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I am currently designing a rollout of Windows 7 to a shop of approximately 80-100 desks. The office is a flat network without routing between servers and desktops. There are a few Windows Server 2008 R2 servers running a 2008 domain. Most of the workstations are newer machines that were installed with Vista or XP for program compatibility reasons. The compatibility issue has been resolved and the client is ready to move to Windows 7 Professional.

All of the workstations are compatible and capable of running Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 (Stand Alone). For my questions assume that each workstation will run their own copy of Hyper-V Server with virtualized Windows 7 as guest OS. Please also assume that the specs are adequate and there will be no large deployment of new desktops in the near future. The client has volume licensing for Windows clients and Microsoft Office.

The business's main concern is to minimize downtime of employee workstations. I would like to know:

  1. If Sysprep would work on the Hyper-V Server with the Win 7 virtual image host already in out of box mode Ready for first boot?
  2. If the Hyper-V server OS (the base on each workstation) would/should become domain members
  3. Are there enough tangible benefits to the client to outweigh the added complexity. It is very appealing to the client that if a machine is FUBAR, a new image can be deployed and running in an extremely short amount of time. (Client insists on local admin rights for all and they do mess up their machines.)
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migrated from May 7 '12 at 16:58

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This question could do with some clarification - to me it sounds like you intend to use a Hyper-V server to run virtual desktops but even this I'm not certain from re-reading the question. – Robin Gill May 7 '12 at 17:10
Sorry I'm still not clear, if you can provide the following info it may help people answer you. Also re-write your question to avoid it being closed as per FAQ for not being clear or not putting in enough info. Do you have an existing Windows domain? Are you talking about the standalone Hyper-V Server? How many Hyper-V servers? How many Windows 7 VM's per Hyper-V server? What spec server(s)? What kind of LAN between server(s) and desktops? Do your desktops have OEM Win 7/Office licenses? Do you expect to upgrade/replace a significant number of desktops soon? – Robin Gill May 7 '12 at 18:01
Why are you asking about hyper-v and not a standard desktop virtualization product? What are you expecting Hyper-V to give you that you wouldn't get by simply having a heavily locked down linux OS with Virtualbox installed? – Zoredache May 7 '12 at 19:44
I honestly don't see what problem you think you're solving... ok I'm assuming that "my current deployment is too easy to understand so I want to needlessly over complicate it" isn't a real problem here. And given the attitude problem you seem to have with anyone who tells you the idea is bad, frankly I'm not interested in trying to understand it. Life's too short to talk crazy people out of insane ideas. – RobM May 7 '12 at 20:07
Hi Brian. It seems like you're not really here to get constructive criticism, you're here to get validation for your plan. What you've got is three very experienced people telling you it's a bad idea. I'm a fourth, but I can't say anything that the others haven't already. We're not here to rain on your parade or question your years of experience, but I do believe that you're approaching this question with the wrong attitude. Rather than looking for validation, perhaps you could look for feedback. – Mark Henderson May 7 '12 at 20:30
up vote 16 down vote accepted

To summarize, it appears that you are asking whether it makes sense to deploy Windows Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 on each desktop computer in order to simplify the process of deploying clean images to client workstations.

Answer: no, it does not make sense to use Hyper-V Server on every desktop, for a multitude of reasons including the following:

  1. No one else does this. You will be completely on your own with this unsupported configuration. Very simply, Windows Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 is a product that is never meant to leave the server room.
  2. Audio (headphones/microphones/speakers) will not work on any of your workstations. Hyper-V does not virtualize audio drivers.
  3. USB ports will not work on any of your workstations for any purpose. Hyper-V does not support USB redirection.

If you are looking for a centralized, zero-licensing-cost solution that would allow you to centrally and efficiently re-image any workstation in your environment (or all workstations in your environment) very quickly, the FOG project will give you exactly what you need. I have seen FOG deployed in Active Directory environments such that an administrator can re-image any workstation at will, and any workstation re-imaged in this way can be made to automatically re-join the domain and reboot after coming back online.

Of course, there are non-free products that provide similar functionality, perhaps with less flexbility, but with the added benefit of commercial support. Potential examples include Altiris, Shavlik, Kace, etc.

For frequent central imaging of workstations to work well without aggravating users, you will need to use roaming profiles with the Desktop and Documents folders redirected to file server shares. Don't ignore that last part: folder redirection is pretty much mandatory for roaming profiles to work well. This approach will ensure that they won't "lose their stuff" when their workstations get wiped.

Be sure to specify an appropriately sized and appropriately robust file server as part of this deployment: RAID-10/RAID-6/RAID-Z2, redundant controllers, redundant PSUs, redundant UPSs, redundant wall circuits with separate breakers, appropriate backup/DR strategies in place and tested, etc. If workstations are expected to be re-imaged frequently, users cannot store anything on them, which means everything must be stored centrally; this isn't a bad thing, but "when you put all your eggs in one basket, you'd better buy a [very] good basket."

