Tips for using device manager on virtual Windows Servers

Even though virtual machines may be the de facto platform for new Windows Servers, the hardware management panel is still critical for troubleshooting issues on a system. Rick Vanover shares tips on using device manager for virtual machines.

When Windows Servers are running in a virtual machine, we rarely check into device manager. Given that systems built as a virtual machine have a much higher chance of being successful when the proper drivers are installed (such as VMware Tools), this issue is less of a problem for new builds. But some systems may have gone through a physical-to-virtual (P2V) conversion or a virtual-to-virtual (V2V) conversion. There's a greater chance P2V systems will have some sort of carryover device in the device manager. Some devices (especially network interface controllers) might be inventoried in the server but not displayed. The goal of a device manager console is to be free of any issues, as shown in the virtual machine hardware inventory in Figure A.

Figure A

Click the image to enlarge.

For systems that have gone through a P2V conversion and had their virtualization drivers installed, there may be residual issues with previously enumerated hardware. One such issue is the "phantom" network interface; this is usually most visible when a single network adapter is visible, and it is called Local Area Network 2. Further, if a static IP address is assigned to the server that was the same when it was a physical server, a confusing warning message may appear before saving the changes. Removing the phantom network interfaces is an easy process.

The phantom network interface is one of the most common examples where a missing device may have a lingering configuration yet not be part of the device manager enumeration. Sometimes the option to show hidden devices in the device manager doesn't show these either.

For all servers, Windows device manager is an important console that should be reviewed from time to time and not just after the server build. For virtual machines, this doesn't change, and by making sure the device manager is accurate, it can ensure the virtual machine is performing as expected.

What do you do differently for support virtual hardware on Windows servers? Share your comments below.