Saturday, February 16, 2013

Moving VirtualBox Guests to Hyper-V

A short review of my setup:
I have a Windows Home Server 2011 (WHS2011) as my server on my home network. On it I have VirtualBox installed. The reason I have to have that setup is that I have a weather station and it needs a computer to record its readings. The software uses a USB dongle to communicate with that base station and VirtualBox luckily supports attached USB devices in its guest’s operating systems.
I could have the weather station software running on a separate computer, but I prefer to only have one PC on 24/7 to save on electricity.
I have a Windows 8 Pro desktop computer which can, and now does, run Hyper-V. I like Hyper-V from the standpoint it can easily autostart guests at boot up. VirtualBox could do that with some klugey work arounds which I didn’t like to use and they were never completely 100% at working properly.
Well there were a couple guests on the WHS2011 box, inside VirtualBox, that I wanted to move to my desktop’s Hyper-V and become guests there. I wasn’t sure it was going to work but I thought I’d try since VirtualBox does support copying a guest’s harddrive into a format that Hyper-V supports.
So I did the copy inside of VirtualBox and moved the new VDI file over to my desktop. Configured the settings for it in Hyper-V and fired it up. Well it didn’t go well even after trying to uninstall the VirtualBox drivers and instally Hyper-Vs. So I went back to VirtualBox, uninstalled the drivers from within there. Did the copy again, moved to Hyper-V and fired it up. This time it worked much much better. Installed Hyper-V’s drivers and away I went and it’s been working for several days without any issues.
Of course my preference, and how I used to have my server setup, was to run Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V and have WHS2011 as a guest, along with any other guest I was needing. Unfortunately, for some very odd reason, Microsoft doesn’t and still doesn’t support USB devices inside a guest. There is networking type hardware out there that might allow for the USB dongle to be seen by a guest in Hyper-V but who wants to shell out more money, especially in a home environment?
So for now, I’ll keep VirtualBox running inside of WHS2011 and Hyper-V on my desktop.
Oh, and another reason why I prefer Hyper-V over VirtualBox is that Hyper-V supports dynamic memory. So I can initially allocate 8GB of memory to a guest, but it may only end up using 1 or 2GB of that when running. But of course can increase its allocation as needed. I’m starting to play with SharePoint 2013 and it had quite heavy memory requirements for its server farm so the dynamic memory is going to help my 32 GB desktop juggle all those guests better.

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