Many people like me want (or need) to do their business intelligence development work on a laptop. As someone who frequently speaks at various events or teaches classes on all subjects related to the Microsoft business intelligence stack, I need a way to run multiple server products on my laptop with reasonable performance. Once upon a time, that requirement meant only that I had to load the current version of SQL Server and the client tools of choice. In today’s post, I’ll review my latest experience with trying to make the newly released Microsoft BI products work with a Windows 7 operating system.

The entrance of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 into the BI stack complicated matters and I started using Virtual Server to establish a “suitable” environment. As part of the team that delivered a lot of education as part of the Yukon pre-launch activities (that would be SQL Server 2005 for the uninitiated), I was working with four – yes, four – virtual servers. That was a pretty brutal workload for a 2GB laptop, which worked if I was very, very careful. It could also be a finicky and unreliable configuration as I learned to my dismay at one TechEd session several years ago when I had to reboot a very carefully cached set of servers just minutes before my session started. Although it worked, it came back to life very, very slowly much to the displeasure of the audience. They couldn’t possibly have been less pleased than me.

At that moment, I resolved to get the beefiest environment I could afford and consolidate to a single virtual server. Enter the 4GB 64-bit laptop to preserve my sanity and my livelihood. Likewise, for SQL Server 2008, I managed to keep everything within a single virtual server and I could function reasonably well with this approach.

Now we have SQL Server 2008 R2 plus Office SharePoint Server 2010. That means a 64-bit operating system. Period. That means no more Virtual Server. That means I must use Hyper-V or another alternative. I’ve heard alternatives exist, but my few dabbles in this area did not yield positive results. It might have been just me having issues rather than any failure of those technologies to adequately support the requirements.

My first run at working with the new BI stack configuration was to set up a 64-bit 4GB laptop with a dual-boot to run Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V. However, I was generally not happy with running Windows Server 2008 R2 on my laptop. For one, I couldn’t put it into sleep mode, which is helpful if I want to prepare for a presentation beforehand and then walk to the podium without the need to hold my laptop in its open state along the way (my strategy at the TechEd session long, long ago). Secondly, it was finicky with projectors. I had issues from time to time and while I always eventually got it to work, I didn’t appreciate those nerve-wracking moments wondering whether this would be the time that it wouldn’t work.

Somewhere along the way, I learned that it was possible to load SharePoint 2010 in a Windows 7 which piqued my interest. I had just acquired a new laptop running Windows 7 64-bit, and thought surely running the BI stack natively on my laptop must be better than running Hyper-V. (I have not tried booting to Hyper-V VHD yet, but that’s on my list of things to try so the jury of one is still out on this approach.) Recently, I had to build up a server with the RTM versions of SQL Server 2008 R2 and Sharepoint Server 2010 and decided to follow suit on my Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit laptop. The process is slightly different, but I’m happy to report that it IS possible, although I had some fits and starts along the way.

DISCLAIMER 1: These products are NOT intended to be run in production mode on the Windows 7 operating system. The configuration described in this post is strictly for development or learning purposes and not supported by Microsoft. If you have trouble, you will NOT get help from them. I might be able to help, but I provide no guarantees of my ability or availablity to help.

DISCLAIMER 2: The instructions below apply only to an environment in which the Windows 7 client is joined to a domain. You must log into the client machine using a valid Windows user account for that domain. Thanks to Kevin who pointed out this requirement which I had neglected to mention in my initial post (Updated May 30, 2010).

I won’t provide the step-by-step instructions in this post as there are other resources that provide these details, but I will provide an overview of my approach, point you to the relevant resources, describe some of the problems I encountered, and explain how I addressed those problems to achieve my desired goal.

Because my goal was not simply to set up SharePoint Server 2010 on my laptop, but specifically PowerPivot for SharePoint, I started out by referring to the installation instructions at the PowerPiovt-Info site, but mainly to confirm that I was performing steps in the proper sequence. I didn’t perform the steps in Part 1 because those steps are applicable only to a server operating system which I am not running on my laptop. Then, the instructions in Part 2, won’t work exactly as written for the same reason. Instead, I followed the instructions on MSDN, Setting Up the Development Environment for SharePoint 2010 on Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008. In general, I found the following differences in installation steps from the steps at PowerPivot-Info:

  • You must copy the SharePoint installation media to the local drive so that you can edit the config.xml to allow installation on a Windows client.
  • You also have to manually install the prerequisites. The instructions provides links to each item that you must manually install and provides a command-line instruction to execute which enables required Windows features.

