VDI / RDP / Hyper-V / Laptop Challenge

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I was reading Brian Madden the other day, and saw his post about trying out RDP 7 for his main desktop system.  After giving it some thought – this inspired me to take a similar challenge myself.

We have spent a lot of time working with the Remote Desktop Services team to enable the use of Remote Desktop Virtualization Hosts for centralized computing environments. 

But what is it really like to use a virtual machine through Remote Desktop for your daily computing needs?

Unfortunately I move around a lot – so if I tried to use a remote virtual machine, I would be forced to use another system a lot of the time as I cannot guarantee constant network access to any location where I can put up a test server.

So instead I am going to try this:

I will install Windows Server 2008 R2 on my laptop, enable Hyper-V, and create a Windows 7 virtual machine.  I will then use remote desktop on my laptop to connect to this virtual machine – and try to do all of my work there.

I will also run some other virtual machines on the system to simulate a decent workload of other users on a server.

I am genuinely interested to see how useable this will be for me, and what sort of problems and observations I will have through this process.  I am going to try and blog about any problems I encounter – and how I work around them, as well as blogging on my general observations.  I am expecting that some of the issues I will hit will be purely caused by using Hyper-V on a laptop – while others will be around using a virtual machine as my primary desktop environment.  This should be fun!

For those who are curious – my laptop is not a very powerful system for this sort of thing.  It is a Toshiba m400 with a dual core 2.0 ghz processor and 3.3GB of ram.

I will tag any future posts about this with [HDoaLC] – which stands for “Hosted Desktop on a Laptop Challenge”.  Stay tuned for more information!


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  • Good luck. I hope you don't miss sleep/hibernate much.

  • I have been using hyper-v and rdp for just about a year at home. My wife and I are constantly moving around the house between two desktops and one laptop (soon to be two). I am about to buy a netbook and I can tell you I won't be installing Office on it. I even have a virtual machine (or 3) configured for Visual Studio. Will never go back but I am not contending with remote access to my home network.

  • Have fun! Hyper-V runs fine on a laptop, but as Jonathan already pointed out you'll miss some power options.

  • I tried doing this, and I still have all my old computers virtualized. My old Windows XP notebook runs fine on my new Windows 7 notebook, just in case. What blocks me in practice is lack of USB, and the fact that while virtualization should in theory shield from unnecessary software activations for the same system, in practice I already had to reactivate my software at least four times (original hardware, old Virtual PC, Hyper-V, new Virtual PC). So you get software updates getting in the way of legacy continuity, which instead should be a core point of virtualization. So now you know why I asked about USB and convergence between Virtual PC and Hyper-V in another post :-)

    On the good side, smart cards used to be another blocking point, and that has now been solved with the new Windows Virtual PC.

  • I've just started using the same approach for my portable development environment:

    Macbook Pro with 8GB, 3ghz cpu, intel x25-m 160GB SSD Raid 0, running Win2008R2+HyperV as the host, with a Win7 VM and a Win2008 SQL Server VM.

    So far its meeting all my needs, although I am just about to load up with a largish sql db, so we will see whether 2 cores are enough.

  • I've been using Hyper-V this way for the last 10 months. My Virtual Machine is Vista. Host OS is Server 2008 Enterprise on a Dell E6500 with 8 Gigs of RAM.

    Biggest complaints?

    1. In this scenario, I really, really, really with USB support was there for my Zone, my Win Mobile Phone and for use with VoIP devices.

    2. Name registration of the guest machine isn't always available. I usually RDP using a fixed IP address for the guest on a separate VLAN...which leads to other issues with drive mapping, etc.

    3. Can't afford to use snapshots. They get too big, too fast and performance degrades incredibly quickly

    4. Using RDP is the only way (that I know of) to connect to a guest and get sound. The delays between a video event and its playback via RDP can be disconcerting as can the video fragmenting

    5. The RDP 6 and earlier LFB for Video doesn't support DirectX thus there is no game playing in my guest OS

    I haven't yet tried to live with this config in Windows 7 and will be itching to move back to a simpler configuration soon...but using a VM as your "daily driver" is doable with a bit of imagination.

