Building a Windows Server 2012 Test Lab

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To setup your Windows Server 2012 lab for the "Early Experts" Challenge and/or IT Camp, you'll need a PC that meets the following requirements:

  • 64-bit capable hardware (x64)
  • Intel-VT or AMD-V support in firmware
  • Hardware-assisted memory protection in firmware (XD)
  • At least 4GB total RAM
  • At least 60GB free space on HDD


  • Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8 as installed OS
  • Full Administrator Rights to existing PC OS
  • No disk encryption or pre-boot authentication

NOTE: If your PC does not meet the above requirements, do not continue with this process. Instead, you may prefer to build a Windows Server 2012 box in the cloud by leveraging Windows Azure Virtual Machines.  Building your lab in the cloud will allow you to complete most hands-on activities in this study group, but will not permit you to perform hands-on activities related to Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

Dual Boot with Boot-to-VHD

DISCAIMER: This process installs Windows Server 2012 in a dual-boot scenario using Boot-to-VHD features in Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.  While this process is not intended to disrupt your existing OS installation, these steps are for use at your own risk.  No support or warranties are implied or provided.

  1. Backup your existing PC operating system before beginning this process.  While this process is not intended to disrupt the existing OS installation on your PC, performing a backup before any system upgrades or installation is recommended as a precaution.
  2. Download the Windows Server 2012 installation bits in VHD format from the closest download
  3. Extract the downloaded VHD file by running the compressed .EXE file.
  4. Copy the Extracted VHD file to C:\BootVHD\Server2012.vhd
  5. Mount the copied VHD file as a virtual Drive Letter
    - Right-click on the "Command Prompt" shortcut and select "Run as Administrator"
    - Run "DISKPART.EXE" from the Command Prompt
    - At the "DISKPART>" prompt type the following commands, pressing Enter after each:
          SELECT VDISK FILE="C:\BootVHD\Server2012.vhd"
          ATTACH VDISK
  6. Wait for the VHD file to be mounted as new Drive Letter.  When completed, this new drive letter will display in "My Computer" and "Windows Explorer"
  7. Add a new OS Boot Menu Choice for Windows Server 2012
    - Right-click on the "Command Prompt" shortcut and select "Run as Administrator"
    - Run "BCDBOOT <mounted_drive_letter>:\WINDOWS" from the Command Prompt
  8. Reboot and select "Windows Server 2012" for the OS Boot Menu displayed
  9. Complete the OS installation process using the steps documented in the video below:
  10. Join the "Early Experts" Challenge! Now that you have your study lab built, join our FREE online study group to begin learning about Windows Server 2012 and preparing for the new MCSA certification exams ...
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