Installing Virtual CD Software in a Virtual Machine

Like many Hyper-V users, I have created ISO images of most of my CDs / DVDs (and in the case of my MSDN software – have downloaded in ISO format to begin with).  I then have these images stored on a file server.

It is possible to connect a CD ISO image on a file server to a Hyper-V virtual machine, as long as you are working in a domain environment and you are running the Hyper-V management user interface directly on the Hyper-V server.

If you run the Hyper-V management user interface on a remote computer, you will need to enable constrained delegation in order to use ISO images on a network share.  If you are running in a workgroup environment your only option is to enable anonymous access to the file share that holds your ISO images (obviously not a good idea from a security point of view).

Aside: The reason for these conditions is that Hyper-V requires the use of both your personal user credentials and the Hyper-V servers workstation credentials when connecting an ISO image to the virtual machine. 

Your user credentials are used to verify that you personally have permission to use the ISO image in question.  The use of your user credentials is why constrained delegation needs to be enable for remote management to work.

The Hyper-V server workstation credentials are used to ensure that we can start the virtual machine, and connect the ISO image to the virtual machine, even when you are not logged into the server (for example, if the server needs to be rebooted).  Unfortunately workstation credentials only work in domain environments – so workgroup environments need to enable anonymous access.

As I am using Windows Home Server for my file server – which does not support being joined to a domain – setting up a share with anonymous access was the only option for me.  But I found this idea so abhorrent that I would make local copies of ISO files as I needed them instead. 

Needless to say I was far from happy with this arrangement.

Furthermore, as I often use Remote Desktop to connect directly to the guest operating system in my virtual machines, I have found it irritating to need to switch back to the Hyper-V management user interface solely for the purpose of connecting a new ISO image.

Luckily I have found a simple and elegant solution to both of these problems.

What I have done is to install Virtual CD software inside each of my virtual machines.  This allows me to use ISO images that are stored on my Windows Home Server, and I can connect CD ISO images even when I am connected using Remote desktop.  For my virtual machines I am using Alcohol 52%, but other programs to look at for this include Virtual CloneDrive and DAEMON Tools.

This solution will not work for installing operating systems (but I these days I tend to use Windows Deployment Services for that – so that is not an issue for me) but it works for everything you could think of once the operating system is up and running.