s0undt3ch / boxcutter-windows

Virtual machine templates for Windows

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Packer templates for Windows


This repository contains templates for Windows that can create Vagrant boxes using Packer.

Core Boxes

64-bit boxes:

  • win2012r2-datacenter-nocm, VMware 4.3GB/VirtualBox 4.2GB
  • win2012-datacenter-nocm, VMware 3.7GB/VirtualBox 3.5GB
  • win2008r2-datacenter-nocm, VMware 3.0GB/VirtualBox 2.8GB
  • win81x64-enterprise-nocm, VMware 4.0GB/VirtualBox 3.6GB
  • win8x64-enterprise-nocm, VMware 3.6GB/VirtualBox 3.3GB
  • win7x64-enterprise-nocm, VMware 3.5GB/VirtualBox 3.2GB

Building the Vagrant boxes

To build all the boxes, you will need both VirtualBox and VMware Fusion or Workstation installed.

A GNU Make Makefile drives the process via the following targets:

make        # Build all the box types (VirtualBox & VMware)
make test   # Run tests against all the boxes
make list   # Print out individual targets
make clean  # Clean up build detritus

To build one particular box, e.g. eval-win7x86-enterprise, for just one provider, e.g. VirtualBox, first run make list subcommand:

make list

This command prints the list of available boxes. Then you can build one particular box for choosen provider:

make virtualbox/eval-win7x86-enterprise

Downloads during the build process

When building any the boxes, each template will download a number of files from the internet in order to provision the box and then optimize its disk after the install is successful. The ability to download is managed through the work of two scripts. These scripts are floppy/01-install-wget.cmd and then the floppy/_download.cmd utility.

Once the download scripts have been bootstrapped, the boxes will then be used to download and install a number of applications that will be used to prepare the template prior to completing its build.


The job of this script is strictly to bootstrap wget.exe on the box and is one of the first things done after the operating system has been installed in the image. The bootstrapping procedure is an attempt to download the most recent version of wget.exe from the host https://eternallybored.org/misc/wget/current/wget.exe. This way the floppy/_download.cmd script can use it during the provisioning stage to download other necessary tools.

The bootstrap process is done by first checking if floppy/_download.cmd has already been installed (by copying into the SystemRoot). If it has been installed, the script will then simply use it to download the latest version of wget.exe from the aforementioned URL to the SystemRoot. If it hasn't been installed, the script will then try a number of methods in order to bootstrap the tool.

  1. Powershell - The script will first attempt to transfer the file with Powershell. This should work on most boxes and is the most flexible as it doesn't require tampering with the disk. On older systems, Powershell may not support some of the newer Tls protocols and thus might be unable to download from certain sites. In those cases, there's no choice but to attempt the next method.

  2. BITSAdmin - The next method the script will try to use is by creating a job using the "Background Intelligence Transfer Service". This is done by checking for the existence of and using the BitsAdmin.exe executable to create a job. If the job can be created, the service will then download the requested file to the that's provided. This method can be configured by modifying the DISABLE_BITS field in the floppy/_packer_config.cmd configuration. Please review that file for more information.

  3. Curl.exe - If the prior two methods have failed in bootstrapping wget.exe, the box will have no choice but to bootstrap wget.exe using a 3rd-party binary that was included on the floppy disk during the build. This binary is a minimalistic compile of "curl.exe" that is 32-bits and has been configured with minimal features in order to fall back on if all else fails. This binary is located at 3rdparty/curl.exe and is built from the fork of curl that can be found on github at arizvisa/curl-windows-nodeps.


Once wget.exe has been bootstrapped, this script can be used to download arbitrary files from the internet in order to provision each box. This script has a similar redundancy to the floppy/01-install-wget.cmd script in that first it will attempt to download the requested file with Powershell. If it is unable to perform this task with Powershell, it will fall back to the copy of wget.exe that was bootstrapped. Afterwards, the BitsAdmin.exe tool will be attempted depending on the value of the configuration variable DISABLE_BITS. If BitsAdmin.exe fails to download the requested file or is disabled due to the variable, the script will then fall back to using the curl.exe binary which was bundled on the floppy disk by Packer.

Each of the available download methods can be influenced by changing the value of their respective variables within the configuration. The primary wget.exe downloader uses the contents of the WGET_OPTS variable for its parameters when it is called. Similarly, the curl.exe fall-back downloader use the contents of the CURL_OPTS variable as its parameters. The default parameters that are defined in the project's configuration specify to retry a download up to 64 times, and to repeatedly retry the download even if the connection has been refused. To change these options, please refer to the Packer Global Configuration.


