Windows VMs

Warning

Running a Windows VM without installing the XenServer PV Tools is not a supported configuration.

Installing Windows VMs on a XenServer host requires hardware virtualization support (Intel VT or AMD-V).

Basic Procedure for Creating a Windows VM

The process of installing a Windows on to a VM can be broken down into three steps:

  • selecting the appropriate Windows template

  • installing the Windows operating system

  • installing the XenServer PV Tools (I/O drivers and the Management Agent)

Windows VM Templates

Windows operating systems are installed onto VMs by cloning an appropriate template using either XenCenter or the xe CLI, and then installing the operating system. The templates for individual guests have predefined platform flags set which define the configuration of the virtual hardware. For example, all Windows VMs are installed with the ACPI Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) mode enabled. If you subsequently change one of these VMs to have multiple virtual CPUs, Windows automatically switches the HAL to multi-processor mode.

Note

VM templates for Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 do not exist in XenServer 7.1. Customers who want to create a Windows XP or a Windows Server 2003 VM should use the ‘other install media’ template and then run xenlegacy.exe from the XenServer PV Tools ISO to install XenServer PV Tools on such VMs. Customers should note that this reflects Microsoft’s decision to end extended support for these guests. If a support incident concerning Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 requires escalation, customers will be asked to upgrade to a supported guest operating system, as technical workarounds may be limited or not possible for customers on unsupported guest operating systems.

The available Windows templates are listed below:

Template Name Description
Citrix XenApp on Windows Server 2008 (32-bit) Used to install Windows Server 2008 SP2 (32-bit). All editions are supported. This template is specially tuned to optimize XenApp performance.
Citrix XenApp on Windows Server 2008 (64-bit) Used to install Windows Server 2008 SP2 (64-bit). All editions are supported. This template is specially tuned to optimize XenApp performance.
Citrix XenApp on Windows Server 2008 R2 (64-bit) Used to install Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 (64-bit). All editions are supported. This template is specially tuned to optimize XenApp performance.
Windows 7 (32-bit) Used to install Windows 7 and Windows 7 SP1 (32-bit).
Windows 7 (64-bit) Used to install Windows 7 and Windows 7 SP1 (64-bit).
Windows 8.1 (32-bit) Used to install Windows 8.1 (32-bit).
Windows 8.1 (64-bit) Used to install Windows 8.1 (64-bit).
Windows 10 (32-bit) Used to install Windows 10.
Windows 10 (64-bit) Used to install Windows 10 (64-bit).
Windows Server 2008 (32-bit) Used to install Windows Server 2008 SP2 (32-bit). All editions are supported.
Windows Server 2008 (64-bit) Used to install Windows Server 2008 SP2 (64-bit). All editions are supported.
Windows Server 2008 R2 (64-bit) Used to install Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 (64-bit). All editions are supported.
Windows Server 2012 (64-bit) Used to install Windows Server 2012 (64-bit).
Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit) Used to install Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit).
Windows Server 2016 (64-bit) Used to install Windows Server 2016 or Windows Server Core 2016 (64-bit)

Warning

Experimental guest operating systems have received limited testing, may not be present in future product releases and must not be enabled on production systems. Citrix may not respond to support requests regarding experimental features.

Attaching an ISO Image Library

The Windows operating system can be installed either from an install CD in a physical CD-ROM drive on the XenServer host, or from an ISO image.

Using XenCenter to Create a VM

Note

The following procedure provides an example of creating Windows 10 (32-bit) VM. The default values may vary depending on the operating system that you choose.

To create a Windows 7 (32-bit) VM

  1. On the XenCenter toolbar, click the New VM button to open the New VM wizard.

    The New VM wizard allows you to configure the new VM, adjusting various parameters for CPU, storage and networking resources.

  2. Select a VM template and click Next.

    Each template contains the setup information needed to create a new VM with a specific guest operating system (OS), and with optimum storage. This list reflects the templates that XenServer currently supports.

    Note

    If the OS that you intend to install on your new VM is compatible only with the original hardware (for example, an OS installation CD that was packaged with a specific computer), check the Copy host BIOS strings to VM box.

    To copy BIOS strings using the CLI, see Advanced

  3. Enter a name and an optional description for the new VM.

  4. Choose the source of the OS media to install on the new VM.

    Installing from a CD/DVD is the simplest option for getting started. To do so, choose the default installation source option (DVD drive), insert the disk into the DVD drive of the XenServer host, and choose Next to proceed.

    XenServer also allows you to pull OS installation media from a range of sources, including a pre-existing ISO library. An ISO image is a file that contains all the information that an optical disc (CD, DVD, and so on) would contain. In this case, an ISO image would contain the same OS data as a Windows installation CD.

    To attach a pre-existing ISO library, click New ISO library and indicate the location and type of ISO library. You can then choose the specific operating system ISO media from the menu.

