John Howard - Senior Program Manager in the Hyper-V team at Microsoft

Senior Program Manager, Hyper-V team, Windows Core Operating System Division.


XP Virtual Desktop Powertoy under Windows Server 2003 (The ITPro way....)

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I really like the Virtual Desktop manager powertoy for XP. Unfortunately, it's just not available under Windows Server 2003. Or is it? Read on....

Part of my on-going mission is to run Windows Server 2003 as my main desktop. Not because I'm sadistic (actually I probably am, but that's for another blog) - it's just easier when you have a powerful machine and need to demonstrate certain Windows Server features, I prefer to run Windows Server on the desktop directly and then run Virtual Server to host Virtual Machines underneath. Yes, I could run XP in a Virtual Machine or dual-boot, but that's somewhat defeatest.

Having a developer background, I could take the developer approach and use something like orca from the Platform SDK to edit the MSI installer to change the operating system version..... However, this is IT Pro land - we don't install SDKs. My mission was how to install this powertoy in Windows Server 2003 using IT Pro tools alone.

So you download the .exe and run it - first problem you get is that it says you need XP. Yes, I knew that. Run the installer again and you get a helpful hint about where the extracted MSI has been placed, and whether you want to replace it.

At this point, I took a copy of it and placed it on the desktop. This is not strictly necessary though.

Download and install the Application Compatibility Toolkit, Stop the Windows Installer Service and Kill off any msiexec.exe processes still running in Task Manager

In the Compatibility Administrator, create a new application fix with the Program file location being c:\windows\system32\msiexec.exe. The name and vendor can be anything you want. When you click next here, scroll down on the right hand side to the bottom and select WinXPSp1 and confirm with next until the wizard ends. At this point, your screen should be similar to that below.

You've very close now. Right click msiexec.exe in the treeview from the above screenshot and select "Run Program". When prompted, add /i "C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Desktop\Virtual Desktop Manager Powertoy for Windows XP.msi" noting the use of double-quotes.

This time, the install will complete successfully. All you have to now do is right click on the taskbar, select toolbars and then Desktop Manager.

Here it is in preview mode for four desktops.

To tidy up, I removed msiexec compatibility to stop future installs not working quite as otherwise would be expected.
I hope you find this tip useful. Please note that Microsoft will not support what I've done here, so the usual disclaimers apply here.