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I was not aware of the FOG project it looks interesting. However, I am not looking for opinions on the multitude of methods to deploy images to workstations. Rather, my main questions numbered 1 and 2 were directed at known pitfalls or technical issues I may encounter. As to the openness of question 3, I'm more in need of help with the first 2 questions. Thanks for taking the time though. – Brian May 7 '12 at 19:18
@Brian I have edited this answer to add a few of the more obvious reasons why this is a bad idea. If you don't believe me, take four or five workstations and lab it up. See how well it works. Then, I would suggest that you apologize to those of us who have tried to help you. – Skyhawk May 7 '12 at 19:46
Your edits were helpful and were the answer I was looking for. I will look at the FOG project closer that you mentioned. Your added info pointed to something I overlooked in my preliminary research, hence the question. As for an apology I guess I would have to understand first the need for smart alec condescending remarks, eg see above. The question was not particularly confusing on its face, except perhaps to not answer the why. It seems to me the reasons you list do answer the why not. Thank you for adding the info. – Brian May 7 '12 at 20:32
+1 for FOG and folder redirection, so long as you either back up roaming profiles (yuck) or train users not to store files on the Desktop. – Andrew Jul 20 '12 at 5:38

You're looking at this the wrong way. You don't want to run Hyper-V on each desktop, you should consolidate the desktop VMs onto a cluster of servers (which can run Hyper-V, ESXi, whatever), and give access via RDP, usually from thin clients. This is called VDI, for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.

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+1 for ignoring the original question and drilling down to the actual business need – Skyhawk May 7 '12 at 18:52
I have to say that your (Miles) comments are quite presumptious as to the needs of anothers clients. I have been in IT for 15 years and been involved with various VDI, terminal server, Wyse, thin client, and other types of high availability clustering scenarios. However, thank you for telling me that I don't know how to look at things because of course you know I have not looked at it other ways. – Brian May 7 '12 at 19:26
Sorry if you're offended, but putting Hyper-V on every single desktop in an organization is a ridiculous solution to any problem. – MDMarra May 7 '12 at 19:27
@Brian If the business need is to minimize downtime, your 15 years of experience cannot possibly tell you that the solution is to implement a 100% experimental configuration that solves no problems and is guaranteed to introduce a host of new ones... and to do so across 100 production workstations? Sorry to be so blunt, but my 20 years of experience tell me that this approach has only one guaranteed outcome: getting you fired. – Skyhawk May 7 '12 at 20:00
@Brian I still think MDMarra's solution would be the best. You just need to accept the fact that your approach might be the wrong one to take. Even I with little experience in this field see that there will be problems especially when it comes to scaling. We are just trying to help. And with all due respect, if you don't want the blunt truth, then maybe you shouldn't be asking questions here. – Lucas Kauffman May 7 '12 at 20:16

Yes you can run Hyper-V server completely free, you would only need to License Win7 for each computer. No it's not a good idea. It makes no sense to add a hypervisor if you're only going to have one VM per physical box. This would also potentially impose other limits (like 8GB of RAM max).

I'm not sure what you're looking for yet. There are plenty of ways to rapidly deploy machines. Miles gives one example that's free. Microsoft provides a ton of free tools to do the same thing, and they're well documented and specifically supported by Microsoft. See one of my answers for a good start.

Win7 can also boot from a VHD file, so you could have the C: drive simply contain the boot loader and the VHD file. Windows would boot from that, so it wouldn't have to worry about the physical drive (mostly). This would allow you to create a single VHD image on a Hyper-V server then copy that VHD to all the workstations (though there are typically better ways of accomplishing the same thing, see previous paragraph).

Further there are VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) ways of deploying Win7, where all the Win7 images run on centralized Hyper-V server in a Terminal Server type environment. It's not the same as a terminal server and has it's own set of benefits and costs. For 100 computers this typically doesn't payoff unless you have a very knowledgeable system administration (no offense, but that doesn't seem like you) or a highly standardization environment. VDI or TS would require some sort of thin client, the options there are again numerout, from new hardware to reusing old computers with existing software, or free software, or paid software (even Windows ThinPC, which we use).

SysPrep has several modes... So when you mention using it you need to be specific if you're prepping an image for mini-setup, OOBE, generalizing... or you need to specify what goal you're looking for and we can figure out what sysprep mode you're looking for. Be as specific as you can in either case.

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+1 for mention of Microsoft's Windows deployment tools – Skyhawk May 7 '12 at 18:50
@MilesErickson Thanks for fixing the typo, must be time for moar caffeine. – Chris S May 7 '12 at 18:54
Thanks Chris but I am well aware of all of the other ways of rapidly deploying machines. I'm not sure why you chose to not answer the question. I stated that the the vhd would be a OOBE image and I was asking whether I would have trouble imaging the workstation (Which would be Hyper-V server with a vhd on it). I also am not sure where you for your information that this is an unsupported configuration, no offense. Not really a question about which mode to use in Sysprep more about potential problems in generalizing Hyper-V Server. – Brian May 7 '12 at 19:09
Brian, take a step back and a deep breath. Now re-read the gook you posted as a Question and imagine us trying to help you. Your question does not reflect someone who has 15 year experience, nor someone who is familiar with VDI, sysprep, or deployment scenarios. We don't know your situation, we can only go by the broken English, incomplete sentences, and half-finished thoughts you've given us. We don't mean to presumptuous, but it's all you've left us with. – Chris S May 7 '12 at 19:44

Also remember that the free version of Hyper-V has no GUI, and, thus, no way for your local users to actually access the system short of using a separate computer.

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