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Windows 7: regarding running a portable OS

14 May 2013   #41

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Service Pack 1

There are some networking treads here which may be of help.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
14 May 2013   #42

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit

Thanks. I bookmarked the link for reference.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 May 2013   #43

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit

I haven't forgotten about the next steps. I am encountering instructions with caveats with "don't do this if ..." warnings. I qualify on the ifs. I am still searching for solutions.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

17 May 2013   #44

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit

I have been advised that the "easiest" way to achieve my goal is to use Windows Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) or a gateway router inside the virtual environment. This should establish connectivity both between thw server and its clients and with the outside world (Internet). Because I have neither another Windows OS activation key not the system resources to support ICS, I have chosen a pfSense VM to create a gateway router inside the network.

Using a detailed tutorial for installing and configuring Windows Server 2008 R2 and pfSense, I have achieved Internet connectivity with pfSense. Server 2008 no longer has Internet connectivity. PfSense cannot ping the LAN or the server. The server cannot ping the WAN, LAN or the default gateway. i am attempting to resolve the connectivity issue now.

Here is what the attempted setup looks like.

regarding running a portable OS-virtual-network-topology.png

My System SpecsSystem Spec
17 May 2013   #45

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit

OK ... got the connectivity issue resolved ...

The issue was with IP addressing in both pfSense and the server.

PfSense has a small enough footprint (128MB memory and 2GB virtual HDD requirements) to work with my system resources. This is a Linux free BSD which will be one more thing for me to become proficient with.

As indicated in the diagram in my previous post, the LAN is the internal network using Vbox's internal network connection. The WAN uses bridged connection to connect to the host. This is accomplished via the pfSense network cards. Two network adapters are used: one for LAN and the other for WAN. Server 2008 uses internal network connection. I intend to tinker with NAT connection as time progresses to observe differences in behavior.

My next step will be continuing with configuration and testing of Server 2008. Clients won't be introduced to the server until later.

More details are available if anyone is interested. Questions and observations are welcome.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 May 2013   #46

Win 7 Pro 64-bit 7601

so, to sum up, you have a host PC, a virtual server, a bunch of virtual clients and a virtual router to keep them connected to each other and the Internet.

Sounds interesting as a weekend project, but I don't get what are you planning to do with this.

Anyway, writing what you do and how you solved the obstacles to get all this running is going to be an interesting read, and possibly useful to others. You can even turn it in a tutorial when you finished.

Btw, you can have some linux clients, and if you don't mind giving Apple 30 bucks for a licence you can have a virtual Mac as well in your little virtual network.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
18 May 2013   #47

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit


Sounds interesting as a weekend project, but I don't get what are you planning to do with this.
I am building a functional virtual network for learning purposes. I have neither the budget nor the physical space to build a physical network. I have very little experience with virtualization and networking. Short of installation and initial configuration, I have no experience with Server 2008 (or any other server), Win 8 (one of the clients to be introduced to the network later), or pfSense. So, this represents much more than a weekend project for me. At the school I attend, this would represent 9-12 semester hours of work, spanning two semesters because of prerequisites for half of the courses.
Btw, you can have some linux clients, ...
Once my learning curve is not quite as steep, I am considering adding a Linux OS (probably Ubuntu) to the network, but that will be the limit. I'll have to juggle my system resources a little to make that work. Regarding Mac OS: So far I have $0.00 invested and would like to keep it that way.

Server 2008 has a minimum requirement of 512MB RAM. My original resource allocation for the server was 2GB RAM, which was recommended for installation and initial configuration. Introduction of pfSense required stealing of 128MB RAM from the server. Ubuntu will require stealing another 512MB RAM from the server, leaving it with 1408 MB. That doesn't give me a whole lot of wiggle room (896MB). I'd like to have that available for the host or any guest which indicates a need for more memory. If you refer to my earlier post (#31 in this thread), you will see that I am using 91% of available memory with no programs running, just the desktops of all the OSes. Yes, I know that there is virtual memory available, but I really don't want to start swapping files and slowing things down. Why do I want to run all OSes at the same time? Once I start manipulating things through the server, I want to see results in the clients in as close to real time as possible. That is not to mention file sharing. A minimum of the client requesting the shared files and the server must be running to do that.
Anyway, writing what you do and how you solved the obstacles to get all this running is going to be an interesting read, and possibly useful to others. You can even turn it in a tutorial when you finished.
I'll give explanations in my next post. It will take a little while to turn my notes and thoughts into a form suitable for posting.

Once I have completed initial server configuration and established the network, I will move all OSes to an external drive which is why I started this thread. I did not intend for the thread to be this long at the beginning. The number of views it generated indicated a good deal of interest; so I decided to be more detailed. As for a tutorial, that would be quite a large job because of the number of individual topics my project spans. I would probably need some help/collaboration.

