How to Create a Virtual PC on Windows 7


Click here to find out more!You're not supposed to be able to get XP Mode
without the right version of Win7, but if
you have a valid XP license, it works just fine.
Here's step-by-step instructions on
how to do it, plus tips for a safe, hassle-free install


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 of its most talked-about features is

a version of XP built right in to some editions,

so it can run in native mode on a virtual machine

all those applications that never made

the leap compatibility with Windows Vista.

Except XP Mode doesn't come

automatically; you have to install it.

And it doesn't come with

all editions of Windows 7.

[ For timely virtualization news and

expert advice on strategy, see

CIO.com's Virtualization Drilldown section. ]

Users running Professional, Ultimate or Enterprise

have to download both XP Mode and Virtual PC,

on which it runs. Those with Home Premium or

Starter are stuck; Virtual PC not only doesn't come

with those editions, Microsoft theoretically

doesn't allow Virtual PC to even run

on anything but Vista, XP or the three

more exalted editions of Windows 7.

That's not to say Virtual PC doesn't run there,

anyway, however. And, fortunately,

the installation procedure is the same

for Virtual PC whether you're licensed

for XP Mode or not.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft's new

Windows 7 operating system -- including

hands-on reviews, video tutorials and

advice on enterprise rollouts-- see

CIO.com's Windows 7 Bible. ]

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. Intel Processor Identification

Utility; AMD Virtualization and Hyper-V compatibility 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 the OS from a CD or ISO file, make sure

the window surrounding the VM — the actual VM,

which looks at this point like a DOS window,

not the console you used to set

the configuration — is the active window

on your machine. Then either insert the CD into the drive

or drag your ISO file onto the CD icon in

the Virtual PC command window. If you're loading

the OS from a CD, go to the menu bar

of the VM window, click on CD and tell it

to capture the physical CD drive.

My VM didn't like 64-bit versions of either

Windows 7 or Vista, but was fine with

a 32-bit version of XP Home Edition. The install takes

about as long as it would on a normal hard drive,

but instead of asking what partition of

your hard drive it should live in, it shows

only unpartitioned space on the virtual hard drive

you've already set up.

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 anything interesting

you have to install a set of add-ons that allow

Virtual PC to do things like share folders, share

the clipboard and drag-and-drop things

between the VM window and the host OS.

You have to install them separately,

using 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. It will pop up

a window asking you to confirm,

and then disappear as if you were kidding.

To actually run the installer — which the VM

believes is either a CD or an ISO file — go to

the Start button, then choose Run and navigate

to what would normally be the CD drive,

where you'll find the Additions ISO. Open

the folder appropriate to your host OS and

run the application inside. Then reboot the VM.

Step 6: Load Applications

Like most things virtual, loading applications or

accessing data on the host machine is like

walking across a transparent bridge.

Once you know it's there, it's simple; until

you do, you're stuck.

The bridge in this case is the Shared Folder.

Just as with two physically separate machines,

you can exchange data or applications through

a Shared Folder that both have permission to use.

Create one from the VM window. Click on Edit

in the menu bar, pull down to Settings and look

for the Shared Folders icon toward the bottom.

Choose it, navigate to a folder on the host machine

that you can use to move documents or

application setup files between

your real and virtual machines, and 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 anti-virus
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,

author of PC Annoyances, and

former columnist for PC World.

  • 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 if 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 license.
  • And if you want to connect a
  •  cloned OS to a domain, you have to use
  • a tool like SysReq software distribution utility.

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Sent from Kigali, Rwanda

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