Microsoft Launches VHD Evaluation Program

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OK, this is really cool.  As of today Microsoft is providing virtual hard disks with evaluation versions of Microsoft Software pre-installed.  This means that you can download virtual machines and try out complex server software without the need to set up anything.

Further to this Microsoft is providing a way for partners build their own software evaluation virtual machines with Microsoft software.

For more details go to:


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  • Now this _is_ cool. This has been a much needed feature for the VS/VPC virtualization story.

  • A Vista RC2 VHD would be fantastic

  • I added a blog entry on my site to share this news and have some open questions* that would be greatly appreciated if you could help clarify Ben.

    Are the software on VHD all evaluation / trial software, with or without expiry?

    Also, is product activation necessary? If yes, where does one request for the keys for affected software?

    Thanks for your comments.

    * not clear from the official press release and not wanting to download the GB of VHD to discover any surprises

  • well, i just downloaded the 3 files for the exchange server VHD trial. and i'm guessing you have to activate, and when you do, from then you should have i think 180 days to evaluate the windows server 2003, and as for exchange 2007 i'm thinking until release (there is probably some clause somewhere, i usually read fine print).

  • o yeah, and activation doesn't need keys! if they setup everything for you, they have already put in an eval key, the way they get it to become a trial is mandating that you activate within a certain period and counting down from there.

  • Can I use this with Virtual PC 2004 or do I definitely need Virtual Server?

    Another question: Can I redistribute it to my customers?

  • It specifically says that you have to use Virtual Server 2005 R2.  But, my guess is that if you remove the VS additions, you could then bring it up in VPC and add the VPC additions?

    But this begs the question, why would you want to run a server system in VPC?

  • I've downloaded and installed the Windows Server 2003 vhd.  In the readme file it specifically says that the image may NOT be redistributed.  Also, there are a couple other signficant points:

    "After 30 days, the evaluation period is over and the image should be discarded."

    You can activate your copy by using your product key from your MSDN subscription, but get this:

    "PLEASE NOTE: This Image has been created using evaluation software and will automatically cease to function on March 9, 2008.  Even if you activate the product by using an MSDN or TechNet Product Key, this image will be unusable as of March 9, 2008."

  • Ben, a set of VHD's to test Cluster Server would be *really* handy.

    3 would do it, and AD, and 2 nodes..

    of course, a VHD with SQL2005 and VS2005 would also save a whole days worth of install and config ;-)

  • And it comes without IIS, funny guys.

    What exactly are we supposed to evaulate ? And in 30 days.

    I was happy for an hour or so then I dicovered this was just crap. I actually started beliving that MS cared about developers and stopped this nonsense with requiring licenses for VIRTUAL machines.

  • On the one hand you can understand why MS did this.  If they released VM's with no expiration date then pretty soon (ie, about the time it takes to create a torrent) it would be everywhere on the planet.  On the other hand, MS trusts us Technet subscribers with unlimited evals of all their software anyway.  Why should this be different?  Perhaps keep the timebombed version where it is but put a version that allows you to use your technet product code on the Technet site?  Sure would save alot of time.

  • Desmond Lee -

    The VMs contain trial software, that will expire.  You do not need to activate them.

    mcp -

    Works fine with VPC.  As for redistributing - you will need to contact the email address provided in the announcement to get the details on doing that.

    Ian - Good suggestion.

    GH - I am not sure what exact you are complaining about.  Can you provide me more details?

    rob -

    Microsoft is actually very restrictive of their evaluation software.  For instance - did you know that Microsoft has neven granted redistribution rights to anyone for trial versions of Windows?



  • For Exch-LCS VHD, I tried to activate using my MSDN product key for W2K3 server, but it says I've entered an invalid key (i've double-checked it and I know it's right). The ReadMe.htm for the VHD clearly states that you can activate with an MSDN key, but that must not be correct. So most I can do is use it for 30 days at a time I guess. Still, these VHDs are a tremendous help for development & testing - thank you MS!

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Microsoft Launches VHD Evaluation Program