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Amongst the popular hypervisors, Proxmox has been a recent upriser. It’s an open-source alternative to enterprise virtualization solutions like VMWare. Virtualization is pretty much omnipresent when we talk about data centers. Take any of the cloud services, for example. Their serverless capabilities are based on virtualization and resource-sharing based on VMs (Virtual Machines). Virtualization works well in two cases – when you don’t require physical separation of concerns and when you want to have multiple virtual environments run mutually incompatible on the same hardware. Virtualization comes in and draws a logical line of separation. That’s what Proxmox also does.
Proxmox can only be installed on a machine running OS based on Debian (a Debian 10 buster) or a bare metal server. Please note that you cannot install Proxmox on an Ubuntu server or a Windows server, for instance. The corollary is true, however. You can install Windows on Proxmox hosted on a Debian machine by uploading an image file of the Windows operating system. That’s precisely the kind of use case Proxmox is meant for. You would need the following:
- A Debian server with a 64-bit CPU to install Proxmox Virtual Environment
- Intel CPU/Motherboard capable of KVM Full Virtualization support
- At least 1 GB RAM
- 16 GB hard disk space
- A remote server with a GUI (Graphical User Interface) on any OS installed with a popular web browser
- A Windows 10 key to download the .iso file
Installing Proxmox VE on Debian Server
The Proxmox virtualization management solution installation process begins with dealing with the repository first. To get started, you need to add the Proxmox VE repository to your Debian Linux server. The installation comes later.
Step 1: Add the Proxmox VE Repository
First, log in to your root account using the root password, and assume the powers of the superuser and run the following command:
echo “deb http://download.proxmox.com/debian/pve buster pve-no-subscription” > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/pve-install-repo.list
Step 2: Add the Proxmox GPG Key to the trusted.gpg.d Directory
Use the following commands to add the GPG key for Proxmox to the trusted.gpg.d directory while granting read permissions on the key:
wget http://download.proxmox.com/debian/proxmox-ve-release-6.x.gpg -O /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/proxmox-ve-release-6.x.gpgchmod +r /etc/apt/trusted.gpg.d/proxmox-ve-release-6.x.gpg
Step 3: Update & Upgrade the packages
Run apt update and apt full-upgrade commands as shown below to perform the steps mentioned above:
apt update && apt full-upgrade
Step 4: Install Proxmox VE, Postfix, and open-iSCSI
Please run the following command to install the packages related to our main installation, Proxmox VE, along with Postfix (a mail transfer agent) and open-iSCSI (SAN protocol to communicate with the hard disk).
apt install proxmox-ve postfix open-iscsi
You’ll be asked to choose the mail configuration of Postfix during the installation. You can select the Local option out of all the options you are shown. The Local option will configure Proxmox and Postfix to send email alerts locally on the same machine.
Step 5: Connect to the Proxmox VE Web Interface using a Web Browser
Proxmox runs on port 8006. As it has a web-based interface, from your remote machine, you can open https://debian-proxmox-ip-address:8006 on any of the supported web browsers using your IP address. Later on, you can have a DNS resolve the domain name to something like proxmox.companyname.com.
Installing Windows 10 on Proxmox
Assuming that you’ve got it all working, you’d now want to test out the Proxmox VE virtualization environment that you have just set up. One of the most common uses of virtualization software is to install different operating systems on the same hardware. Considering you want to install Windows 10; you would need to do the following:
Step 1: Upload Windows 10 and virtIO ISOs to Proxmox VE
Using the official websites of both Windows 10 and virtIO, you need to create/download the ISO image file for each of them so that you can upload them to Proxmox VE’s local storage. Here are the links to create and download the installation .iso image:
Step 2: Create VM (Virtual Machine) and Configure virtIO
Once the upload finishes, press the Create VM button, fill in the details like VMID, choose the Windows 10 ISO installer. After that configure sockets, RAM, etc., and let Proxmox VE do its magic. Confirm all your selections and click Finish. Your VM should be there now. Go to the hardware settings and configure a second CD/DVD device and choose virtIO this time. Alternatively, you can also import VM templates to help you with the installation.
Step 3: Boot the VM
Once done with the creation and configuration of the VM, you can boot the VM, expecting a Windows Setup dialog box asking you to select the language to install, date and time format (location and country time zone), along with the keyboard and input method. You’ll have an option to choose from the standard/custom installation. Choose custom.
Step 4: Install Windows 10
As you progress with the installation, you will be asked to select a hard disk drive from a list of options, but to your surprise, you won’t be able to find anything there. You’ll need to load & install a Red Hat VirtIO SCSI controller driver. Once you’re able to see the hard drives attached to your Proxmox server, you will be able to configure the VMs to use thin storage like Ceph, thin-pool, qcow2, or ZFS. After the driver is installed, the Windows installation will begin again. Accept the software license agreement and finish the installation.
Step 5: Update Network and PCI Drivers
As you progress further, you’ll be asked to connect to a network in the network settings window, but again, you won’t be able to because two other drivers are missing from the installation. You’ll need to install the Red Hat VirtIO Ethernet Adapter to cover the network and VirtIO Balloon Driver to cover your PCI bus.
After resolving these major but easily solved issues, you can remove the installation device (USB drive or CD ROM). You have now successfully installed Windows 10 on a VM (Virtual Machine) created on top of Proxmox VE hosted on a Debian buster.
Proxmox has evolved quite a lot in recent years. It comes as a great alternative to ESXi. It doesn’t require installing any external management interface and administration interface like vSphere Web Client UI (User Interface) for web-based access. With Proxmox, everything is bundled in one beautiful package. In this tutorial, you have learned how to install Proxmox VE on your Debian buster. You have also learned how to get up and running with a Windows installation using a .iso image file on top of Proxmox. You’re now ready to unleash the power of virtual machines using Proxmox.
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