Enabling Network Support for Windows Server Core in VMware Workstation

You might remember a few days ago that I wrote about possible security issues with Server Core. As a reminder, Windows Server 2008 has an installation option called Server Core. When you install Server Core, the installer installs only a small subset of binaries required for the core operating system to work. There’s no Explorer shell (interface), no GUI tools for management (at least not for local management) and just about everything has to be done from the command line.

I’ve done plenty of virtual labs and watched plenty of demos of the Server Core offering, but I have to admit that I’ve never tried to deploy it myself. So, in the interest of fairness, and for accuracy of assessment, I decided to install Server Core in VMware. While I won’t go into the details of my experience with Server Core (yet), I can tell you that it’s not nearly as egregious as I thought. It’s even sort of fun, which is saying something coming from me, as I usually abhor CLI management as slow, inefficient and error prone.

Anyhow, back to my installation experience in VMware Workstation. The installation completed fine, but then I ran an ipconfig to see if I got an IP address from my DHCP server and found that there were no interfaces. ACK! What happened? I realized that I needed to install the VMware tools to get the VMware NIC driver working. How do I do that in a non-GUI environment?

Well, it turns out the Server Core isn’t all non-GUI, and that you can run setup files for at least some applications within Server Core. In order to get the NIC driver installed in Server Core, do the following:

  1. Install using the VMware profile for Vista.
  2. Once installation is complete, you’ll see after running ipconfig that you have no network interface. Shutdown the server (using the shutdown command) and change the settings of the CD ROM used by the VM.  Use the option to mount the CD as an ISO image.  Select c:\program files\vmware\vmware workstation\windows.iso (this is the virtual CD image that contains the installation files for the VMware tools)
  3. Reboot into server core, and navigate to the CD drive letter and run the dir command. You’ll see the setup.exe file on the CD drive. Type setup.exe and press ENTER to run the tools installation process.
  4. Once the tools are installed you will be asked to restart the computer. Click OK to restart the computer. Log on and run ipconfig to confirm that you now have a network interface.  From there use netsh to configure IP addressing information for the NIC.
  5. Be aware that if you install the video drivers during the installation of the VMware tools, your video resolution will be 640×480.  You can fix this by downloading a tool like nircmd which will allow you to change the display from the command line. Another option is to uncheck the video drivers setup from within the VMware tools setup. In this case, during the VMware tools setup, choose the Custom installation option and configure it to not install the video drivers.



Thomas W Shinder, M.D.
Site: http://www.isaserver.org/

Blog: http://blogs.isaserver.org/shinder/
Email: [email protected]
MVP – Microsoft Firewalls (ISA)

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