Once downloading has been bootstrapped and the box is able to be connected to by the Packer process, the templates include a number of provisioning steps that are designed to optimize the template prior to its deployment. A number of these steps require downloading files from the Internet and running an external tool. After executing all of the provisioning steps, the templates will clean up followed by completing the build.

The following tools are downloaded in order to provision each individual box.

Vagrant public key

The very first thing that most of the templates do is download the vagrant public key and install them into the template. This projects is used for producing vagrant boxes and thus the installation of the vagrant public key is required in order for Vagrant to be able to connect to them.

The vagrant public key is downloaded directly from @mitchellh's repository for vagrant at the https://raw.githubusercontent.com/mitchellh/vagrant/master/keys/vagrant.pub url. If the user wishes to change this url or specify their own public key, this can be accomplished by changing the VAGRANT_PUB_URL variable.

Configuration Management Tools

If any configuration management tools were specified for the build, this step will proceed to install them into the box. This projects supports a number of configuration managers which are configurable using the Makefile.local override option. Please review that section for more information on what managers are supported and how to specify them.

Virtual Machine Tools (virtualbox-iso and vmware-iso)

Depending on which builder was specified for the box that is being built, this step will download and install any tools that can be used to add additional features to the template when it is deployed. In some cases these tools can add significant performance or very powerful features to the virtual machine that is built.

To install these tools, the first thing that is installed is 7-zip which is hosted at http://7-zip.org. The 7-zip archiver is used as a general utility for extracting the contents of archives that compose any of the tools that are required by the build of the template. By default 7-zip is installed from either the http://7-zip.org/a/7z1604.msi url for a 32-bit template, or the http://7-zip.org/a/7z1604-x64.msi url for a 64-bit template. These urls can be configured in the Packer Global Configuration by using the SEVENZIP_32_URL variable for 32-bit templates, and likewise the SEVENZIP_64_URL variable for 64-bit templates. When a template is done being provisioned, the 7-zip application will then be uninstalled prior to completion of the build.

One such set of tools comes with VirtualBox and is known as the VirtualBox Guest Additions ISO. This ISO allows one to manage some of the features that a VirtualBox guest exposes to the user. The VirtualBox Guest Additions ISO is downloaded from the http://download.virtualbox.org/virtualbox/5.1.30/VBoxGuestAdditions_5.1.30.iso url. Once downloaded, 7-zip will be used to extract the relevant files and then the "Guest Additions" will be installed into the image. If the user wishes to change this URL, they can specify an alternative location by assigning it to the variable VBOX_ISO_URL.

The other major set of tools comes along with the VMware platform and is simply named "VMware Tools". These tools allow for features such as hardware acceleration, mapping folders into the VM, file transfers, and copy/paste operations. These tools are served as a .tar file from the https://softwareupdate.vmware.com/cds/vmw-desktop/ws/12.5.5/5234757/windows/packages/tools-windows.tar url. If the user wishes to use a different URL, this path can be changed by setting the VMWARE_TOOLS_TAR_URL variable.

Defragmentation (UltraDefrag)

Depending on the filesystem, the hard disk of the template may become fragmented. Although for later filesystems this is not of significant importance, for virtual machines this can have large impact when the hard disk is to be compressed. This can greatly reduce the speed that compression and decompresion of the guest's hard disk may take.

Before defragmenting the hard disk, 7-Zip is checked to see if it's installed. If it isn't, then it is downloaded and installed due to it being necessary for extracting the contents of the UltraDefrag software. The default URL that 7-zip is fetched from is http://7-zip.org/a/7z1604.msi for 32-bit systems, and then http://7-zip.org/a/7z1604-x64.msi for 64-bit. If the user wishes to change the path to download 7-zip from, this can be done by modifying the SEVENZIP_32_URL variable or the SEVENZIP_64_URL variable depending on the platform's architecutre.

At this point, an archive for the UltraDefrag tool at http://downloads.sourceforge.net/ultradefrag/ultradefrag-portable-7.0.2.bin.i386.zip is then downloaded for a 32-bit platform, or the archive from the http://downloads.sourceforge.net/ultradefrag/ultradefrag-portable-7.0.2.bin.amd64.zip url is downloaded for a 64-bit platform. After downloading the correct archive, 7-zip will then be used to extract its contents, and then the application will be run to perform the task of defragmenting the hard disk. When the hard disk is done being defragmented, the natural compression of the hard disk should take up significantly less time. To change the URL that is used for downloading UltraDefrag requires changing the value of the ULTRADEFRAG_32_URL variable for 32-bit platforms, and similarly by changing the ULTRADEFRAG_64_URL variable for 64-bit platforms.

