Do you want to try Windows server 2012 R2 or Windows 2016 VHD on VirtualBox or VMware? this guide is for you. Using pre-installed virtual hard disks always ease our job by avoiding ISO download, installation, and configuration. You can find out more information about download link of Windows 2012 R2/2016/2019 server VHD/VHDX and how to attach them to VirtualBox or VMware in this guide.
Note: This guide was originally written for Windows 2012 R2 server version. But the same steps are applicable for the latest Microsoft Server versions which are available for evaluation for 180 days from Microsoft official site.
2012 R2 version has come up with several major changes. Hyper-V hypervisor has been improved well with a few great features. They called that ‘Start Button is back’, but believe me, it’s not. The start menu/button icon is useless in this version.
Each aspect of server functions has been improved significantly in 2012 R2. You can find out them all in Microsoft Site here.
If you want to know the included changes in Windows 2012 R2 Hyper-V hypervisor, refer this nice presentation here.
How to Download Windows 2012 R2 VHD/VHDX
1) You can download either server core or with GUI here at official evaluation center (Microsoft account it required).
Windows 2016 Server is not available as VHD to download. You may need to select ISO, Azure or Virtual Lab format to get hands-on this version. Downloading ISO and installing it on VirtualBox or VMware is not that hard.
Windows 2019 is available as VHD, unfortunately, it did not work. You can read this guide about the issues and how to install it on Windows 10 PC by VirtualBox.
2) Extract the exe file you have downloaded. Since this is made for Hyper-v server to import directly, you will find more files and folders inside it.
We need the VHD file only which resides inside ‘Virtual Hard Disks’ folder.
How to Run Windows Server 2012 R2 VHD on VirtualBox
3) You must have the latest version of VirtualBox. If you do not have the latest version which supports Windows server 2012 R2 and later, you may get an error message says ‘Your PC needs to restart’ in black screen.
4) Create a new virtual machine. Select Windows 2012(64bit) as client OS.
Instead of creating the new hard disk, select existing virtual hard drive option. Browse the extracted VHD file which is located inside ‘Virtual Hard Disks’ folder.
5) There should not be any issues when you start the virtual machine.
Administrator password is R2Preview! , as of now. You could find more information here from the Microsoft site.
Here is the working virtual machine on VirtualBox.
How to Use Windows Server 2012 R2/2016 VHD in VMware Workstation
6) VMware workstation or VM Player do not support VHD disk files for direct import. Therefore, the VHD file needs to be converted to VMDK format. There are few free tools available for this purpose in Windows OS platform.
WinImage is a tool (free for 30 days) can be used to convert VHD to VMDK in Windows 10. Also, StarWind’s V2V converter is available for free after registration.
Download WinImage here. It’s a small application.
In WinImage tool, select Disk from the menu and ‘Convert Virtual Hard Disk image’. Browse the VHD file you need to convert and select default options in next screen to make fixed size volume.
In the saving dialogue box, select VMDK file format from drop-down and press save. This will start the conversion process of VHD to VMDK.
If you want to know more about how to use WinImage for this process, refer to this guide.
7) Once the disk is converted successfully, create a new virtual machine in VMware workstation.
Select ‘I will install OS later’ option because we are not going to install OS in this case.
8.) Select Windows Server 2012 as guest OS.
9) Once the new VM is created successfully, follow below step to delete default vmdk file.
After deleting, let’s attach our Windows server 2012 R2 VMDK file which was converted from original VHD.
Press Add and select the hard drive. Make sure to select an existing disk option.
Browse and attach the converted 2012 R2 VMDK file.
10) You can modify other hardware settings (such as RAM and processor cores) if you wish. Then power on the virtual machine.
I’m sure it will start smoothly. VMware tools for Windows 2012 R2 also works fine in VMware workstation 10 and latest versions. I could able to install and use few extra features such as full screen, unity mode, and improved display performance.
As I mentioned earlier, if you have the proper VHD or VHDX of Windows 2016 and 2019 servers, you can follow the above steps to convert and import on VMware workstation. This can enable you to evaluate the product before implement in the production environment.
By using this method, you can use same VMDK (which converted from original Windows server 2012 R2 VHD) on VMware ESXi or vSphere hypervisor hosts.
Share your experience about these steps to install and run Windows Server 2012 R2/2016 and 2019 VHD on VirtualBox or VMware workstation.