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Microsoft SQL Server on Vagrant

Postado por Fábio Rehm em 19/09/2014

I've recently been assigned to a Rails project that needs to connect to a SQL Server database and on this post I'll go through the process of configuring a Windows 2008 VM with SQL Server 2008 Express using Vagrant. If you are just interested on the code you can get it from here.

First of all, let me preface this post by saying that I haven't used Windows in a loooong time and this was the first time I interacted with PowerShell. This post is a result of lots of googling and trial and error so if you know how to do something in an better way feel free to submit a PR to the project or drop a comment below :)

Another good thing to mention is that this will eat A LOT of your disk space, the Vagrant base box eats around 3GB of your hard drive and the VirtualBox VM with SQL Server installed along with its dependencies will take around 9 GB of your disk (which is A LOT when compared to Linux VMs / LXC containers)


  • Vagrant 1.6+ (tested on 1.6.3)
  • VirtualBox 4.3+ (tested on 4.3.16 on an Ubuntu host)
  • Around 12GB of disk space (3GB for base box + ~9GB for the VM)

Base box information

  • Configured with 2 CPU and 2 GB memory by default.
  • No updates or services packs applied
  • The box is not activated. It has been created for testing and evaluation purposes only. Use of this machine for greater than 30 days will require a full license either via MSDN or your local Microsoft Reseller.
  • The box has been created with packer.io using the templates made available here.

More information can be found on the box page at Vagrant Cloud.


It wasn't the first time I had to set up a Windows VM with SQL Server but it was the first time I had to do it from the command line. The process is very straightforward and it involves:

  1. Downloading SQL Server Express with Management Studio installer from Microsoft
  2. Installing the .NET Framework
  3. Installing SQL Server and enabling TCP connections so we can connect to it from outside the VM (otherwise we'll only be able to connect to it from within the VM with Windows credentials)
  4. Whitelisting SQL Server port on the Windows firewall (I chose to just disable it since it is not a production server)
  5. Creating a VirtualBox private network with the VM or the connection to the DB won't work (I can't remember why we need to do this but I got this from a blog post I found somewhere that I failed to keep track of the URL)
  6. :beers: :beers: :beers: :beers: :beers: :beers: :beers: :beers:

When it comes to using a Windows VM with Vagrant, we also want to enable remote desktop connections as it seems to be the primary method for performing administrative tasks on Windows.

I've automated all of that apart from the downloading the installer (and the :beers: of course :P) and the code can be found on GitHub so you are almost a git clone and a vagrant up away from having a SQL Server instance at your disposal. What follows is some information on how I automated that process and instructions on connecting to the SQL Server from Ruby apps.

Please keep in mind that the process of creating the Vagrant VM from scratch after downloading the base box and setting things up will take a while (around 15 minutes on my machine), so go grab a coffee when you vagrant up for the first time :smirk:

Downloading SQL Server Express installer

This is currently the only manual step involved on the process, there was enough experimenting in place already for me to figure out how to download a file using PowerShell. Since you are likely to be on a Linux / Mac machine, you can easily download it using wget or curl.

From the vagrant-mssql-express project root, run the following command to download the installer:

1 wget http://download.microsoft.com/download/0/4/B/04BE03CD-EAF3-4797-9D8D-2E08E316C998/SQLEXPRWT_x64_ENU.exe

Given that everything under the directory where your Vagrantfile is located gets automagically shared with the VM by default, this should be enough to continue with the provisioning process.

Installing the .NET Framework

This is an easy one for Windows servers, we can just import the ServerManager PowerShell module and add the Windows feature as outlined below:

1 # http://stackoverflow.com/a/9949105
2 $ErrorActionPreference = "Stop"
4 import-module servermanager
5 echo "Installing .NET Framework"
6 add-windowsfeature as-net-framework

.NET is not really required to run the SQL Server, but it is needed for the Management Studio so that you can manage the server instance.

Installing SQL Server and disabling the firewall

Given that you've downloaded the installer into the vagrant-mssql-express dir root, the installer will be available from C:\vagrant from within the VM. To install it I chose not to use PowerShell because the installer spawns a new process and provisioning would continue without waiting for the installation to complete.