Zeroing of free space (SysInternals' SDelete)

The final provisioning step consists of zeroing out all of the empty space at the end of the template's hard disk. This is done so that none of the empty space is included whilst compressing the hard disk belonging to the image. This should greatly assist with reducing its size.

The process of zeroing out the empty space of the template's hard disk is done entirely by the "SDelete" tool that was developed by SysInternals. Although this tool is not maintained anymore, it is still valuable and fortunately is hosted on http://web.archive.org. This provisioning step will download the "SDelete" tool from the http://web.archive.org/web/20160404120859if_/http://live.sysinternals.com/sdelete.exe url, and then run it with the purpose of clearing out any empty space on the template. If one wishes to change the URL that this tool is downloaded from, they may do so by modifying the SDELETE_URL variable in the Packer Global Configuration.


The tests are written in Serverspec and require the vagrant-serverspec plugin to be installed with:

vagrant plugin install vagrant-serverspec

The Makefile has individual targets for each box type with the prefix test-* should you wish to run tests individually for each box.

Similarly there are targets with the prefix ssh-* for registering a newly-built box with vagrant and for logging in using just one command to do exploratory testing. For example, to do exploratory testing on the VirtualBox training environmnet, run the following command:

make ssh-box/virtualbox/win2008r2-standard-nocm.box

Upon logout make ssh-* will automatically de-register the box as well.

Makefile.local override

You can create a Makefile.local file alongside the Makefile to override some of the default settings. It is most commonly used to override the default configuration management tool, for example with Chef:

# Makefile.local
CM := chef

Changing the value of the CM variable changes the target suffixes for the output of make list accordingly.

Possible values for the CM variable are:

  • nocm - No configuration management tool
  • chef - Install Chef Client
  • chefdk - Install Chef Development Kit
  • chef-workstation - Install Chef Workstation
  • puppet - Install Puppet
  • salt - Install Salt

You can also specify a variable CM_VERSION for all configuration management tools to override the default of latest. The value of CM_VERSION should have the form x.y or x.y.z, such as CM_VERSION := 11.12.4

When changing the value of the CM variable to one of the chef-based configuration management tools, it is relevant to note that recent versions of chef require a license in order to use. Due to this, specifying the default version of "latest" for the CM_VERSION field will result in using the most recent "free" version that doesn't require a license. If the user wishes to use the most recent version that DOES requires licensing, however, the user will need to explicitly specify "licensed" for CM_VERSION. Specifying "licensed" for CM_VERSION will then result in using the most recently available licensed version. More information on how to accept the chef-client license via configuration after building a template can be found at Accepting the Chef License.

It is also possible to specify a HW_VERSION if a specific hardware version is to be used for a build. This is commonly used to provide compatibility with newer versions of VMware Workstation. For example, you may indicate version 14 of Workstation: HW_VERSION := 14.

For configuration management tools (such as Salt), you can specify a variable CM_OPTIONS. This variable will be passed to the installer for the configuration management tool. For information on possible values please read the documentation for the respective configuration management tool.

Another use for Makefile.local is to override the default locations for the Windows install ISO files.

For Windows, the ISO path variables are:

  • EVAL_WIN10_X64
  • EVAL_WIN10_X86
  • EVAL_WIN2008R2_X64
  • EVAL_WIN2012R2_X64
  • EVAL_WIN7_X64
  • EVAL_WIN7_X86
  • EVAL_WIN81_X64
  • EVAL_WIN81_X86
  • EVAL_WIN8_X64
  • WIN2008R2_X64
  • WIN2012_X64
  • WIN2012R2_X64
  • WIN7_X64_PRO
  • WIN7_X86_PRO
  • WIN81_X64_PRO
  • WIN81_X86_PRO
  • WIN8_X64_PRO
  • WIN8_X86_PRO

You can also override these setting, such as with

WIN81_X64_PRO := file:///Volumes/MSDN/en_windows_8.1_professional_vl_with_update_x64_dvd_4065194.iso

Packer Global Configuration

floppy/_packer_config.cmd can set configuration globally for initial install and each shell provisioner. See floppy/_packer_config.cmd for additional details.

You can add additional floppy/_packer_config_*.cmd files. These files will be ignored by Git.

floppy/_packer_config*.cmd will be executed in alpabetical order during initial install and at the beginning of each shell provisioner script if the script supports loading them.


Parallels provides a Business Edition license of their software to run on the basebox build farm.

SmartyStreets is providing basebox hosting for the boxcutter project.

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Virtual machine templates for Windows

License:Apache License 2.0


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