Using ESXi 5.1 to create "Golden Master" Windows 8 templates for deploying VMs, with ease-of-use tweaks for your lab

Posted by Paul Braren on Sep 22 2012 in
  • ESXi
  • HowTo
  • Windows
  • Virtualization
  • windows8vm-on-esxi-5-1

    In this video, you'll see me performing the install customizations listed below, which form the skeleton of this particular post. Over time, I will revise and enhance the details, to improve the ability to follow along without watching the entire video.

    But for experienced Windows sysadmins, this list will be more than enough to give you the gist of what is covered in this very detailed walk-thru video. It'll give you some ideas about how you might want to create your Windows 8 VMs in your ESXi 5.1 lab, and how to deploy VMs from such templates in 2-3 minutes (using SSDs), which is a pretty fantastic experience.

    This client VM allows very rapid reboot with no password prompts, and automatically shows your desktop after showing Metro for a few seconds with this simple method, with no 3rd party software or side-effects. Your desktop will show your Windows version, even after activation, and the usual BgInfo details that many sysadmin types really love, seen in the screenshot above. I find it kind of cute how oldie-but-good BgInfo can't go past 4Gb/s for the indicated Network Speed, even though the vmxnet3 virtual NIC is 10Gb/sec.

    Steps to build the Golden Master VM:

    • using vSphere Client logged into vCenter, create a VM with 750GB thin-provisioned C: drive, and type set to Windows 8 x64, VMXnet3 for NIC, 2 CPUs, 2GB RAM, then edit settings
    • add xHCI USB controller, add ISO connected at boot
    • right-click this VM, and update VM type to 9
    • power up VM, watching console, doing normal install, choosing local login account
    • let it finish booting, use local account, choose user named "user" and set a password that you can easily remember years from now, can be changed right after deploying from template
    • choose custom, and ensure Windows Update is turned off
    • sit through Windows 8 Intro. video
    • install VMware Tools
    • REBOOT
    • set network sharing
    • set 1366x768 resolution
    • configure autologin by pressing Win+R and typing netplwiz.exe
    • configure VMware Tools for clock sync with host OS
    • set clock now that mouse works better, turn off NTP sync
    • show all icons
    • turn off screensaver
    • turn off power off of screens
    • disable "Require a Password on Wake-up"
    • set up drive mapping to network share on home LAN (with account that matches username/password)
    • turn on Remote Desktop
    • create Task Manager shortcut autostarting minimized
    • set Windows 8 to automatically show desktop shortly after rebooting
    • create a shortcut to "c:\util\BGINFO.exe /timer:0 /all" in the startup folder
    • put poweroff.exe into c:\util, then make a shortcut in the Task Bar, changing to Reboot, Force, and Safe Settings
    • login via Remote Desktop Connection
    • turn on details view in explorer and full pathnames, turn off hide extensions
    • turn on show version on desktop
    • HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop\PaintDesktopVersion
    • turn off DVD mount to client, save
    • configure to ignore warnings about backups
    • at admin command prompt, type:
      slmgr.vbs -ipk "YOUR VOLUME LICENSE KEY"
      (since this can be shared across VMs)
    • or just leave it inactivated and only activate after deploying from the template for VMs you intend on keeping
    • click the power icon to reboot, or just "shutdown /r /t 5" or just use vSphere client to reboot
    • REBOOT
    • watch vSphere Client Console to watch that autologin to desktop works, and that Task Manager shows
    • right-click, convert to template
    • deploy from template, powering on when done
    • turn on Windows Update in this clone
    • change that clone into a second template and label accordingly