Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Windows 2008 VM Freeze

This has come up multiple times now – so recording it for posterity:

Having VMWare Server based development workstations is usually great for controlling a SharePoint development environment. On several occasions a new VM for SharePoint 2010 development (Windows Server 2008 R2, Visual Studio 2010, SharePoint 2010) has frozen on us. And not frozen as in “it is all slow because the host is low on resources” – frozen as in “will be uncovered by alien scientists in a few thousand years who will recreate a scene with it’s adopted mother” (AI was interesting, if nothing else, right?)

So looking at all the usual suspects proved fruitless in the usual way: VMWare tools was installed and up to date. Physical disk was fine, as were the virtual ones. No viruses or malware detected. This all would have been too easy.

I stumbled upon the answer by observing that the machine still had a heartbeat once frozen – there was just no way to interact with it (including pause/shutdown commands) – but there were a few things that indicated life – network activity, CPU cycles, etc. So that narrowed the focus to video. Like I mentioned before, VMWare tools was installed and up to date – the VM was also using the VMWare SVGA II adapter.

The Fix

Disable video hardware acceleration.

If you think about it, it makes sense that you would not have hardware acceleration enabled within a VM. Problem is, these were all clean vanilla installs – so it was defaulting to a hardware acceleration configuration. If you think about it more, having hardware acceleration on should NOT cause a complete video freeze within a VM, since in theory the hardware ‘exists’ – it is just virtual is all.

In case you are wondering how to get to the place to view and modify video hardware acceleration, it is a little hidden in Windows 2008 R2:

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