  5. Select a home server for the VM.

    A home server is the server which will provide the resources for a VM in a pool. When you nominate a home server for a VM, XenServer attempts to start the VM on that server; if this is not possible, an alternate server within the same pool will be selected automatically. To choose a home server, click Place the VM on this server and select a server from the list.

    Note

    • In WLB-enabled pools, the nominated home server will not be used for starting, restarting, resuming or migrating the VM. Instead, WLB nominates the best server for the VM by analyzing XenServer resource pool metrics and by recommending optimizations.

    • If a VM has a virtual GPU assigned to it, the home server nomination will not take effect. Instead, the server nomination will be based on the virtual GPU placement policy set by the user.

    If you do not want to nominate a home server, click Don’t assign this VM a home server. The VM will be started on any server with the necessary resources. Click Next to continue.

  6. Allocate processor and memory resources for the VM. For a Windows 10 VM, the default is 1 virtual CPU and 2048 MB of RAM. You may also choose to modify the defaults. Click Next to continue.

  7. Assign a virtual GPU. The New VM wizard prompts you to assign a dedicated GPU or a virtual GPU to the VM. This enables the VM to use the processing power of the GPU, providing better support for high-end 3D professional graphics applications such as CAD/CAM, GIS and Medical Imaging applications.

  8. Allocate and configure storage for the new VM.

    Click Next to select the default allocation (24 GB) and configuration, or you may want to:

    1. Change the name, description or size of your virtual disk by clicking Properties.

    2. Add a new virtual disk by selecting Add.

  9. Configure networking on the new VM.

    Click Next to select the default NIC and configurations, including an automatically-created unique MAC address for each NIC, or you may want to:

    1. Change the physical network, MAC address or quality-of-service (QoS) priority of the virtual disk by clicking Properties.

    2. Add a new virtual NIC by selecting Add.

  10. Review settings, and then click Create Now to create the new VM and return to the Search tab.

    An icon for your new VM appears under the host in the Resources pane.

    On the Resources pane, select the VM, and then click the Console tab to see the VM console.

  11. Follow the OS installation screens and make your selections.

  12. Once the OS installation completes and the VM reboots, install the XenServer PV Tools.

Installing XenServer PV Tools

XenServer has a simpler mechanism to install and update XenServer PV Tools (I/O drivers and the Management Agent) on Windows VMs.

XenServer PV Tools provide high performance I/O services without the overhead of traditional device emulation. XenServer PV Tools consist of I/O drivers (also known as Paravirtualized drivers or PV drivers) and the Management Agent. XenServer PV Tools must be installed on each Windows VM in order for the VM to have a fully-supported configuration. A VM will function without them, but performance will be significantly hampered.

Note

To install XenServer PV Tools on a Windows VM, the VM must be running the Microsoft .NET Framework Version 4.0 or later.

To install XenServer Tools

  1. Select the VM in the Resources pane, right-click, and then click Install XenServer PV Tools on the shortcut menu. Alternatively, on the VM menu, click Install XenServer PV Tools, or on the General tab of the VM, click Install I/O drivers and Management Agent.

    Note

    When you install XenServer PV Tools on your VM, you will be installing both I/O drivers (PV drivers) and the Management Agent.

  2. If AutoPlay is enabled for the VM’s CD/DVD drive, installation will start automatically after a few moments. The process installs the I/O drivers and the Management Agent. Restart the VM when prompted to get your VM to an optimized state.

  3. If AutoPlay is not enabled, click Install XenServer PV Tools to continue with the installation. This mounts the XenServer PV Tools ISO (guest-tools.iso) on the VM’s CD/DVD drive.

    When prompted, select one of the following options to choose what happens with the XenServer PV Tools ISO:

    Click Run Setup.exe to begin XenServer PV Tools installation. This opens the Citrix XenServer Windows Management Agent Setup wizard. Follow the instructions on the wizard to get your VM to an optimized state and perform any actions that are required to complete the installation process.

    Note

    When you install XenServer PV Tools using this method, the Management Agent will be configured to get updates automatically. However, the I/O drivers will not be updated by the management agent update mechanism. This is the default behavior. If you prefer to change the default behavior, install XenServer PV Tools using the following method.

    Alternatively:

    1. Click Open folders to view files and then run Setup.exe from the CD Drive. This option opens the Citrix XenServer Windows Management Agent Setup wizard and lets you customize the XenServer PV Tools installation and the Management Agent update settings.

    2. Follow the instructions on the wizard to accept the license agreement and choose a destination folder.

    3. Customize the settings on the Installation and Updates Settings page. The Citrix XenServer Windows Management Agent Setup wizard displays the following settings by default. The wizard:

      • Installs the I/O Drivers

      • Allows automatic updating of the Management Agent

      • Does not allow the Management Agent to update the I/O drivers automatically

      If you do not want to allow the automatic updating of the Management Agent, select Disallow automatic management agent updates. If you would like to allow the I/O drivers to be automatically updated by the Management Agent, select Allow automatic I/O driver updates by the management agent.

