Microsoft has finally released their free “standalone” Hyper-V Server 2019. it was over 7 months waiting for Hyper-V users to finally get the hands on this new release. It is because the previous release of Hyper-V 2019 free has been taken down due to media problems (now resolved).

Microsoft advised the users who downloaded that original release to remove it and do a clean install of the new version released recently. The product is now available for download at Microsoft evaluation center.

Some information to point out for non-virtualization admins. Hyper-V Server is a standalone product which only includes roles related to virtualization. It is free and includes the same hypervisor technology in the Hyper-V role on Windows Server 2019.

However, there is no user interface (UI) as in the Windows server version. Only a command line prompt. For remote management you can use Free Windows admin center (WAC) which is a separate download.

Manage HyperV 2019 with Windows Admin Center

Manage HyperV 2019 with Windows Admin Center

As such, good use case for Free hypervisor such as Microsoft Hyper-V 2019 Free is to run VMs which don’t need to license Windows Server or a Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) based on Linux VMs.

The new release of Hyper-V 2019 Free version brings some new features and improvements, but also there are some add-ons for Windows Server, such as a Windows Admin Center (WAC) and some apps compatibility for stay consistent with existing Microsoft Management Console (MMC).

One of the new improvements in Hyper-V 2019 is the introduction of shielded virtual machines (VMs) for Linux. Previously this feature was available for Windows VM only, but the importance of Linux with Microsoft clears any doubts about their future strategy. They’re embracing Linux since a while and recently I saw some stats showing that the number of Linux VMs in Azure surpassed the Windows VMs.

Some additional new features were also In. We can mention the updating to VM hardware version 9.0 has some improvements or hibernation support.

What’s the latest hardware version in Hyper-V 2019 free?

You might be wondering why Microsoft did not include the latest virtual hardware 9.1? The virtual hardware 9.1 is only available for Windows Server 2019 v.1903, Windows 10, with the Hyper-V role activated.

Possibly because the 9.1 is just a minor update to virtual hardware version 9.0 and does not include any new features.

The v9.0 Introduced hibernation, allow additional processor features for Perfmon or automatically expose simultaneous multithreading configuration for VMs running on hosts using the Core Scheduler.

Improvements in Hyper-V 2019

Hyper-V Server 2019 has also some improvements on the REFS filesystem as it benefits from the general improvements done within the Windows Server 2019. So those improvements are particularly interesting as Microsoft now supports data deduplication with Resilient File System (ReFS).

Other improvements which might be interesting to point out are cross-domain cluster migration allowing you to move server clusters between domains in Microsoft Active Directory (AD).

One newer feature which is the possibility to use a file share witness on a system that is not member of an Active Directory. It can be an isolated system, in Workgroup.

Remote Management

You’ll be certainly wanting to manage Hyper-V 2019 Free remotely. Most likely like with VMware, you can remotely connect to the host, but you must use a free tool called Windows Admin Center (WAC). If you haven’t heard of WAC you’re really missing out.

The tool can be used for managing regular physical windows servers, or VMs. The possibility to manage Hyper-V 2019 Free makes this suitable for remote management but does not have the granularity of Hyper-V manager.

It is a browser-based app for managing servers, clusters, hyper-converged infrastructure, and Windows 10 PCs. It comes at no additional cost and it is ready to use in production.

WAC is an MSI which installs on a Windows system and uses browser-based tools to give you access to the remote host’s configuration after you add one. You can add as many remote hosts/VMs as you like. You can then monitor or configure the remote host, networking or VMs.

You can start/stop VMs, but also create a new VMs and do other VM related tasks.

Create New VMs with Windows Admin Center

Create New VMs with Windows Admin Center

Additionally, you can use Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) or PowerShell.

Windows Hyper-V manager, which is part of the Windows Server 2019 can be used as a standard for remote Hyper-V servers.

In WAC, you can import VM and export VM, which allows you to transfer VMs (by copy) in and out of the system. You cannot export to remote Hyper-V server though as this is limited to local folder only.

Hyper-V Export is giving you an option of exporting a selected VM, including its virtual hard disk files, VM configuration files, and Hyper-V snapshots, to a single file. The VM can be in running state or stopped.

Hyper-V Import allows you to recover selected VMs which you previously exported from a set of configuration files. Hyper-V VMs can be imported to a source Hyper-V host or a new one. When doing a Hyper-V Import, the VM gets registered with the Hyper-V host automatically.

Installation of Hyper-V, any changes?

Not really, you can still download Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2019 as an .iso file for free. You can download the ISO in the Microsoft Evaluation Center.

As being said, the Windows licensing prevents you to run Windows VMs without proper license. As such, if you don’t want to pay for license, the free Hyper-V Server can be used for free to run Linux VMs, servers or desktops.

For admins willing to buy the license, you must buy the required virtualization rights via the Standard or Datacenter Edition.

Upgrades are not possible with Hyper-V server Free version. Microsoft supports an in-place upgrade from Windows Server 2012 R2 or 2016 to 2019 only.

This sets you for some downtime, because most likely, you’ll have to stop your VMs, migrate theme elsewhere and do a clean install of your host with the Hyper-V 2019 free.

This is really shame as VMware on the other hand, the ESXi Free is much more flexible and allows you to upgrade from older release, via ISO or via Internet. Additionally, it carries web-based console, so you don’t need to install any software and manage ESXi directly via web browser by connecting to the ESXi host directly.

VSAN from StarWind eliminates any need for physical shared storage just by mirroring internal flash and storage resources between hypervisor servers. Furthermore, the solution can be run on the off-the-shelf hardware. Such design allows VSAN from StarWind to not only achieve high performance and efficient hardware utilization but also reduce operational and capital expenses.

Learn more about ➡ VSAN from StarWind

Final Words

Some user said that Hyper-V 2019 Free version is dead, and Microsoft does not really care about this release. I must say that this is not true, and that Microsoft is changing.

While their principal effort goes to Windows Server, and paid versions, they still maintain Hyper-V 2019 Free version as well. They know that if they stop doing that, their free users base would disappear completely in favor of VMware.

Microsoft Hyper-V 2019 is a good candidate for running Linux Server or desktop VMs.

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Vladan Seget
IT and Virtualization consultant, owner of vladan.fr - ESX Virtualization - one of the top independent virtualization blogs. VCAP5-DCA/DCD, VCP4/5