Windows 7 is already a big hit for Microsoft, according to market share tracker Net Applications, which shows it rising past all the extant versions of Linux and Windows except Vista and XP and into fourth place hot on the heels of the Mac OS X 10.5.
One his features were talking to a version of XP is built directly on some conditions, so that it is in native mode on a virtual machine applications never work with Windows Vista running the leap. Except XP mode does not automatically come install it. And there is work with all editions of Windows 7. Users, professional, ultimate or enterprise must download both XP mode and Virtual PC, it runs.
Those who are stuck Home Premium or Starter. Virtual PC not only with the spending Virtual PC still on anything but Vista come Microsoft theoretically not possible, running XP or three more sublime editions of Windows 7. That’s not to say Virtual PC not running in any case. And fortunately, the installation is the same for Virtual PC, whether you are for XP mode or not licensed.
I loaded and ran it on a laptop running 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium on an Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB of memory. Here’s how to get going:
Step 1: Check your Processor
Intel and AMD have both built hooks into their processors that allow the host and guest operating system (the virtual machine) to trade off tasks more smoothly. Virtual PC will work on chips that don’t have those hooks, but not well. Microsoft provides a free utility to check your processor. Intel and AMD have their own utilities as well, if you want to double check.
Once you know if the silicon supports it, check to see if your BIOS is set up to use those hooks. Chances are, for most desktops and laptops, it’s not. Microsoft offers instructions and links to specific manufacturers here.
Step 2: Download Virtual PC
Microsoft requirements call for a 400 MHz or above Pentium-compatible processor, 35 MB of disk space and Windows XP or Vista. There are 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Virtual PC cares about the difference. The newest version of Virtual PC supports USB peripherals and are supposed to be able to support 64-bit operating systems within the VM as well. Either way, get the right edition for your machine.
Step 3: Build your VM
Once you’ve downloaded the installation package, launch it and follow instructions. Then click the Start menu and find Virtual PC. It will launch a Wizard that offers the choice of opening an existing virtual PC, creating one with default settings or will walk you through the process of configuring one yourself. Pick the latter to do things like increasing the RAM available to the VM from the default of 128 MB to a gigabyte, or raise the default virtual hard disk size from 16 GB to something with enough room for an OS and any applications you want to run only within the VM. The whole process takes less time than it does to install most bits of freeware. But that’s only the configuration, not the VM itself.
Step 4: Launch and Provision
After configuration, the Virtual PC Console remains onscreen while Virtual PC runs in the background, taking up about 17 MB of memory just sitting there.
Clicking Start opens a command window in which Virtual PC uses DHCP to try to find itself an IP address. If you haven’t already provisioned an operating system image, it will think about things for a while, then tell you to go find a proper boot address.
To install of the operating system from a CD or ISO file, make sure the window to the VM (the actual VM, which looks at this point like a DOS window, not you uses console configuration) is the active window on your computer. Either the CD in the drive or drag the .ISO file to the CD icon in the Virtual PC command window. If you are loading the operating system from a CD, click on the menu bar of VM window, go to CD and say for the physical CD drive.
My VM like 64-bit versions of Windows 7 or Vista, but was a 32-bit version of XP Home Edition fine. The installation takes about as long as it on a normal hard disk, but instead of asking what partition of your hard disk should be in, it shows only unpartitioned space on the virtual disk you have chosen to live.
The install then proceeds normally, within one window of your PC rather than taking up the whole thing.
Warning: The VM doesn’t know it’s not the only computer on your computer. So when you click on anything in its window, will capture the cursor and not let it go again, which would be really embarrassing if anyone wandered in to see why you were cursing at your laptop.
To free your cursor, hit the right ALT key. If the VM is running in full screen mode, press right-ALT-ENTER.
After setup, walk through the configuration screen and type in a valid Windows key for the version of the OS you installed.
Step 5: Install Additions
Before you can do something interesting, have a number of addons, Virtual PC, to things like shared folders and share this clipboard and drag and drop things between the VM window and the host OS allow install. You must install them separately with the VM window, not the Virtual PC Console. Go to the menu bar of the VM and click action, then pull down to install or update virtual machine additions.
A window opens to confirm this and then disappear, as if you were a joke. To actually run the installation program that feels the VM, either a CD or ISO file, go to the “Start” button and then select “Run” and navigate you what normally to the CD drive, where you will find additions ISO. Open the folder corresponding to your host operating system and run inside the application. Start the VM.
Step 6: Load Applications
How virtual load applications or access data on the host machine is most things like walking through a transparent bridge. Once you know, there are, it’s easy. To you, you’re stuck. In this case, the bridge is the shared folder. Just like two physically separate machines, you can data or applications from a shared folder of both permission to use, share. Create one from the VM window.
Click “Edit” in the toolbar, pull down to settings and find symbol below the shared folders. Select it, navigate to a folder on the host computer, you can use to move documents or application setup files between your real and virtual machines, and then click OK.
The shared folder becomes a network drive for the VM. To launch applications, click on Start, Run, and browse to the “network drive” Z: , which retains the name of the folder itself. Then just launch the setup for the new application.
That’s it. You’re done. Well, almost.
Step 7: Stay Safe
Don’t forget to install all the security updates for the new OS and install whatever antivirus or other security software you have on the host OS. The VM has to route all its traffic through your (presumably) secured host OS, but that doesn’t mean a ZIP file or other potential threat won’t get through and launch on the VM.
A few more warnings and tips from Steve Bass of the useful and amusing TechBite newsletter.
* If you defrag your hard drive, exclude the humungous swap file the virtual PC creates (check Options in your defragger), or it will take forever to complete.
* Some virtual PC software, including VMWare’s, let you save multiple versions on your machine. Each can gobble gigabytes, however. Keep an eye on available disk space, especially on a notebook.
* Running Win7, XP and Linux on the same machine at the same time is cool, but unless your system is a monster, you’ll spend more time waiting than computing.
* Finished with XP Mode or your Virtual PC for now? Shut it down to free up system resources for the rest of your work.
And another couple of warnings, from Bob Arnson, who works for Microsoft on its App-V team, but blogs as his own geek.
* When you launch a VM it still needs an operating system and applications, which take time to set up the first time around. You can clone your main OS with tools such as Acronis True Image, but it still takes time to do the install. Once you have the image, though, taking one VM down and launching another is much faster than reinstalling an OS or application on real hardware.
* The VM isn’t a real machine, but it uses a real OS, for which you need a licence. And if you want to connect a cloned OS to a domain, you have to use a tool like SysReq software distribution utility.