Can I run Windows 2003 server on Nutanix AHV?

Recently I’m getting more and more questions from field and from social channels about Windows 2003 server on Nutanix AHV.  Can I tun Windows 2003 on Nutanix AHV? Answer is – yes you can. Technically you can run Windows 2003 on Nutanix AHV without any issues but.. There is always but when we talking about ancient operating systems, see below:

NOTE:Windows 2003 (any flavor) is not supported by Nutanix on AHV. If you decide to run Windows 2003 on Nutanix, you are taking risk to run unsupported configuration.

Why would I “waste” my time and show how to run unsupported system on Nutanix Acropolis. There are several reasons but one of them, the most important in my opinion, is migration from Windows 2003 to latest supported version from Microsoft. I know many companies running legacy application on either physical environments and are afraid to migrate. Virtualizing such environment will make migration much smoother and easier due to features which are not available “physical server” world.

To run Windows 2003 on Nutanix AHV with most optimal configuration takes a bit of time. First things first.


  • AOS 4.6.1 or newer
  • AHV 20160217.2 or newer
  • VirtIO drivers from Fedora in versions:
  • Windows 2003 ISO

Step #1 – Create images for both virtIO drivers ISO and Windows 2003 ISO in image services.

Step #2 – create VM on Acropolis and install windows

Create new virtual machine with following devices:

  • IDE:0 – CDROM – mount Windows 2003 ISO
  • IDE:1 – boot disk
  • SCSI:0 – additional disk
  • network adapter
VM disk configuration for Windows 2003 on Acropolis AHV

VM disk configuration for Windows 2003 on Acropolis AHV

Fist you will install windows 2003 on IDE disk. Once is done, install missing drivers as follows:

  • Ethernet device – from latest virtIO drivers
  • PCI device -from latest virtIO drivers
  • SCSI adapter – from version 0.1-81 – this is very important as newest vitrtIO drivers does not provide support for SCSI on Windows 2003.  Drivers for SCSI adapter are located on /WHL directory
VirtIO SCSI drier for Windows 2003

VirtIO SCSI drier for Windows 2003

NOTE: mouse pointer doesn’t work, you have to be keyboard master in Windows :-). For keyboard hint – see section at the end of this post

Step #4 – Create disk image from existing VM

Log in to CVM over SSH and run image.crete command. Command clones existing virtual machine disk to image services.

Step #5 – Create new VM with boot disk on SCSI adapter.


Power VM on and that’s it. Now you can open console and log in.

NOTE: as you’ve noticed, mouse pointer doesn’t work from AHV console. Here you can find very useful page with most (if not all) Windows commands.

UPDATE: 21/8/2017

Few blog readers reported an issue when Windows 2003 bluescreen after SCSI drivers installation. The solution is to use PCI BUS for disks instead of SCSI BUS disk.

Create disk with PCI BUS

Artur Krzywdzinski

Artur is Consulting Architect at Nutanix. He has been using, designing and deploying VMware based solutions since 2005 and Microsoft since 2012. He specialize in designing and implementing private and hybrid cloud solution based on VMware and Microsoft software stacks, datacenter migrations and transformation, disaster avoidance. Artur holds VMware Certified Design Expert certification (VCDX #077).