  • Mmmm interesting stuff!  Very tempting, and would make migrating to different OSs much easier (ie: Win7 RC -> RTM).  I like the idea of virtualising and archiving previous installations.  Sure beats keeping multiple spare HDDs XP/Vista images...

    I look forward to your investigations and work-arounds to the issues the people above has raised. :)



  • I did work for half a year (starting with the PDC build) but the biggest issue for me was the graphics performance.

    Not for gaming, but jus switching desktops in a multi monitor scenario, changing resolution, or even just unlocking your desktop gets very sloppy.

  • I put Hyper-V on my Desktop so I could test migrating our 10 servers to Hyper-V.  I never took it off.  I run Vista as my primary OS on the larger of my 2 monitors and Win 7 RC 1 on the other.


    Quad Q9300 2.4GHz CPU

    8 GB RAM

    1 300 GB Drive

    1 500 GB Drive

    I'll have to agree that lack of USB is my biggest chalenge.  Both on my desktop and on the "Production" Hyper-V servers.  I backup the iPhone (I'm reluctant to put iTUnes on my HYper-V OS) at home and just live with out or go to another system when I have to use USB.

    We run the company on SBS 2008 and not having USB kills the automated backup in SBS.  I can work aroung that but it would still be easier to have it.  

    But back to the subject, I don't think I'll be going back to a desktop OS anytime soon.

    Jonathan Brown

    Net Data Systems

  • Not quite the same as you, but I do 99% of my work via RDP to VM running in my datacentre. The VM is joined to a domain, gets backed up etc and has a very fast internet connection. Fast enough that I can work pretty much anywhere that has an internet connection and still have a responsive desktop. Apart from Visual Studio and Office, I even use Photoshop like this. I only use my local machine's resources for general web browsing (flash/silverlight etc don't work well via RDP) or when I absolutely have to, e.g. for a USB scanner, or stuff that requires DirectX. When done I just copy the files to my VM via RDP's drive sharing feature.

    This could work pretty well on a self contained laptop, but I prefer that my work be kept safe in a datacentre at all times!

  • Did this for about 6 months myself, key issues for me were, USB device access, could not do dual screen presentations and the main killer was that Sleep/Hibernate of the machine not available when hyper-v is enabled. I'm a consultant and I'm often on/off trains & in and out of meetings using onenote & of course doing presentations.  for these reasons I had to revert back to a Windows 7 build.



  • Thanks All!  This post was actually written from inside the virtual machine.  So far things have been going better than I expected them to.

    Jonathan -

    Yes, I guess that I will be carying around a power supply a lot more often :-)

    Andrew Robinson -

    Yes, I have also setup a second virtual machine with Visual Studio on Windows Server 2008 R2 to do some ASP development.



  • Feeling dumb.

    How does one execute an RDP session from within Hyper-V?  mstsc is no where to be found

  • When I RDP to my Hyper-V host or one of the VMs from my Vista64 machine, I don't see any of my Vista64 drives.

    I configured RDP as I would to connect to any other non-VM machine.

    I must be missing something.

  • We have our two home PCs virtualised under Hyper-V running on a HP ML115 server with RAID-1.

    One PC is a "home office" PC and the other is a "media centre" PC (music, tv, etc) and most data is stored on the "host" server.

    These guest PCs are accessed using older laptops or recent netbooks and the solution works well. I had been looking at laptop style thin clients, but they are a bit expensive for what they are!  

    This project was driven by Win7 as it allowed us to have a "disposable" Win7 RC PC that we could play with and makes upgrading to Win7 very low risk (just backup the VHDs :-) Of course the solution also provide more security (server is locked away) and resilience - RAID 1 and UPS on the HP.

    To resolve the USB issue, I purchased a Belkin Network USB (link below) so we can connect our Ipod/Zune to the "media centre" PC and a USB stick to the "home office".

    For better quality audio from the "media centre" PC (RDP audio sucks ;-) I use an  AirLink101 Music Bridge and connect it to our Sonos music system.  For watching TV we have XBOX 360 and Linksys extenders.





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VDI / RDP / Hyper-V / Laptop Challenge