VM Junkie

March 25, 2009

Making a Thin Client on Fat Hardware: Part 1

Filed under: vdi, view, vmware — ermac318 @ 4:17 pm

I’m the VDI expert at the company where I work, so I do an awful lot of VMware View deployments for customers. Today I just finished my seventh of the year, and I’m scheduled to start another one on Friday.

One of the key issues that comes up in deployments is what to use for your edge device – that is, the device that sits in front of the user. A lot of customers have invested a bunch in their desktops, and while they want to get away from managing them, they’re not too keen on just throwing out everything and replacing everything with Thin Clients.

Usually this is a budgetary thing – not a technical limitation. I love Thin Clients, and I recommend them for all customers going forward. But it does make some sense to try and wring out as much life as you can from your existing hardware. So how can we utilize existing PCs in a way that makes them unmanaged devices suitable for a thin client-like deployment? I have several solutions for customers that I discuss, and I thought I’d share some of them here.

The first solution that I recommend to Microsoft Software Assurance customers is Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs. This is one of those lesser-known Microsoft OS products (along the lines of WEPOS, or the even more obscure Itanium-based Windows XP 64-bit edition) but I think it’s pretty cool. It’s a stripped-down version of Windows XP intended for legacy systems that you can run on very old hardware – down to a 233MHz Pentium. It requires very little disk footprint, and what I like about it is that the default install is very small, as you will see. Instead of starting with a huge Windows install and using a tool like nLite to remove components, we start with nothing and add components as necessary (much like doing a Windows Embedded install). From Microsoft’s website, one of the primary use cases of WinFLP is “use existing hardware as Terminal Services clients.” While they’re referring to Terminal Services by name, there’s no reason we can’t use it for Citrix ICA or in our case, VMware View!

First some legaleze: WinFLP is only available to Software Assurance customers. You should be able to download the bits from your Microsoft online software depot. The license key used for WinFLP should be the same as your VLK for Windows XP. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the licensing terms of WinFLP and do not violate any license agreements with large software companies with lots of lawyers.

First, take the system type you want to build your WinFLP image for and install WinFLP! Here are some screenshots:

Note that the installer is definitely derived from the newer WIM-based Vista installer. No text-mode setup here!

I’ve shown most of the install screens – note that to make the VMware View Client work you do need to install Internet Explorer, as the View Client uses the IE SLL Crypto engine.

Once it’s installed, you can login, setup the PC exactly how you like so it’s an unmanaged Thin Client-like device. How do you do that? Stay tuned, same bat-time, same bat-channel!



  1. […] Making a Thin Client on Fat Hardware: Part 2 Filed under: microsoft, vdi, view, vmware — ermac318 @ 6:24 pm This is a continuation of my last blog post. […]

    Pingback by Making a Thin Client on Fat Hardware: Part 2 « VM Junkie — April 1, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

  2. […] Making a thin client on fat hardware: part 1 Making a thin client on fat hardware: part 2 « Storage VMotion, exploring the next version of ESX/vCenter addthis_pub = ‘depping’; addthis_brand = ‘Yellow-Bricks’; addthis_options = ‘favorites, delicious, twitter, google, live, email, stumbleupon, digg, more’; […]

    Pingback by Is your PC overweight? Transitioning from fat to thin… » Yellow Bricks — April 2, 2009 @ 11:41 am

  3. […] for Legacy PCs”. Justin Emerson heeft hierover een blog in twee delen geschreven (deel 1 en deel […]

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  4. I’ve been thinking about WinFLP to recycle old PC’s the thin-clients as well. My challenges with it are this:

    1. It’s still Windows – it still needs to be patched and managed correct?

    2. How do you deploy across a large group of unlike hardware

    3. Can you make a client netboot (PXE) and stream the WinFLP image and make the fat client truly thin?

    Good write up though…thanks!

    Comment by tdimaggio — June 18, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

  5. VMWare View…

    20 Dell Optiplex FX160 are ready to GO.

    But before they can ship out and become thin clients we have to find an easy alternative to streamline  the VMWare View process.
    We want the log in process to be seamless as possible.

    Trackback by Troubleshooting Guides — June 21, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

  6. 1. If you believe in the reliability of the software firewall, no. That said, I do recommend leaving Automatic Updates turned on so that the systems patch themselves. But the only things these systems should be doing is running the View Client, which means there should be no avenue (assuming you trust the firewall) for system compromise.
    2. WinFLP’s installer is a bit different than the standard windows one, but I suspect the same strategies you can use for making standard Windows XP images work across different hardware apply here (SysprepMassStorage, storing drivers in the image and setting the auto detect path to that location, etc).
    3. I have not figured out how to make WinFLP PXE boot… however you can PXE boot WinPE (hint hint).

    Comment by ermac318 — June 22, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  7. […] credits to the guy over at VM Junkie who made this blog “Making a Thin Client on Fat Hardware” specially made using Windows FLP booting into VMware View. I have customized the scripts to […]

    Pingback by Turn old PC into Thin Client for Free | citrix xenapp / xenserver / xendesktop / terminal server blog — August 7, 2009 @ 1:16 am

  8. I searched for days for a solution then came across this post.

    Thankyou so much it was exactly what i was looking to do. I spent ten hours today testing and it works like a charm.

    Nice work!!!!

    Comment by Damo — June 11, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

  9. Your script has an error in it. In the UserRunOnce.cmd file, you’ve got the net user command to remove the user from the administrators group wrong

    net localgroup administrators /remove user

    should be

    net localgroup administrators user /DELETE

    Comment by Joseph — June 25, 2010 @ 7:52 am

  10. […] information on AutoView from the Author’s blog: Part 1, Part […]

    Pingback by AutoView: Most Underrated View Tool? — September 29, 2010 @ 2:11 pm

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