To speed up the provisioning process I also added the code to disable the Windows Firewall on the same script as I had trouble disabling it with PowerShell too:

 1 @echo off
 3 echo Installing SQL Server 2008 Express R2, it will take a while...
 4 C:\vagrant\SQLEXPRWT_x64_ENU.exe /Q
 5                                  /Action=install
 6                                  /INDICATEPROGRESS
 7                                  /INSTANCENAME="SQLEXPRESS"
 8                                  /INSTANCEID="SQLExpress"
 9                                  /IAcceptSQLServerLicenseTerms
10                                  /FEATURES=SQL,Tools
11                                  /TCPENABLED=1
12                                  /SECURITYMODE="SQL"
13                                  /SAPWD="#SAPassword!"
14 echo Done!
16 echo Disabling firewall
17 netsh advfirewall set allprofiles state off

Line breaks were added for readability, I'm not sure how Windows will handle that so make sure you get the snippet in a single line if you are doing the process manually and trying things out by hand

That will install SQL Server 2008 Express and will set up the sa user password to #SAPassword!. More information about the parameters that can be passed on to the installer can be found here.

Enabling connections to the default SQL Server TCP port

By default, the SQL Server instance will not expose the default TCP port to the outer world and it will configure some random port, meaning we'd need to open up the SQL Server settings to find out what port we should connect to.

The PowerShell script below will do the magic to make it allow connections on the 1433 port:

 1 # http://stackoverflow.com/a/9949105
 2 $ErrorActionPreference = "Stop"
 4 echo "Configuring TCP port"
 6 # http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd206997(v=sql.105).aspx
 7 # Load assemblies
 8 [reflection.assembly]::LoadWithPartialName("Microsoft.SqlServer.Smo")
 9 [reflection.assembly]::LoadWithPartialName("Microsoft.SqlServer.SqlWmiManagement")
11 # http://www.dbi-services.com/index.php/blog/entry/sql-server-2012-configuring-your-tcp-port-via-powershell
12 # Set the port
13 $smo = 'Microsoft.SqlServer.Management.Smo.'
14 $wmi = new-object ($smo + 'Wmi.ManagedComputer')
15 $uri = "ManagedComputer[@Name='WIN-2008R2-STD']/ ServerInstance[@Name='SQLEXPRESS']/ServerProtocol[@Name='Tcp']"
16 $Tcp = $wmi.GetSmoObject($uri)
17 $wmi.GetSmoObject($uri + "/IPAddress[@Name='IPAll']").IPAddressProperties[1].Value="1433"
18 $Tcp.alter()
20 echo "DONE!"
22 echo "Restarting service..."
23 # Restart service so that configurations are applied
24 restart-service -f "SQL Server (SQLEXPRESS)"
25 echo "DONE!"

Configuring a VirtualBox private network

That is handled by Vagrant itself and is a matter of adding the following line to our Vagrantfile:

2 Vagrant.configure(VAGRANTFILE_API_VERSION) do |config|
3   # ... other settings go here ...
4   config.vm.network "private_network", ip: ""
5 end

If the ip collides with another machine on your network, you can change it to another IP on the private adress space.

Enabling Remote Desktop connections

Last but not least, we allow remote desktop connections with the following PowerShell script:

1 # http://stackoverflow.com/a/9949105
2 $ErrorActionPreference = "Stop"
4 # http://networkerslog.blogspot.com.br/2013/09/how-to-enable-remote-desktop-remotely.html
5 set-ItemProperty -Path 'HKLM:\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server'-name "fDenyTSConnections" -Value 0

Testing the SQL server installation

Given that you have the Remote Desktop client installed on your host (apt-get install rdesktop on Ubuntu) and that all went well with the Vagrant provisioning process, you can vagrant rdp, log in using vagrant as the username and password and fire up the SQL Server Management Studio. From there you can create databases, tables and even connect to remote servers if you need.


Connecting to the SQL Server from an Ubuntu / Mac OS host requires us to install freetds. If you are on Ubuntu just apt-get install freetds-* and if you are on a Mac brew install freetds

On the GitHub project I created, you'll find a Sinatra app that you can use to test the connection with the SQL Server host.


Please note that the ActiveRecord DB adapter can't handle the rake db:create task when using MSSQL databases, so you'll need to manually create that using a Remote Desktop connection and the SQL Server Management Studio.

That's it!

After spending so much time configuring Linux machines over the past couple years it was a fun experience to learn some Windows "magic". I hope you enjoyed reading this post and that it can save you some time on the future in case you need to interact with SQL Server from a Linux / Mac machine like us :smiley:


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