Installation of Windows 8 on Virtual PC

People may not be aware that they can run and use Windows 8 on Virtual PC. In fact, an operating system (OS) comes in as many different shapes and sizes as the people who develop and use it. For most of us, working in a Windows 7 or older OS is standard. Why bother learning something entirely different from what we’re used to? The OS we’re used to, after all, gets the job done. However, if you think about the myriad of features offered by other operating systems, then checking out other systems might lead to a better understanding of the possibilities for personal computers. Utilizing more than one OS offers users the chance to work with new, sometimes better components thereby unlocking their computer’s full potential.

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You might not realize it, but your computer’s hard drive can be formatted to allow many different partitions when it’s booted. This means you can access the OS through one computer instead of installing and using an individual OS per computer, thereby allowing you to run Windows 8 on Virtual PC. If you’re unaccustomed to fiddling with the hard disk, though, this can seem daunting. Don’t worry. There’s an easier option for doing this that eliminates the need to manipulate the hard disk on a boot level, which means you won’t have to choose the OS without the need for rebooting each time.

This easier method is labeled “virtualization.” Its basic purpose is to develop a software version of your computer’s hardware, for example, in order to run Windows 8 on Virtual PC. Once you have this version set up, all you have to do is execute a “guest” OS using that software version. This guest OS has nothing to do with your computer’s host OS, meaning they work independently of each other. However, you can switch back and forth between the guest and host, and certain virtualization software offers the ability to swap files between the two operating systems.

The caveat for this method is that virtualization software does not mirror the processor, so the guest OS has to utilize whatever processor the main OS is using. For PC users, Linux or Windows must correlate to other versions of the same processor. Technically, this should also work within the confines of Mac operating systems, but problems with licensing usually means it’s best to avoid running Mac OS inside of Windows using
virtualization and instead go with something more compatible like running Windows 8 on Virtual PC.

Running Windows 8 on Virtual PC

Before beginning, visit VirtualBox (www.virtualbox.org) and install the Oracle VM VirtualBox on your computer. It’s a free program and the one we’ll be using in this demonstration, so go ahead and download it before we get started. For this demonstration, we will run the trial version of Windows 8 on Virtual PC. Microsoft’s website allows a 90-day trial of the OS, which means downloading this verson won’t affect any current OS installations, and when the trial ends, you can simply upgrade or use your original OS without messing with the virtual install.

1. Run the newly installed VM VirtualBox. You’ll notice, per the initial text, that the left side of the screen is blank. This is where your virtual computer(s) will appear when you run Windows 8 on Virtual PC, but right now since you haven’t set anything up, it’s blank. Once you click the “New” icon, a “Create Virtual Machine” box will pop up. Type in “Windows 8″ into the box. The Version and Type will update automatically. Clicking on the image below the box will increase its size.

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2. Click “Next.” The box will ask you how much memory you want to assign to the new virtual computer. It’s best to choose the default amount. Just click “Next.”

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3. The next box asks about the virtual computer’s hard drive. It’s best to continue with the default setting, since you don’t want to risk messing anything up during installation. You’ll click “Create” to accept the default settings.

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4. The next box will ask about file formatting, and again, we recommend the default setting of VDI. Click “Next.”

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5. Next, the program will ask if you want to let the virtual hard drive expand as it’s used. We again recommend that you accept the default setting and click “Next.”

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6. Choose a name for the hard drive of your virtual computer. Then, to consent to the hard drive default of 25GB, click “Create.”

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7. On the left side of the main window, your newly created virtual computer will appear as “Windows 8,” thus proving that you have, in fact established a virtual machine. Details appear on the right. The virtual computer is automatically set to “Powered Off.” Just click green arrow (“Start” icon) above to activate it. Clicking on the image below the box will increase its size.

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8. Your virtual computer screen will now appear. In the event that additional information boxes or error messages appear, simply click “OK.” The new virtual machine lacks an operating system because you haven’t installed one yet. You will be asked to choose from where the virtual computer boots. Remember that Windows 8 trial? We’ll use the disk image of that to boot the virtual computer. Clicking on the image below the box will increase its size.

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9. Next to “Host Drive E:” (right), there is a folder icon. Find the Windows 8 trial file, click it, and then click “Open.” In the dialog box asking for you to select the start-up disk, click “Start.” If you receive any error messages or other boxes that appear, usually you can just keep clicking “OK.” It’s all standard information.

10. Windows 8 should now start running, and like with other normal installations, just continue checking the appropriate boxes and accepting the defaults. If you’re in the United Kingdom, for example, just select the right boxes for time, date and currency. The presets should correspond to your individual country requirements.

11. While Windows 8 is installing, one of the questions is whether you want to choose a “Custom” installation or upgrade a current installation. Since the virtual computer has no preexisting OS, “Custom” will be your only choice. Once this has been chosen, the “Installing Windows” message will appear. If you have other business to attend to, go ahead. You might be here for a while.

12. Many ions later, after all is said and done and Windows 8 has finally installed, you should see the familiar start screen. You can now experiment with Windows 8 just as if it were being operated on a physical computer instead of your newly created virtual machine.

13. After you’ve finished, close the VM VirtualBox by clicking “Close” from the machine’s main menu. Your virtual computer will now be closed like any other computer. This also should save all of your presets and work for the next time you run Windows 8 on Virtual PC.

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About Mosh

Mosh is a software engineer mainly focusing on Windows and .NET platform. He's always on the lookout for the best software and cool new ways of achieving things.
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