The Big [re]Build

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A while ago I talked about how I use Hyper-V in my house, and more recently I talked about trying to backup my Hyper-V server.  This discussion of backup was actually in preparation for a significant rebuild of my home Hyper-V server, that I undertook a week and a half ago.  There were several goals that I had with this rebuild:

  • Upgrade the system disk from an old stand alone disk to a newer RAID1 disk
  • Add a new disk to my Windows Home Server virtual machine
  • Pull my Domain Controller / DNS / DHCP server out of my parent partition and put it in a virtual machine

The challenges that I had with this process included:

  • I did not have a second equivalent server handy to just migrate to.  Instead my goal was to utilize the machines sitting around my house as temporary staging locations while I did the rebuild (in fact I used my desktop as a file server and ran Hyper-V on my Mac Mini to act as my backup Hyper-V server).
  • If this server is down – Internet is down in my house.  Any father / husband out there will tell you that you do not want to be responsible for breaking the household internet connection.
  • My Windows Home Server virtual machine contains all of my families digital memories.  8 years of kid photos, videos of my children’s first steps, etc…  Losing this data is simply not an option.

It took over a week of planning and research but I ended off successfully rebuilding the system in the space of a weekend.  The process that I used looked something like this:

  • Identify non-critical server virtual machines, shut them down and export them to a file share (on my desktop)
  • Use SCVMM to move critical server virtual machines to Hyper-V on my Mac Mini
  • Perform a configuration-only export of my Windows Home Server
  • Do a bare metal backup of my physical computer
  • Restore the bare metal backup into a virtual machine on my Mac Mini
  • Shutdown my physical computer
  • Get my Domain Controller / DNS / DHCP server running on the Mac Mini
  • Swap in the new disks into the physical computer
  • Install Windows and Hyper-V on the new disks
  • Move all virtual machines back to the physical computer

To pull this off I used pretty much every trick that I know – so I thought it would be good to do a blog series on the process.

Before I get going – there are a few questions that I have been asked that I would like to answer upfront:

  • Why are you using RAID1?!?  RAID10 would be much faster!

    To this I have two answers.  The first one is that I have a personal preference for minimizing the number of disks in my system (details that I prefer to not go into right now).  The second one is that you do not realize how bad the performance of my old system disk was.  I did some benchmarking on my old and new disk configuration to highlight the difference here:

  • Why are you running your domain controller in a virtual machine?

    Read this post for my thoughts on this:
  • Why don’t you just get some nice high end hardware?

    I know of people who do this, but I have many other things that I like to spend my money on.  Plus there is some level of satisfaction in getting results on a shoestring budget :-)


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  • Disclaimer: I'm a VMware employee and run ESXi/vSphere in my house to do much the same thing as Ben.

    Kudos to you for blogging  about this Ben but it strikes me as mighty complex. Why not just put the new R1 disk set in your server and move the VMs over to it? If a few minutes of downtime was a problem for you, couldn't you briefly switch on DHCP/DNS on your Internet router to keep your family happy (or do it after midnight! :))

    My knowledge of Hyper-V isn't great but in the ESX/ESXi world, this would be a less than 60min job.

  • @Rob's comment 'in the ESX/ESXi world, this would be a less than 60min job'

    Rob would you mind to consider Ben's finacial goal of 'results on a shoestring budget' and compare it with your approachs financial impact?

  • 2Mike Holzer

    I'm also using VMware stuff and I also wonder why does he need to move all machines online? As Bob said - why not to add RAID1 to the existing server, shutdown all VM, move physical files to the RAID1 volume and tell HV where they are now? Is it complex in HV?

    Did Ben also reinstall the host server to RAID1? Could he use offline backup/restore tools to move host image from old disk to RAID1?

  • Rob Upham / Nikolai -

    The challenges here are:

     - I did not follow best practices, and put both virtual machines and other server roles in my parent partition disk, so upgrading the disk means seperating this stuff out

     - Yes, the disk I am changing is the main system disk

     - No, I do not have enought storage / servers sitting around to do a full backup / restore of the system (which currently weighs in at ~7TB of disk)

     - The case I am using is "full of disks" so I cannot do a side-by-side upgrade of the disks

    In summary - yes, in "normal" circumstances this would have been a trivial and straightforward process.  But this is my house - not a datacenter :-)



  • Ben,

    I'm running Hyper-V myself at home too - but I'm also mindful of the electricity bill, so would be interested in your comments on things that can be done so that Hyper-V can run efficiently (especially if you have a system with a Core i7 CPU).

    It appears that VM guests can't put themselves into sleep mode, which I would have thought would be beneficial in this regard.


  • @Mike - sorry, I missed Ben's comment about doing this on a shoestring. But that wouldn't be an issue if using ESXi - it's 100% free -

    And because you don't have a "parent partition" OS or disk, you'd never get yourself into a mess in the first place - all "roles" run as well-behaved,  portable VMs. ;)

  • I just restore my entire server this week-end.

    I was pleased to see how it was simple to make a bare metal restore of my entire server on a external USB disk.

    I backup the server and take it to my home desk to mount my tow brand new 1To dik to upgrade from a Raid1 array to a raid 10 array (i host a lot of vm for test purpose, familly NAS and some poshboard dev server).

    The entire process take me only 3 hours.

    The most long was to mount the disk in the box ;)

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The Big [re]Build