Microsoft

How to virtualize Windows on VMware ESXi

This illustrated walk-through demonstrates how you can create a virtual machine for Windows that's hosted by VMware ESXi running on a bare-metal server.

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Image: iStock/Vladimir_Timofeev

Virtualization is more than just an industry buzzword. For enterprises looking to minimize the size of their server infrastructure while focusing on keeping performance high and management costs low, migrating physical servers to virtual machines (VMs) that are hosted on higher-density servers is the way to go.

With robust resources and the modern, efficiently optimized hardware found in newer servers, enterprises can lower their carbon footprint by relying less on the electrical and HVAC resources that power and cool their devices, allowing them to function optimally.

SEE: Server deployment/migration checklist (TechRepublic PDF)

Many additional considerations are associated with migrating existing physical servers to VMs, however, including the cost of buying new hardware and licensing server OSes—but that is beyond the scope of this article. The focus here is on how to virtualize Windows so that it is hosted on the ESXIi hypervisor installed on bare-metal hardware.

Note: Per Microsoft's Windows Server 2016 Licensing Guide:

Windows Server 2016 customers benefit from a variety of new features. New features in Standard Edition include Nano Server and unlimited Windows Server containers; customers also receive rights to two Operating System Environments (OSEs) or Hyper-V containers. New features exclusive to Datacenter Edition include Shielded Virtual Machines, software-de ned networking, Storage Spaces Direct, and Storage Replica; customers receive rights to unlimited OSEs or Hyper-V containers and unlimited Windows Server containers.

If you have not already installed ESXi on a bare-metal computer or server, please do so before proceeding.

    Start by logging onto the ESXi host by navigating to the IP address from any supported browser. Once logged onto the console, you'll be able to install Windows onto a VM that will be hosted within ESXi.

    To begin the installation process, select the Virtual Machines button to bring up that management pane. Then click on the New Virtual Machine button to launch the wizard that will guide you through the process of creating a new VM. After the wizard loads, you'll be able to select whether to create a new VM, deploy one from an OVF file, or register an existing one from another virtualization suite (Figure A).

    Figure A

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    On the next page, provide the information necessary to identify the type of VM to be created, including name and OS type (Figure B).

    Figure B

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    When selecting data storage, it is important to have the data storage pool set up prior to VM creation/deployment. This is typically performed during the installation of ESXi on the bare-metal server, but you can always upgrade storage later by adding hard drives and/or arrays. After selecting the datastore you wish to utilize, click the Next button to proceed (Figure C).

    Figure C

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    The following page in the wizard will allow you to customize the settings your VM will use—specifically, the allocation of resources, such as CPU, RAM, and storage space, and others that may be specific to the needs of your VM. You can always modify settings later as your needs change. For now, however, you just need to configure the VM to boot and run the OS (Figure D).

    Figure D

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    The final page in the wizard is the confirmation screen, where you can review settings before committing them to the final VM. Click on the Finish button to complete the task (Figure E).

    Figure E

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    The newly created VM will be added to the list of hosted VMs and will provide a cursory view of the VM's health, including current resource commitments (Figure F).

    Figure F

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    The Virtual Machines pane also lets you manage the VMs. Clicking the Play button will power on the VM and allow it to boot to any installation media that has been configured for the VM to use. In this case, an ISO has been configured as a boot option, which kicks off the installation process for Windows and proceeds normally, just like booting it directly off a computer or server (Figure G).

    Figure G

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    When the installation completes, the VM will reboot and load Windows like usual. The VM will allow access to the virtualized Windows instance just as if it was booted directly from a computer or server.

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    Your take

    Did we miss something? Do you have a better, more efficient way to configure VMware virtual machines? We'd love to hear from you in the comments section below.

    About Jesus Vigo

    Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from seve...

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