Best practices for running Hyper-V on Windows 10

Now that Microsoft has announced that it will be shutting down Hyper-V Server (the free version of Hyper-V), many people will start running their lab virtual machines on Windows 10 or Windows 11-based Hyper-V deployments. Even While the copy of Hyper-V that comes with Windows 10 is really similar to the one you get with Windows Server, there are some significant differences. These differences, along with the fact that virtual machines are hosted on a laptop or desktop computer, mean that you need to take a slightly different approach to managing your virtual machines. As such, I wanted to take the opportunity to share some best practices for Windows 10 Hyper-V. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but I wanted to touch on some of the more common issues.

Don’t forget the licenses

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The license is important when it comes to hosting Hyper-V virtual machines on Windows 10. Hyper-V is only included with Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education, so you will need to make sure to purchase the good edition of Windows 10.

The other consideration with licensing is that you will need a license for your guest operating systems. Your existing Windows 10 license allows you to run Windows 10 on the parent operating system, but you will need a separate license for all operating systems that you run in virtual machines.

You will need more disk space than you think

Each virtual machine that you create will need at least one virtual hard disk. While it is true that you can save disk space by creating dynamically expanding virtual hard disks, those virtual disks will grow as you add data to them.

However, when running Hyper-V on Windows 10, two things often cause you to unexpectedly run out of disk space. First of all, when you delete a virtual machine from Hyper-V manager, that virtual machine is not really gone. Instead, the virtual machine object is deleted, but the virtual hard disk remains (and continues to consume physical disk space). Therefore, you will have to delete the virtual hard disk to reclaim disk space.

Hyper-V on Windows 10

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Second, when you use the Quick Build feature to create a virtual machine, Windows downloads an image of the operating system and then uses that image to create the virtual machine. These images can consume a lot of space, and although they are no longer needed after the new virtual machine is operational, the quick create images are not automatically deleted.

Incidentally, I’ve seen people create Hyper-V virtual machines on portable USB hard drives in order to bypass their machine’s storage limitations. While this approach works, keep in mind that it has a huge impact on the performance of the virtual machine, especially if multiple virtual machines are running simultaneously, as the USB bus becomes a bottleneck for IOPS. of the virtual machine’s storage.

The configuration of your parent operating system is important

Microsoft’s best practices for running Hyper-V on a Windows server have long stated that the parent operating system should be dedicated to running Hyper-V. It is acceptable to run a backup agent on the parent operating system or perhaps an anti-malware program (assuming it has been configured with the exceptions required by Hyper-V). But Microsoft discourages its customers from running applications on Hyper-V hosts. Microsoft even goes so far as to recommend that Hyper-V servers be deployed without a GUI (without Desktop Experience installed).

In contrast, Windows 10 machines are generally not dedicated to a specific purpose. It is extremely common for Windows 10 machines to have a number of apps installed with Hyper-V. There’s nothing wrong with setting up Windows 10 this way, but you have to think about the impact these apps will have on your Hyper-V virtual machines.

Running applications consume resources such as CPU cycles, memory, and storage IOPS. This reduces the amount of resources available for your virtual machines. However, you should also consider the impact of apps installed but not running.

Many applications have processes or system services that are running in the background even when the application itself is not running. For example, an app might have an auto-update component that always runs in the background.

Such configurations are often unavoidable, but it is important to periodically clean up your Windows system configuration (especially items configured to launch at system startup) so that you do not unnecessarily waste hardware resources that could be better used by your users. virtual machines. .

Be aware of missing features

As noted earlier, several Windows Server Hyper-V features are not included in Windows 10. These features (and capabilities) include:

  • Live migration
  • Virtual machine replication
  • Virtual Fiber Channel
  • SR-! OV Network
  • Shared VHDX Virtual Hard Drives

It’s easy to hang on to individual features, but more importantly, these missing features collectively suggest that you shouldn’t be hosting production workloads on Windows 10 Hyper-V VMs. This is especially true when you also consider that Windows 10 does not support failover clustering and therefore does not have a way to make Hyper-V virtual machines highly available.

Resource management is essential

Resource contention is a pervasive problem in any virtualization environment. Virtual machines compete with each other and with the parent operating system for the resources they need. Even so, Windows 10 Hyper-V tends to be a bit less forgiving than Windows Server Hyper-V, VMware, or other hypervisors when it comes to resource management. After all, laptops and desktops tend to have fewer resources than a server, even a small one. Additionally, the parent Windows 10 operating system may place significant demands on the underlying hardware (depending on its configuration and usage at any given time). The best thing you can do to make sure your Hyper-V virtual machines are running smoothly is to know the resources consumed by both the virtual machines and the parent Windows 10 operating system to make sure they have enough adequate material resources at all times. .

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