I will digress for a moment to save you some grief in the sequence of steps to perform. I discovered later that a missing step in the MSDN instructions is to install the November CTP Reporting Services add-in for SharePoint. When I went to test my SharePoint site (I believe I tested after I had a successful PowerPivot installation), I ran into the following error:

Could not load file or assembly ‘RSSharePointSoapProxy, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=89845dcd8080cc91’ or one of its dependencies. The system cannot find the file specified.

I was rather surprised that Reporting Services was required. Then I found an article by Alan le Marquand, Working Together: SQL Server 2008 R2 Reporting Services Integration in SharePoint 2010,that instructed readers to install the November add-in. My first reaction was, “Really?!?” But I confirmed it in another TechNet article on hardware and software requirements for SharePoint Server 2010. It doesn’t refer explicitly to the November CTP but following the link took me there. (Interestingly, I retested today and there’s no longer any reference to the November CTP. Here’s the link to download the latest and greatest Reporting Services Add-in for SharePoint Technologies 2010.) You don’t need to download the add-in anymore if you’re doing a regular server-based installation of SharePoint because it installs as part of the prerequisites automatically.

When it was time to start the installation of SharePoint, I deviated from the MSDN instructions and from the PowerPivot-Info instructions:

  • On the Choose the installation you want page of the installation wizard, I chose Server Farm.
  • On the Server Type page, I chose Complete.
  • At the end of the installation, I did not run the configuration wizard.

Returning to the PowerPivot-Info instructions, I tried to follow the instructions in Part 3 which describe installing SQL Server 2008 R2 with the PowerPivot option. These instructions tell you to choose the New Server option on the Setup Role page where you add PowerPivot for SharePoint. However, I ran into problems with this approach and got installation errors at the end.

It wasn’t until much later as I was investigating an error that I encountered Dave Wickert’s post that installing PowerPivot for SharePoint on Windows 7 is unsupported. Uh oh. But he did want to hear about it if anyone succeeded, so I decided to take the plunge. Perseverance paid off, and I can happily inform Dave that it does work so far. I haven’t tested absolutely everything with PowerPivot for SharePoint but have successfully deployed a workbook and viewed the PowerPivot Management Dashboard. I have not yet tested the data refresh feature, but I have installed. Continue reading to see how I accomplished my objective.

I unintalled SQL Server 2008 R2 and started again. I had different problems which I don’t recollect now. However, I uninstalled again and approached installation from a different angle and my next attempt succeeded. The downside of this approach is that you must do all of the things yourself that are done automatically when you install PowerPivot as a new server. Here are the steps that I followed:

  • Install SQL Server 2008 R2 to get a database engine instance installed.
  • Run the SharePoint configuration wizard to set up the SharePoint databases.
  • In Central Administration, create a Web application using classic mode authentication as per a TechNet article on PowerPivot Authentication and Authorization.
  • Then I followed the steps I found at How to: Install PowerPivot for SharePoint on an Existing SharePoint Server. Especially important to note – you must launch setup by using Run as administrator. I did not have to manually deploy the PowerPivot solution as the instructions specify, but it’s good to know about this step because it tells you where to look in Central Administration to confirm a successful deployment.

I did spot some incorrect steps in the instructions (at the time of this writing) in How To: Configure Stored Credentials for PowerPivot Data Refresh. Specifically, in the section entitled Step 1: Create a target application and set the credentials, both steps 10 and 12 are incorrect. They tell you to provide an actual Windows user name and password on the page where you are simply defining the prompts for your application in the Secure Store Service. To add the Windows user name and password that you want to associate with the application – after you have successfully created the target application – you select the target application and then click Set credentials in the ribbon.

Lastly, I followed the instructions at How to: Install Office Data Connectivity Components on a PowerPivot server. However, I have yet to test this in my current environment.

I did have several stops and starts throughout this process and edited those out to spare you from reading non-essential information. I believe the explanation I have provided here accurately reflect the steps I followed to produce a working configuration. If you follow these steps and get a different result, please let me know so that together we can work through the issue and correct these instructions. I’m sure there are many other folks in the Microsoft BI community that will appreciate the ability to set up the BI stack in a Windows 7 environment for development or learning purposes.