Install Hyper-V Server 2012 On USB Flash Drives

A common question I’ve seen is “Can I install Hyper-V on USB?”.  The answer is … sort of.

In the article, What’s New in Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2012, it says:

Hyper-V Server 2012 supports all of the new features in the Hyper-V server role of Windows Server 2012 and a number of other general Windows Server 2012 features. It continues to support features from Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 such as failover clustering, multipath I/O, server backup, and the ability to install this product on bootable USB flash drives.

Please pay careful attention: It refers to the free product Hyper-V Server 2012.  No where, I repeat … NO WHERE does it say that Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V is supported on USB.  It’ll be entirely your fault if you assume that you have support to install Windows Server 2012 on USB and enable Hyper-V.  The TechNet text only mentions Hyper-V Server 2012 and that is a different product.

Remember my mantra on this: if you assume, then assume that you are wrong.

If you follow the link to the USB instructions (which are dated for Hyper-V Server 2008 R2) you will see another important sentence:

The scenario described in this document is only supported for original equipment manufacturers (OEM).

In other words, it is OK for Dell, HP, etc, to install Hyper-V Server 2012 on a USB stick and ship it to you.  It is not supported if you do this for yourself.  The instructions are there; you can use them to build yourself a lab that runs from USB.  And that’s that.  Do not go building this for yourself for production support.  You have been warned.

Before anyone asks, no, I have not seen a server company offer this.  In fact, I talked to some very senior server people in one of those companies a few months ago and they had never even heard of this boot option.  They even thought it was an ESXi only solution.

Also, boot from SD is not listed as an option.

7 thoughts on “Install Hyper-V Server 2012 On USB Flash Drives”

  1. Boot from SD would be nice.

    IIRC, some of the current (new) Dell PowerEdges have redundant SD card slots for booting a hypervisor (eg ESXi). No local disks means savings on purchasing and power.

  2. Nice post Aidan!

    Dell had that for hyper-v server 2008/2008 r2 but they removed it from docs.

    The 710 server line had that on support docs. A loong time ago I can say. Currently they only offer ESXi support for bootable usb/sd.

    I tried it here with a USB 3.0 stick (Corsair GT 32GB). Please leave it for esx or freebsd/embedded systems. It was slow like hell.

    Another problem: bootable USB 3.0 controllers. Got two different controllers here, Renesas and Asmedia. Both had issues when booting from pendrives at usb 3.0 speeds.

  3. It is now almost September 2013 and R2 is almost released. What is the latest on this now? Has R2 got any new boot from USB features/articles

  4. Been running all our 12 servers like this for 3 years now – only had one issue where the actually memory trashed the booting. Replaced memory, popped in a new USB, and imported the 45 guests service resumed. The most painless outage recovery I’ve experienced!

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