Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'd like to convert a physical machine to a virtual. Its an SBS2008 server. The catch is I have just the one server hardware to use. Is it possible to create VHDs for the system drive as well as a volume on the RAID drive saving the images to a network share, reformat the server and install hyper-v then bring the images in as part of the guest OS?

EDIT: Many answers have also asked why. These are my goals:

One goal is to get more than one server going, so that I can leave the SBS as it is, and install other services on a non-sbs running server. Also, I think it would make migration to sbs2011 easier, since I can install that into a clean virtual and migrate, then shut down the sbs2008 server (while leaving the services on the second server alone). In short, I think running virtuals will give me more options... one long term one includes moving to new hardware. I imagine it'd be easier to move to new hardware if you just transfer virtuals.

I'm currently running this out of my home office, so space is at a premium, and since I'm very small, price is as well. That's why only one server, and why when I do get a new server it'd be a replacement. However as my business grows I'd like to make it as easy as possible to expand out, and it seems like virtuals are a great way to make transitions easier.

Another goal is that I'm looking to have the option to run multiple servers (many are servers I'll setup to mimic client environments, but most of those won't be running until I'm actively doing development. I'll stop and start as needed).

I appreciate all the answers, and someone telling me this is a bad idea is fine as well. A virtual SBS2008 IS a supported MS configuration though, I've found documents telling you how to acomplish just that. Sadly I didn't come across these until recently, while I built the server a few years ago.

share|improve this question
Why go virtual when you only have one server? – Nic Feb 4 '12 at 1:50
To run more than one server, specifically to move some stuff the SBS to the secondary server, and also when I go to sbs2011 it will make the migration that much easiser. – Andy Feb 4 '12 at 2:38
I suggest reading this question before deciding to virtualize your only domain controller.… – Nic Feb 4 '12 at 7:41
You definitely don't want to snapshot the domain controller then let time go by and restore it with a rollback. AD doesn't like that. – Bart Silverstrim Feb 4 '12 at 13:12
up vote 5 down vote accepted

It should be possible, but it's difficult without knowing for sure that your hardware is is supported. I'm not going to say that it will work only to have you hit a snag and have it not work, then some circumstances it might.

The smarter thing to do is get a newer server dedicated to virtualization, then migrate your existing server over and decommission it.

Especially since your server is your only one. SBS will potentially die in the process, and leave your business high and dry.

Here's the options as I see it. One, make sure you have known-good backups, and verify that your p2v migration will support sparse disks, since if it will create the same size volumes you're going to have a size crunch. Then you can allocate a few days to trying it, and if it fails horribly, restore the computer back to the previous state.

Two, which I'd say would be safer, get a server with tons of storage dedicated to being a VM server, migrate your server to that, then decommission it once it's working well. Then turn your old server into a backup domain controller. Even for small business, it doesn't hurt to have 2 DC's.

Three, don't do this, unless you really have a compelling reason to move to a virtual system structure. What are you doing that you are running with SBS, but want to virtualize on that server? Especially if you don't have extra hardware for availability/redundancy? If you do idea two, you could migrate your server, make sure it works, and then turn the old server into another virtual server and install a backup DC and...something else you're trying to virtualize.

Depends on what exactly you're trying to achieve as an end goal (for what reason...?)

share|improve this answer
Thanks. One goal is to get more than one server going, so that I can leave the SBS as it is, and install other services on a non-sbs running server. Also, I think it would make migration to sbs2011 easier, since I can install that into a clean virtual and migrate, then shut down the sbs2008 server (while leaving the services on the second server alone). In short, I think running virtuals will give me more options... one long term one includes moving to new hardware. I imagine it'd be easier to move to new hardware if you just transfer virtuals, correct? – Andy Feb 4 '12 at 2:42
Since the VM's are running on virtualized (abstracted) hardware, yes, as long as the hypervisor is supported on the new hardware. The hosted VM's won't know anything's different. Although you may get better performance if the new host has better resources. Moving them should be a matter of shutting down the VM's and copying them over to the new hardware and firing them up again. Unless you have features for hot-migration and shared storage, then they move uninterrupted to the other machine. – Bart Silverstrim Feb 4 '12 at 13:10

I did this at a church that had zero budget for hardware, but wanted to migrate to SBS2011 on the same server. It was risky, but it worked.