      Note

      If you have chosen to receive I/O driver updates through the Windows Update mechanism, we recommend that you do not allow the Management Agent to update the I/O drivers automatically.

    4. Click Install to begin the installation process. When prompted, perform any actions that are required to complete the XenServer PV Tools installation process and click Finish to exit the setup wizard.

Customers who install the XenServer PV Tools or the Management Agent through RDP may not see the restart prompt as it only appears on the Windows console session. To ensure that you restart your VM (if required) and to get your VM to an optimized state, we recommend that you specify the force restart option in RDP. Note that the force restart option will restart the VM only if it is required to get the VM to an optimized state.

If you prefer to install the I/O drivers and the Management Agent on a large number of Windows VMs, install managementagentx86.msi or managementagentx64.msi using your preferred MSI installation tool. These files can be found on the XenServer PV Tools ISO.

Note

I/O drivers will be automatically installed on a Windows VM that has the ability to receive updates from Windows Update. However, we recommend that you install the XenServer PV Tools package to install the Management Agent, and to maintain supported configuration.

Silent Installation

To silently install the XenServer PV Tools and to prevent the system from rebooting, run one of the following commands:

Msiexec.exe managementagentx86.msi /quiet /norestart
Msiexec.exe managementagentx64.msi /quiet /norestart

Or

Setup.exe /quiet /norestart

A non-interactive, but non-silent installation can be obtained by running:

Msiexec.exe managementagentx86.msi /passive
Msiexec.exe managementagentx64.msi /passive

Or

Setup.exe /passive

For interactive, silent, and passive installations, including those with the /norestart flag, following the next system restart (which may be manually initiated if the / norestart flag is provided) there may be several automated reboots before the XenServer PV Tools are fully installed.

The XenServer PV Tools are installed by default in the C:\Program Files\Citrix\XenTools directory on the VM.

Warning

Installing or upgrading the XenServer PV Tools can cause the friendly name and identifier of some network adapters to change. Any software which is configured to use a particular adapter may have to be reconfigured following XenServer PV Tools installation or upgrade.

Using the CLI to Create a Windows VM

This section describes the procedure to create a Windows VM from an ISO repository using the xe CLI.

Installing a Windows VM from an ISO Repository Using the CLI

  1. Create a VM from a template:

    xe vm-install new-name-label=vm_name template=template_name
    

    This returns the UUID of the new VM.

  2. Create an ISO Storage Repository:

    xe-mount-iso-sr path_to_iso_sr
    
  3. List all of the available ISOs:

    xe cd-list
    
  4. Insert the specified ISO into the virtual CD drive of the specified VM:

    xe vm-cd-add vm=vm_name cd-name=iso_name device=3
    
  5. Start the VM and install the operating system:

    xe vm-start vm=vm_name
    

At this point, the VM console will now be visible in XenCenter.

For more information on using the CLI, see Appendix A, Command Line Interface, in the XenServer Administrator’s Guide.

Release Notes

There are many versions and variations of Windows with different levels of support for the features provided by XenServer. This section lists notes and errata for the known differences.

General Windows Issues

  • When installing Windows VMs, start off with no more than three virtual disks. Once the VM and XenServer PV Tools have been installed you can add additional virtual disks. The boot device should always be one of the initial disks so that the VM can successfully boot without the XenServer PV Tools.

  • Multiple vCPUs are exposed as CPU sockets to Windows guests, and are subject to the licensing limitations present in the VM. The number of CPUs present in the guest can be confirmed by checking Device Manager. The number of CPUs actually being used by Windows can be seen in the Task Manager.

  • The disk enumeration order in a Windows guest may differ from the order in which they were initially added. This is because of interaction between the I/O drivers and the PnP subsystem in Windows. For example, the first disk may show up as Disk 1, the next disk hot plugged as Disk 0, a subsequent disk as Disk 2, and then upwards in the expected fashion.

  • There is a bug in the VLC player DirectX back end that causes yellow to be replaced by blue when playing video if the Windows display properties are set to 24-bit color. VLC using OpenGL as a back end works correctly, and any other DirectX- or OpenGL-based video player works too. It is not a problem if the guest is set to use 16-bit color rather than 24.

  • The PV Ethernet Adapter reports a speed of 1 Gbps in Windows VMs. This speed is a hardcoded value and is not relevant in a virtual environment because the virtual NIC is connected to a virtual switch. The data rate is not limited by the advertised network speed.

Windows 7

Microsoft no longer supports the use of Windows 7 without Service Pack 1 installed. For a Windows 7 VM to be supported on XenServer, ensure that SP1 or later is installed.

Windows Vista

Microsoft Vista recommends a root disk of size 20GB or higher. The default size when installing this template is 24GB, which is 4GB greater than the minimum. Consider increasing this.

Windows Server 2008 R2

Microsoft no longer supports the use of Windows Server 2008 R2 without Service Pack 1 installed. For a Windows Server 2008 R2 VM to be supported on XenServer, ensure that SP1 or later is installed.