Microsoft Demo VMs

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Project Goal

The instructions in this article will enable you to download evaluation versions of pre-installed Microsoft operating systems and server software and run them in a virtual environment on a Linux machine. The easiest way of doing this currently is to use the free-to-download VMware server product, and this article only covers VMware. It is possible to do the same thing with the free emulator QEMU and, if you have the right hardware, the Xen and KVM virtualisation systems.

This is exclusively a technical article. You should always check the licensing terms of any proprietary software you are using. Despite having done this exploratory work, currently I do not personally use this method for running any Microsoft software to do useful work, however these images do seem to be a solution for some people.

Alternative Approach

Choose Your Downloads

Choose from Windows OS images including Windows 2003 R2 Server, a Vista image, and Microsoft Exchange 2007 32 and 64-bit. (32-bit is not production code.) These are large, and require several files to be downloaded.

Most of these run for 120 or 180 days. The Vista image says it will run for 30 days, however Microsoft have acknowledged that the command

 slmgr -rearm

will reset the counter for another 30 days, and that this can be done a maximum of three times. All of these images have an expiry date mid-way through 2008 beyond which they will never work.

If you want to use the Windows 2003 Server image you will also need Service Pack 1. The image has SP1 installed already, but in order to make certain kinds of changes it asks for SP1. Download it and create an ISO image containing only this large file.

Unpack the Microsoft Images

The Microsoft images consist of a single WinRAR executable and .RAR data files that are used by this executable. You can unpack these with Wine:


which should create a Microsoft .vhd file, for the Microsoft Virtual Server product. Since you presumably don't have Microsoft Virtual Server, because it requires Microsoft Windows and that is what you are trying to download, you will need to use either VMware or QEMU.

VMware Server

Install the freely-downloadable, non time-limited VMware server for Linux, and install it according to the instructions. Then, create a default virtual machine for Windows 2003 Server.

Now convert the Microsoft image:

 qemu-img convert MICROSOFT_IMAGE_FILE.vhd -O vmdk windows2k3.vmdk

Go into the VMware virtual machine monitor and remove the first hard disk. Add a new hard disk, specifying "Disk Image", and pointing to the file you have just converted.

Now boot the virtual machine. You should see the Windows banner displayed.

Final Setup

The username and password is in the text file accompanying the image you downloaded. Windows needs to be rebooted, and for Server 2003 you will probably want to change its role, for example to be a Domain Controller of an Active Directory forest. Before doing this you may want to back up the vmdk image so you can restart from this point in the future.


  • I have not been able to get VMware tools to install in this Windows 2003 Server such that the mouse still works. The video and disk drivers seem to work.
  • I have not been able to get this to work properly with QEMU yet.
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