Windows 2003 VM Guest customization no longer supported

Today I deployed a Windows 2003 VM in a test infrastructure. I did not want to spend too much time installing and configuring the OS hence thought of using Windows 2003 instead of something like a Windows 10 or Windows 2016. ‘

Why  I still use and love to deploy Windows 2003 in my test environments? The reason is very simple:

  • Windows 2003 works very well in a nested environment
  • Windows 2003 virtual machine has a small  footprint does not require a lot of RAM nor does it require a lot of disk space.
  • Finally the important part; Windows 2003 was supported by VMware for guest customization under vCenter

Now here is twist in the story, I was trying the guest customization of Windows 2003 in vCenter 6.7 and guess what it failed. I did a bit of investigation why this was happening. I never expected VMware would stop supporting Windows 2003 guest customization under vCenter 6.7, but that’s exactly what the story is. VMware no longer supports Windows 2003 guest customization starting from vCenter 6.7

Here is the support document from VMware, that states Windows 2003 is no longer supported under vCenter 6.7:

https://partnerweb.vmware.com/programs/guestOS/guest-os-customization-matrix.pdf

 

 

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What are Virtual Machine Templates?

In vSphere, Virtual Machine Templates are:

  • Virtual Machines that cannot be powered on
  • Virtual Machines that cannot be modified

Templates are like gold images, you create a template and deploy multiple VMs from them. Templates configuration files use an extension VMTX (virtual machines configuration files have an extension VMX). There are two easy ways to create a template:

  1. Clone an existing virtual machine (VM) to a template.
    – Creates a copy of an existing VM and registers it as a template.
  2. Convert an existing VM to a template.
    – Unregisters existing VM and registers it as a template.

Workflow for modifying a template:

  1. First convert the template to VM
  2. Optionally, make changes to the VM hardware (increase RAM, disk size etc.)
  3. Power-on the VM and install any new applications or updates
  4. After installing the application and updates, shutdown the VM
  5. Now convert the VM back to a template

Deploying Virtual Machines from Templates and Guest Customization:

When virtual machines are deployed from the template, they will identical to the template, things such as Windows-SID and hostnames would same. If using static IPs, those would also be same. This can create software and network conflicts.

To avoid such network or software conflicts, its recommended to customize the VM Guest during the deployment process. For Guest OS customization of virtual machines deployed from templates, vCenter requires the following:

  • If the guest OS is Windows, you need VMware Tools and Sysprep utils to be installed within the templates:
    • You will need to copy Sysprep tools to vCenter for Windows 2000, XP & 2003. Starting with Windows Vista onward, Sysprep tools are part of the base OS install. Where to copy Sysprep utils, read the following KB#1005593 article
  • For Linux VMs/Templates, along with VMware toools, you will also need Perl to be installed within your templates.

Best Practice: Always create templates for powered off virtual machines. Do not clone templates from a powered on virtual machines.