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What would be some recommendations for replicating a Windows Server 2019 system image that also contains a couple of Hyper V VMs?

I have several identical new Dell Edge servers to set up. Setup consists of configuring local users and group policies, installing application software, creating 2 Windows Server 2019 VMs and setting up all of their configuration as well. Active Directory will (probably) not be used.

What's the best way to efficiently replicate the system configuration to the remaining servers once the first one is fully set up and tested?

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  • If it were me, I'd set up a Hyper-V Failover Cluster.
    – joeqwerty
    Jan 16, 2021 at 21:07
  • I didn't make it clear in the question, but right now I'm looking for a simple and expedient way to do one-time setup of identical systems. For desktop systems, I've used Acronis to backup/restore image, but with hardware RAID, it's not quite as simple. Jan 19, 2021 at 13:33

2 Answers 2

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As mentioned, Failover Cluster would be the easiest way to do it. However, I would recommend you to build it with Active Directory available in your infrastructure. As for shared storage you can use either S2D or alternatives such as StarWind VSAN. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/storage/storage-spaces/storage-spaces-direct-overview

https://www.starwindsoftware.com/starwind-virtual-san

Another option is to use Hyper-V Replica to replicate your VMs from one server to another. It doesn't requires shared storage just replicates VMs on schedule. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server/virtualization/hyper-v/manage/set-up-hyper-v-replica

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My goal for this was to set up several identical Dell Edge servers without manually configuring each one from scratch. The host OS is Windows Server 2019 Standard with Hyper-V. Each server hosts two Windows Server 2019 VMs (not identical).

I ended up using Acronis True Image to create a disk image of the first (master) server, and restoring it onto the others. This worked surprisingly well. I was concerned that the RAID 1 drive would complicate the process, but it seemed irrelevant. It was a pretty standard image backup and restore.

After the first server was correctly set up and tested, I did the following:

  • Changed system name to "BACKUP".
  • Changed VM system names to "BACKUP-VM1", "BACKUP-VM2".
  • Removed virtual network adapters from VMs and deleted the Hyper-V virtual switch.
  • Created True Image backup of the entire disk, including all partitions, EFI, MBR, Track 0, etc.
  • Restored system names, Hyper-V virtual switch, and VM network adapters.

On each additional server, I did the following:

  • Restore only the data partitions from True Image (drive C: and E: in my case).
  • Change system names (host and VM)
  • In Hyper-V configuration, set unique MAC address range.
  • Add new Hyper-V virtual switch.
  • Configure VMs to use the virtual switch.
  • In my case, it was critical to disable IPv6 in all network network adapters, including host.
  • Re-activate Windows in host OS and VMs using the correct OEM product key (from the OEM sticker).

On only one of the restored systems, Hyper-V was not automatically starting. I fixed this by running:

bcdedit /set hypervisorlaunchtype auto

Overall the process was pretty simple, but I can't emphasize enough how important it is to pay attention to the virtual MAC addresses. Otherwise you'll have devices with duplicate MACs and bad network things happen.

In the Hyper-V virtual switch settings, I used a MAC address range like:

Minimum: 00-15-5D-01-nn-00
Maximum: 00-15-5D-01-nn-FF

Where nn is a number unique to each server (01, 02, 03, etc). The MAC addresses of the VM adapters will not be automatically updated when you change this range, which is why you need to delete and re-create the Virtual Switch, and re-add the adapters to the VMs.

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