  1. I installed the Hyper-V role on the SBS2008 Box
  2. I used disk2vhd to make a copy of all the disks on the server, onto the same server. It uses snapshots, so you can have the source and destination be the same disk
  3. I mounted the virtual SBS2008 on the same machine as the real SBS2008. The important thing I did here was I did not give it a network adapter. The only reason I did this was to ensure that my copy did in fact work.
  4. I did a Hyper-V "Export" onto an external drive, and completely wiped the SBS2008 server
  5. I did a Hyper-V "Import" back to the main machine after I had a fresh 2008 R2 installation with Hyper-V added to it
  6. I booted the new Hyper-V machine and have been happy ever since. I should have virtualised it in the first place.

I was then able to install SBS2011 in a second VM on the same hardware, migrate everything over, and then just turned off and disabled the original SBS2008 VM. It took a fair bit of time, but it meant that we didn't have to spend a single dollar on hardware.

Important things to note:

  1. This only works if you have a single domain controller (the SBS machine). Because your AD will effectively go backwards during this (from the snapshot), if you have more than one AD they will complain about "Invalid restoration" (same as if you rolled back to a previous snapshot of a VM). Then the "old" DC will then just sit there being useless forever. I did ours on a weekend when almost all the computers in the office were shut down. We only had an issue with one network printer that (still) refuses to re-join the domain.
  2. You might have licensing issues. We did this on an educational license, which is not OEM, and thus we were allowed to virtualise. My work also donated the 2008 R2 license that we used as a hypervisor, but the vanilla Hyper-V hypervisor is free if you don't want a fully functioning OS underneath it.
  3. The first import of the VM is important, because you don't want to nuke your SBS2008 host without making 100% sure that your copy is in a good enough state to work.
share|improve this answer
Interesting option. It does indeed sound a bit risky. From the SBS 2008 paper on virtualizing, it sounds like I can use the second server as only a hypervisor role on the physical hardware, then use it as a virtual as well to install the secondary services. I may try this as I have system image backups and so should be able to recover. – Andy Feb 4 '12 at 21:03

KEY question #1: Did you buy SBS preinstalled on the server? If so, you CANNOT virtualize it. OEM copies cannot be virtualized. If you bought a volume license or retail copy, you CAN do this - those can be virtualized.

Assuming you don't have an OEM copy then I ask KEY question #2: Are you suggesting you have NO other computer with at least the capability to have 8 GB of RAM and a virtualization capable processor? Almost EVERY new computer sold in the last couple years and MANY in the last 5 support this configuration. At worst, you could build one for $400.

You can migrate using third party software like ShadowProtect or DoubleTake among others... these are not inexpensive solutions.

If your TIME is not valueable, then you can do this the by doing a swing migration to a temporary server. It's like an upgrade only you're staying on the same version. You install another system with Hyper-V, migrate to that server, then reload the physical server with Hyper-V and export the VM from the temporary server and import into the newly installed physical server running Hyper-V.

I did basically this exact same thing for a client in October (only difference, is we upgraded them to SBS 2011 Standard from SBS 2008 Standard. But logically, it wouldn't have been different to migrate to SBS 2008 (the same version).

share|improve this answer
Yes, your answer is originally how I thought I might proceed, but I've been specing out a new server, its sigificantly more than $400. The current setup is a quad core Opteron with 8GB of memory (maxed out) a system disk and a RAID 5 with 2TB of storage. The SBS system image and data drive are 700GB total space, with 300 currently in use. I have a device which can hold the full 700GB, the rest of the RAID is not important to have backed up (using part of it for WSUS storage as well as client image backups). A server with more memory and similar storage is looking around $3000. – Andy Feb 4 '12 at 15:16
That's not what I said... certainly not what I meant. What you want to do is use a TEMPORARY computer - NOT a "server class" system. a 1 TB Hard drive is about $100 right now. And any current desktop should work if you max out the RAM which will cost you maybe $50-100 more. ABSOLUTELY make backups first and do the migration during a slow period where you can afford to be down, but migrate to a cheap system, wipe and reload the existing system, and then export and import the VM. You can't do this cheaply if you insist on server class hardware ALL the time. – Multiverse IT Feb 4 '12 at 20:24

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.