Run multiple operating systems on one computer simultaneously with Microsoft Virtual PC.
Have you ever wanted to try something on your computer without the risk of damaging it? Maybe you wanted to install a free software package but you weren’t sure what other “baggage” came with it, or maybe you wanted to tweak a few settings but you didn’t want to risk breaking anything, or maybe you wanted to try out a new operating system before you install it on your computer.
This guide introduces you to Microsoft Virtual PC and shows you how to install and configure it. Microsoft Virtual PC lets you run a virtual computer simultaneously with your existing operating system on your computer.
You can use the virtual PC as a dummy computer to test software, and settings. It’s also great for students learning about Microsoft products by running servers virtually and practicing what they’ve learned.
Running a virtual PC will use a substantial amount of system resources. Keep in mind that you are virtually running two computers at the same time with one computer’s hardware. Here are my hardware recommendations.
- You need to be running Windows XP or higher to use Microsoft Virtual PC.
- In my experience with Microsoft Virtual PC a computer with at least a dual core processor, 2 Gigs of RAM, and plenty of extra hard drive space works best. RAM is very important. 3 or 4 Gigs would do even better.
For in-depth hardware requirements visit Microsoft.
Install Microsoft Virtual PC
- Download Microsoft Virtual PC.
- Run the setup file you’ve downloaded and install it just like any other program. Click Next, agree to their terms and let it do its thing.
Create a Virtual Machine
Before you can start using Microsoft Virtual PC you have to create a virtual machine to run the operating system on. Here’s how it’s done.
- Click the Start button, All Programs, and then click Microsoft Virtual PC.
- Since you haven’t created any virtual machines yet the new virtual machine wizard will open automatically.
- Leave Create a virtual machine selected and click Next.
- Give your new virtual machine a name. If you don’t want the virtual machine saved in its default location (C:\UserAccount\Documents\My Virtual Machines) you can change its location by clicking Browse. Click Next.
Note: Some people save their virtual machines on separate hard drives or USB/FireWire hard drives to save space.
- Select the operating system you’re planning to install. You can install most versions of Windows (including servers) and OS/2. Click Next.
- Set how much RAM you want this virtual machine to use. The default minimum amount is selected by default. You can select adjust the RAM to use more or less. Click Next.
Note: The amount of RAM you allocate for this virtual machine will be reserved exclusively for the virtual machine while it’s running.
- Since you haven’t created a virtual hard disk yet, select A new virtual hard disk and then click Next.
- Set the size of the new virtual hard disk next to virtual hard disk size in MB. 1GB = 1024MB. In my example I set it to 40000 MB which is roughly 40GB. Click Next.
- Review your settings and then click Finish.
Configure Your Virtual Machine
Before you fire up the new virtual machine for the first time lets configure a few settings to make it more useful.
- Open the Virtual PC Console if it’s not already open (Start, All Programs, Microsoft Virtual PC).
- Select the virtual PC you want to change settings for and then click Settings.
- Select Networking on the left and then change adapter 1 to NAT. This will give the virtual machine network access.
- Click OK to save the changes.
Install the Operating System
Your new virtual machine should be ready to go. Now you can install an operating system on it.
- Insert the operating system CD/DVD/Floppy disk.
- Select the virtual PC in the Virtual PC Console and then click Start to boot the virtual PC up.
- Install the OS just like you would on a normal computer.
Note: If you have trouble booting to the operating system CD/DVD click CD in the virtual machine window and select Use Physical Drive D:. The drive letter may vary. After that click Action and then select Reset to restart the virtual machine.
Note: Once you click in the virtual machine and use its mouse you have to press Ctrl + Alt on the right side of your keyboard to release it from the virtual machine. Once you install the Virtual Machine Additions (explained below) you won’t have to do this.
Once you’ve installed the operating system you need to install the Virtual Machine Additions. They are drivers that help make the virtual machine run better.
- Click Action, Install or Update Virtual Machine Additions.
- Click Continue.
- Click Run Setup.exe when the auto play window appears.
- Install the Virtual Machine Additions just like any other software.
- Restart the virtual machine once the additions have been installed.
Still need help? Ask your computer question now.