In our previous articles, we discussed about Windows Virtual PC & Windows XP Mode and shown what these tools do, the prerequisites for using them and how to install them. I will continue this series by showing how to install a guest operating system in Windows Virtual PC. As you will see, the process is not very complicated, even if there are a few configuration options you should be aware of.
First, download & install Windows Virtual PC. For more information about this tool, check our guide called Windows Virtual PC - Prerequisites & Installation Guide.
Once Windows Virtual PC is installed, start the tool by going to Start Menu -> All Programs -> Windows Virtual PC -> Windows Virtual PC. Once you open the tool, click on the 'Create virtual machine' button highlighted below.
This will start the 'Create a virtual machine' wizard. First, you will need to enter the name of the virtual machine you are creating. One good tip is to use the name of the operating system you are about to install in this virtual machine. Next, you need to provide the location where the virtual machine will be stored. Click on Browse and select the folder where you want to save it. When done, click on Next.
TIP: it is recommended to save your virtual machine file on a partition separate from the 'C:' drive. Also, make sure the partition has plenty of space with a few gigabytes available.
Next, you need to specify the amount of RAM memory you want to reserve for this virtual machine each time you use it. By default, Windows Virtual PC books 512 MB of RAM. For improved performance, it is better to raise this limit up to 3582 MB. Generally, 1 - 1.5 GB of RAM will guarantee you really good performance for many virtual machines. You can also check an option which says 'Use computer network connections'. Checking this box will allow the virtual machine to access your network. If you want to keep it disconnected from your network, uncheck this option. When done, click on Next.
The 'Create a virtual machine' wizard will now ask you to add a virtual hard disk. Virtual hard disks provide storage for a virtual machine and they are saved as a file with the '.vhd' extension. Also, it is required to have at least one in order to install an operating system. Here you have three options:
- Create a dynamically expanding virtual hard disk - this option is the most flexible. It allows the virtual hard disk to grow in size as needed when used. If you choose this option, type the name of the '.vhd' file that will be created and then browse to the location where it will be stored. Ideally, you should choose the same location as in the first screen of the wizard.
- Use an existing virtual hard disk - this option can be used if you have an existing virtual hard disk you would like to use. When selecting it, click on Browse, navigate to the virtual hard disk you want to use, select it and click on OK.
- Create a virtual hard disk using advanced options - when choosing this option, you will see a new screen with additional explanation on the available choices.
You will see three new possible choices:
- Dynamically expanding - this option is identical with the first option (Create a dynamically expanding virtual hard disk) detailed above.
- Fixed size - it allows you to create a hard disk with a fixed size which doesn't change when you add or delete data to the image.
- Differencing - this option assumes the existence of a parent virtual hard disk. So, if you are starting from scratch and you have no virtual hard disks available, you can safely ignore it. When choosing it, it will create a separate disk in which it will store the modification to the parent hard disk. Compared to the Undo Disk feature, Differencing disks allow you to save changes associated with a parent disk, while the Undo Disk feature saves changes associated with a virtual machine and all disks assigned to it. The differencing disk will expand dynamically as data is written to it and can grow as large as the maximum size allocated for the parent disk when the parent disk was created.
When choosing any of these three options you will be asked for the location of the virtual hard disk and its maximum size. The third option will also ask for the location of the parent hard disk.
One last available option is 'Enable Undo Disks'. Checking this option will mean that Windows Virtual PC saves changes to the virtual machine's data and configuration in a separate undo disk file in case you want to reverse the changes. It will provide you with a way to decide whether to permanently modify a virtual machine and its disks each time you end the virtual machine session. When you enable Undo Disks, it applies to all virtual hard disks installed on the virtual machine. When done configuring the virtual hard disk settings, click on Create.
You will now see the Windows Virtual PC window and the newly created virtual image. Select it and click on Settings.
Now it's time to set the DVD drive you want to use, in order to install your operating system. From the list of settings, select DVD Drive. If you want to use a bootable ISO image, select 'Open an ISO image', click on Browse and select it. If you want to use a bootable DVD, select 'Access a physical drive' and then select the letter of the drive where you will insert the installation DVD. When done, click on OK
Insert the installation DVD (if any), select the virtual machine you just created and click on Open.
The virtual machine will start and boot from your DVD or ISO image. From here onwards, follow the installation procedure as if you were installing the guest operating system on a normal computer.