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Another Reason why VMware Rocks – or – How I just Performed the Easiest Server OS Upgrade Ever July 2, 2011

Posted by audiomatron in Virtualization.
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You may recall in my previous article where I mentioned having P2V’d my company’s main file server. The purpose for virtualizing that box was two fold: first, I would P2V it so I could reload the physical box, in order to upgrade it from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2008 R2, whilst giving the data a temporary home. Second, I would also take the opportunity to test how well this server would perform as a VM. As it turns out, the results of virtualizing the file server were far better than I had expected, so I decided to leave it virtual. However, I was left with the task of upgrading the OS.

In the past, upgrading the OS on one of my servers was a daunting task. I’d have to schedule downtime, or do it over the weekend while everyone was gone. In the case of this particular file server, I would need to find somewhere else to put the data. In fact, before the P2V, this server, in it’s current configuration at the time, was this data’s third home. I can tell you that moving this data around is a pain. There is over 750GB of data stored on this server – it takes FOREVER to copy. That may not be much in your world, but it’s enough for me to put off for lack of a easy way to migrate it. No more!

A virtual server is a far more flexible beast than a physical one. Don’t like where it is? Move it. Does it have more resources than it needs? Take some away. Does it need more resources? Give it some. Does it need a new OS? Not a problem! Perhaps I am making that sound too easy, but getting a new OS on a virtual file server is a far easier task than doing it the old way, which was to migrate the data off somewhere, reload the box, move that data back. Here’s how I did it:

First, during the week, at my leisure, I created a new Virtual machine running my desired OS (in this case Windows Server 2008 R2). I activated it, updated it, and turned on file sharing. Next, I made a list of all of the things that are on this server. In addition to the file services, it runs a couple of very small databases on SQL Express and some software to OCR our scanned documents. I installed SQL Express on it, made final backups of the databases on the old machine, and restored them on the new one. Then, I installed the OCR software, and sent an email to the folks who make the OCR software so I can get my license transferred. With all that taken care of, I was ready to make the move.

First, using the procedure described in this article http://support.microsoft.com/kb/125996, I exported the shares from the registry of the old VM, and copied the resulting registry file off to a safe location. Next, I shut down the old VM. Before I go any further, I need to mention that all of the data on this VM is on a separate vmdk from the system drive. This is a key consideration for the rest of this process. Now, with the old VM shutdown, I edited the settings on the new VM, and added a new virtual hard disk. When prompted whether to create a new disk, or select an existing one, I chose to select an existing one. When prompted to chose the virtual disk, I navigated to the datastore where my old file server VM was stored, and selected the vmdk containing all of the data. Then, I opened the console to the new Vm, and made sure the new disk mounted up with the same drive letter that it had on the old machine (and it did).

Now that I had all the data on the new VM, it was time to make sure that my users could seamlessly access it. First, I imported the registry settings that I exported from the old VM earlier. Next, I changed the computer name and IP address of the new VM to match the old one. After the last restart of my new VM, I tested to make sure I could browse the shares from my PC. All was well!

So there you have it,  a quick and simple way to upgrade the OS of a virtual file server!

Other thoughts

Now, obviously, I didn’t come up with that by myself. I’ve heard it discussed before, and decided it was a good solution for this particular scenario. In this blog, my purpose, when writing about virtualization, is to demonstrate things that can only be done in virtual environments that make my life as a small business IT admin easier. I do this in hopes that others who are in an environment similar to mine, who might be skeptical about virtualization or afraid to get their feet wet, will see the power and flexibility a virtualized data center can provide. I hope that through this blog, I can chronicle my virtualization journey and the things that help me on the way.

So what about you? What sorts of tricks or interesting problems have you run into?

Marcus

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Comments»

1. Jase's Place » VMware vExpert 2011 – An honor - July 3, 2011

[…] not going to go through the whole process, but you can read about Marcus’ success here: https://whomademeanexpert.com/2011/07/02/another-reason-why-vmware-rocks-or-how-i-just-performed-the-….  Cheers […]

Bernice - May 21, 2012

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Basic Book on ESX This book was useful both as a rcefrenee book to look up individual topics (I used it that way specifically for storage and network information) and to read as a


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