Managing Hyper-V machines from Windows 7

I’ve been running Windows Server 2008 with its Hyper-V virtualization role enabled since early last year. (See Is Hyper-V ready for the Windows desktop? and Hyper-V in action to catch up.) For what I do, it’s tremendously useful. Right now I have two servers and five workstations installed in virtual machines, running multiple flavors of Windows and Linux and giving me the opportunity to test different configurations easily.

When I set this up initially, I used the detailed walkthroughs from Microsoft’s John Howard (part 1 covers the server side and part 2 details the client settings). Since then, I’ve been able to manage virtual machines from a remote console on my Vista desktop, and connect to individual machines with each one able to run in its own window, also from Vista.

Over the past month I’ve migrated more and more of my work to Windows 7, But until today I had put off migrating the tools to remotely work with virtual machines. I decided to tackle that job this morning. After a few false starts (and a little quality time with several search engines) I had everything working, and it took only a few minutes.

The process of enabling remote administration of Hyper-V machines is considerably simpler today than it was last year, thanks to the excellent work of John Howard, who has created a Windows script-based Hyper-V Remote Management Configuration Utility. By running the master script with the correct parameters in an elevated Command window, you can take most of the drudgery out of setting permissions and configuring the Windows Firewall.

One crucial step isn’t listed in the instructions for the HVRemote utility. If you’re working with Hyper-V, you need to install the Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 7. Note that this tool runs only on the Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions of Windows 7. A single executable runs on both x86 and x64 versions of the current Windows 7 Beta, as I’ve confirmed here. [November 2009: I’ve updated the link to point to the final release of the RSAT package for Windows 7, which comes in separate x86 and x64 editions.]

After installing RSAT, open Control Panel, go to Programs and Features, and choose Turn Windows features on or off. Expand the Remote Server Administration Tools Heading and the Role Administration Tools subheading, then select Hyper-V Tools, as shown here:

Remote Server Admin Tools

Click OK, and you’re done with software installation.

Follow the client setup instructions in the HVRemote documentation (or use the quick set of instructions here) and you’re good to go. I’m now happily running Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Ultimate, and the x64 edition of Windows 7 Ultimate on the server, working with them from a dual-screen Windows 7 desktop.