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I develop software on a window 7 workstation. It's the only machine that is sure to be powered on during the day. I have some pcs and virtualbox vms that run windows 2008 r2 for testing but none are regularly powered on and none act as domain controls etc.

Working in what I guess is still termed a workgroup mode, where each pc more or less maintains it's own login credentials works for me most of the time. I can connect and share files as needed. But sometimes I would like to use AD etc like most of my client's networks do, just to make sure things work as expected.

It would be ideal to boot a virtualbox vm with a domain controller at my main workstations boot time and have it in action all the time but I think that is hard to set up. I could config and run one of the physical servers as a dc but I don't want an extra machine on all day when I'd only need it's services occasionally.

Can I set up a domain controller with AD etc on a separate box or vm and boot it only when I need it's services? If I did that, what would happen I boot my main windows 7 box and don't have the 2008 server running? Would it boot up minus any ability to network to other machines, which I do on a regular basis? I could join and unjoin the domain if it's booted, I suppose. I don't think that'd involve a reboot of the joining pc?

As you can see this is an area that I have only very light exposure to, and while I could and will experiment with options, it'd be really cool if someone could tell me if this is a well known scenario and there is a pattern that it not too onerous to implement for a network newb.

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closed as off topic by Sven, Zoredache, Iain, voretaq7, MDMarra Nov 29 '11 at 15:02

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You would be able to log in to your machine, because the credentials are cached. But browsing to other hosts in the domain would not work, such as SMB, as the DC is down - you will also experience a lot of slow downs which you'll find unpleasant.

If I were you, and I had no small spare PC to run a DC on, would probably (if RAM allowed it) run a DC as a headless VM using VirtualBox set to auto start. Give it 512MB RAM, should be enough. Please note that DC's are supposed to run 24/7, so a this is not the recommended approach in any way, but would work in case your dev PC is the only one running.

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Thank you, that is just the kind of input I was hoping for. Since I'm not a virtualbox or windows 2008 or network ace, the kind of config you suggest seemed rather difficult. But I would prefer it over a separate do you know of any "do this and do that" simple guides which might help with setting this up? My dev box has 16 gb ram so I can afford a vm that runs on startup, if I can figure out how to do it. – meridian Nov 27 '11 at 20:14
It can run as a Windows service like this:… - but basically Google vboxheadless and you should be good to go :) (I'm not a Windows user, so no direct experience) – cvaldemar Nov 28 '11 at 9:10
Thanks again. One thing occurred to me that might make this more difficult than I expected. That is that currently all of the pcs here get an ip address from the router. Do I have to turn off the router's issuing of ip addresses in order to have a windows 2008 dc? I went as far as to set up a windows 2008 vm to act as domain controller. I don't have it set up right yet - the new vm can't get to the internet. – meridian Nov 28 '11 at 15:25
I didn't mention that the reason it matters about ip address etc is that my dev workstation and thus the vm based dc are not on all the time. – meridian Nov 28 '11 at 15:34
While DHCP is not an integral part of an Active Directory (AD)domain, DNS is. If you don't have DNS configured properly, your domain member systems will likely experience slow logons and difficulty locating resources. A properly setup domain has ALL domain joined machines using ONLY AD aware DNS server (no secondary public DNS servers as is commonly done by inexperienced IT people). So while you don't need to turn off DHCP at the router, you DO need to adjust DHCP so that only the AD DC is listed as a DNS server. If you can't make this adjustment, then you'll need the DC as your DHCP server. – Multiverse IT Nov 29 '11 at 7:17

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