Thanks for your interest and feedback.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 May 2013   #48

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit

OK ... Here is the reply to bobafetthotmail's:
Anyway, writing what you do and how you solved the obstacles to get all this running is going to be an interesting read, and possibly useful to others.
Please remember that very early in this thread I announced that I am a newbie in most of the topics incorporated in my project. I have made and will continue to make mistakes along the way. I strongly recommend that the viewers of this thread do not take any of my steps out of context. You may replicate my mistakes. Once I have arrived at a method for accomplishing a task and tested it, that does not necessarily indicate that I have arrived at the best practice. If anyone is attempting to replicate any of the steps, please do so in a safe environment like a virtual machine and have a fallback available to restore to a baseline configuration.

...with that said, here goes...

Windows Server has a nice GUI which opens a window named "Initial Configuration Tasks" on the desktop during the initial login. I had started initial configurations before starting this thread. As stated earlier in this thread, all VMs had Internet connectivity. After quite a bit of unsuccessful research for establishing communication inside and outside of the virtual environment, the kind folks over at the VirtualBox forums provided me with a couple of resources. The image I posted earlier depicting the WAN and virtual LAN logical topologies was step one. They provided me with this tutorial How to Create a Windows Server 2008 Virtual Lab Using VirtualBox .

Here the newbie in me figuratively shot me in the foot. I followed the instructions included in the tutorial to the letter. Windows Server no longer had connectivity. Thinking that I knew what to do next, I began attempting to establish connectivity through configuration of the NICs displayed in Windows Server via Network and Sharing Center. I attempted to configure the settings displayed in the tutorial in both Windows Server and pfSense to no avail. By this time, I was not quite sure how to return to a functional state. (This is why my disclaimer above recommends having a fallback.)

What did I do wrong?
I forgot that my partial configuration of Windows Server resulted in an IPv4 Address of The tutorial guided me to configure an IPv4 Address of in pfSense. My continued efforts to test both static and automatic IP addressing in two different environments became unresolvable.

How did I resolve the problem?
I returned to the VirtualBox forum and received instructions for the proper configurations. Here I used my fallback.
One of the folders devoted to my project on the external drive contains copies of the vdi files which represent known good configurations. These baseline configurations allowed me to return to a stable, functional state.

I deleted the vdi files for both the Server and pfSense on the host machine. They are located in this path: C:\ users\username\VirtualBox VMs\folder with the name I gave each VM. VirtualBox automatically creates these folders and names them to make them identifiable for both VirtualBox and the user. Then I copied the appropriate vdi files from my base line folder on the external drive to the host.

A little jewel I ran into during the reconfiguration process is an option displayed pfSense options menu. One of the choices provided is to reset to factory settings. I had noticed, but not given much thought to this option until I needed to back up and try again because my configuration did not return confirmation that my configurations were proper. Choosing the reset to factory settings worked great. It was both faster, and it did not require a lot of navigation to the proper folders as described above.

The working configuration of pfSense looks like this when viewed in pfSense.

WAN (wan)     -> em0     -> (DHCP)
LAN (lan)     ->em1      ->
Because of all the changes I had made in earlier attempts to establish to connectivity, I had to return to the VirtualBox Manager to straighten things out. The VirtualBox Manager is the window which opens when VBox is launched. (A little poking around in the manager can be quite instructional.) All installed VMs are displayed. Highlighting each gives a preview of settings in the right pane, and the settings button for the selected VM in the toolbar can be used to view or configure settings.

Under settings, the NICs are setup. PfSense uses two NICs, one each for LAN and WAN. (See diagram in post #44 for reference.) Adapter 1 (WAN) is set to NAT. Adapter 2 (LAN) is set to internal network. The Server NIC is currently set to NAT. I have connectivity with both pfSense and Server 2008. I cannot get server connectivity using internal network. I suspect that I have one of two situations on my hand:
  • Continuing the configuration process in Server 2008 will result in the internal network connection becoming the desired connection.
  • The tutorial uses a previous version of pfSense. The instructions may not accurately appy to the version I am using (v2.0.3).

Here are a couple more jewels I tested in pfSense.
  • reboot system
  • halt system
Both work faster and easier than using the close window (red X)>send shutdown signal in VBox. From observation, I think the state is saved.

That's it for now.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 May 2013   #49

Microsoft Community Contributor Award Recipient

Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Service Pack 1

I can't remember if I have suggested it before but snapshots provide a way to rapidly return a VM to a known state.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
19 May 2013   #50

Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit

Maybe I see it wrong. For my purposes, I think completion of major configurations saved as vdi files serve me best. While I am still on the host machine if I have a catastrophic failure, I still have the vdi on my external as a redundant copy of my backed up images which are saved on a different external drive.. Incremental changes are great saved as snapshots. Unless I read the manual and some websites wrong, restoring or deleting snapshot 2 of a series like 1-5 may interfere with proper operation of snapshots 3-5. Did I read it wrong?
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 regarding running a portable OS

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