Microsoft has finally climbed on the bandwagon for using pre-configured virtual machines to distribute beta software. For anyone who tried to install earlier betas of Visual Studio 2005 Team System, you'll understand me when I say that these pre-built virtual machines will save you days of frustration.
I downloaded the VHD disk images for Visual Studio 2008 Beta 2. Although they work fine on the free download of Virtual PC 2007, I really wanted to run this image on my virtual machine server, which uses VMware Server (see my earlier comments on VMware Server versus Microsoft Virtual Server).
Before I describe the procedure, one BIG caveat: Once Windows is running in VMware, Windows will complain that it needs to be reactivated. If you are a Microsoft Partner you can get a key from MSDN Downloads. Otherwise you will need to use a new key, which basically means you need to buy Windows Server 2003 Enterprise. Therefore, if you don't have a ready supply of activation keys, this procedure won't work for you. It may be possible to call the activation people and have them honor the key built into the virtual machine, but I haven't tried.
Converting the Orcas VHD to VMware ended up being a lot more difficult than I'd hoped. The biggest problem was converting the virtual drives from .vhd format to .vmdk format. I found a nice utility named WinImage that could do this. WinImage converted the base Orcas image (2.8GB) without difficulty, but gave up with no error when I tried to convert the 11.8GB differencing disk. I didn't really want to go back and forth with the WinImage support for two days, so I looked for an alternative.
My final solution was to use Acronis to do a backup in Virtual PC, then use Acronis again to do a restore in VMware. To do this yourself, you'll need:
VMware Server (free)
Acronis TrueImage Home or better (commercial)
A Windows Server 2003 Enterprise installation CD
The solution was as follows:
1. Install Acronis TrueImage on any Windows box and create a Rescue CD.
2. Create a virtual machine in Virtual PC 2007 that contains Orcas Beta 2.
3. Set the virtual machine to connect to the CD you created in Step #1.
4. Boot the version machine, select Acronis and back up the Orcas virtual machine to any desired network drive.
5. Use WinImage to convert the Base01 image to VMDK. Make sure you create a dynamic disk and not a fixed disk.
6. In VMware Server, create a virtual machine that points at the file from #5.
7. Put the Acronis Rescue CD in a CD drive on that computer.
8. Start the virtual machine in VMware, press Esc, and boot from the Rescue CD.
9. Restore the Acronis backup to the current disk.
10. After restore completes, reboot the virtual machine. You'll get an error about a service that didn't start. Ignore it.
11. On the VM menu, select Send Ctrl-Alt-Del.
12. Enter the password from the Microsoft web page. You'll need to use the keyboard, your mouse probably won't work.
13. As the login completes, you'll be prompted for the path to install the Ethernet card. Put in the Windows Server 2003 Enterprise installation CD and click OK. Windows will complain that it can't find the driver, which is okay. Tell Windows you want to install from an alternative location.
14. Select the file Driver.cab on the Windows Server 2003 Enterprise installation CD. The network driver should be located automatically.
15. After installation of the initial driver completes, do not reboot or you won't be able to login again.
16. On the VM menu in the VMware Console, choose Install VMware tools.
17 At some point you'll be prompted for the file mouclass.sys. Tell the installer to use the copy of the file in C:\Windows\System32\Drivers.
18. Now you can reboot and everything should work.