Playing videos and sound in Windows Server 2008 using a Virtual PC (VPC)

Over recent weeks, I’ve been involved in building some of the launch materials for the worldwide SQL Server launch events later this year. In the filestream section, I wanted to play a wmv file ie: a video. I thought “that can’t be too hard”. I was wrong on that. I’ve now spent a long time working out what’s needed. In the end, it’s trivial to do. You just have to know what to do. After much googling, all I found were people with lots of questions and few answers.

Here’s what you need to do:

1. If you’re using Virtual Server (ie: not Virtual PC), you’re out of luck. You need Virtual PC 2007. Virtual PC 2007 emulates a sound card. Virtual Server doesn’t.

2. The sound card is listed as a soundblaster16 compatible. I saw heaps of web sites that suggest you force the old sound blaster drivers off your XP disks to install. Don’t do that !

3. When you install Virtual Machine Additions in Virtual PC, it installs a folder C:\Program Files\Virtual Machine Additions. This folder contains virtualized drivers that you need for sound. Go into Device Manager, right click the multimedia audio driver and choose “Update Driver”. Point it at that folder and soon the audio will work.

(Thanks to Virtual Server MVP Dugie -> Andrew Dugdell -> for telling me about that folder).

4. Windows Server 2008 is resistant to installing Windows Media Player 11.  It comes up with really helpful messages that tell you that “no updates are available for your computer at this time. try again later”. I found web sites that suggested unpacking the installer file (it’s a winrar file) and just running the wmp11 setup part. That doesn’t work either and returns “not enough storage on your computer to complete the operation”.

5. What none of these messages is telling you is that you don’t have the “Desktop Experience Feature” enabled on Windows Server 2008. Enable it from “Server Manager” -> Features -> Add a feature. After a reboot and some update installations, you’ll then find you automagically have Windows Media Player.

(Thanks to my Solid Q colleague Daniel Seara for that one).

At this point, all should be good. Hope this helps someone else.



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