the admin site doesn’t work)

So there I was, a month after joining Microsoft with a new monster laptop freshly delivered. This really is a monster – hyper-threading mobile P4, 2GB ram, built in gale-force wind generating fan. It also doubles as a portable heater now the colder time of year approaches.


The first decision was what to install on it. The poll round the office gave the unanimous vote to install what you want, but do it yourself (rather than handing it over to corporate IT). Not a  lot of help in guiding my choice of OS though! I’m by no means new to installing OS’s (in fact my wife probably sees it as an obsession), and have installed OS’s professionally hundreds of times.


This laptop is going to be a power-horse for demos as well as my main machine in the office. Hence, I wasn’t over-keen on running Windows Server 2003 until one of my colleagues proved it worked on their new machine and could lend me a CD with all the right device drivers.


For those who don’t know, two of the perks of working at Microsoft are having admin rights to your machine and being encouraged to install anything and everything (of course, I mean licensed software!) For some reason, Flight Simulator wasn’t on the normal internal product shares – must find out where it is J.


Now on the assumption that Flight Simulator doesn’t run under Windows Server 2003, this pretty much left an OS choice of XP or XP.  I’ve nothing in particular against OEM XP builds in general – most of them are actually pretty good these days (at least, this was what two colleagues said), so I thought I’d save myself some time and use the pre-installed OEM XP Professional as the base. At least it was already at SP2 level.


The first attempt at getting the OEM build up to corporate standard failed miserably –corporate anti-virus wouldn’t install, office applications were taking ages to start – generally not happy.


At this point, I was tempted to go with a full-on fresh “normal” (i.e non-OEM) XP build, but it was late, I wanted to get home, and I didn’t have the energy to go searching for all the right drivers from the manufacturers website.


At home later last night and for novelty value more than anything else (read: I couldn’t work it out myself), I consulted the manual J. Unusual approach, I know (I have a dev background), but I got back to factory install by use of a special boot-key sequence and a separate partition on the hard disk. This is no-doubt obvious to many of you reading this, but I’ve never worked with an OEM build before. I really ought to find the bit in the manual which also says how to back this partition up if the disk physically fails (there’s no OS recovery CD….), but I probably won’t end up getting round to this until the day after it fails….


To cut a rapidly growing story short I installed IIS, ran the IIS lockdown tool, installed all Windows updates (v5 looks so much better than v4), removed the OEM anti-virus and fixed everything alerted by MBSA (Microsoft Baseline Security Analyser).


Back in the office this morning, it was just a question of joining the domain, installing corporate anti-virus (went okay this time), installing office (all start very quickly now) and a few other bits. The machine was happy at last. So was I J.


So, a bit closer to where I’m heading (there is a point to this blog), I installed Virtual PC 2004 SP1 (45-day evaluation available here) and then figured I should also install Virtual Server 2004 (180-day evaluation available here). Yes, I know all the caveats that Virtual Server is only for development purposes under an XP host. Note that both these products quite happily co-exist on the same XP host just in case you were wondering.


After installing Virtual Server, I noticed that the web-based Virtual Server Administration site was giving a “404, not found” error.

  • Restart IIS – no difference
  • Check IIS admin that the virtual site exists
  • Reboot box – no difference
  • Add “test.htm” in the virtual directory and browse to it – OK.
  • Search newsgroups (there is a Virtual Server newsgroup), Microsoft support knowledgebase and the web in general to see if this is a known problem – found nothing.


Fortunately, there’s an internal discussion group for Virtual Server which a colleague pointed me to.  Two minutes later, problem solved (it seems I’m not alone after all). The problem relates to the “URLScan” part of the IIS Lockdown tool I installed, and a case of more careful observation – the VS Admin site uses an executable, vswebapp.exe. A quick edit of \windows\system32\inetsrv\urlscan\urlscan.ini to allow .exe’s to be served from IIS, and hey-presto. Cool J. Obvious really! Off to build (or borrow) some virtual machines give this laptop a bit of a workout now….


Happy VM’ing....

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