Windows Virtual PC is a virtualization solution provided for free by Microsoft. You can use it to install and run in a virtual environment other operating systems such as Windows XP or Windows Vista, directly from your Windows 7. These virtual environment operating systems are called virtual machines and can be very useful in many scenarios. In this article I will share the following: what you can do with Windows Virtual PC, which operating systems are supported, what are the prerequisites for using it, where to find it and how to install it.
NOTE: If you want to install Windows XP Mode, you have to do it before installing Windows Virtual PC. Read this article to find out the prerequisites and the installation guide to Windows XP Mode.
Do I Need Windows Virtual PC?
There are two main reasons why you should install Windows Virtual PC:
Testing purposes - Using Windows Virtual PC you can install Windows 7, Vista, XP and any other operating systems like Linux distributions and MacOS, and use them as virtual environments for testing purposes. The list of all supported operating systems can be found in the next chapter.
Compatibility purposes - If you have to use old software with no support for Windows 7, you will need to use Virtual PC and a virtual operating system such as Windows XP, so that you can run & use them from your Windows 7 installation.
NOTE: You can't use Windows Virtual PC and a virtual operating system to install and play games.
What Operating Systems Work in Windows Virtual PC?
The list of supported operating systems is not very long and it includes different versions of Windows. You can find the most-up-to date list of supported versions on Wikipedia.
As a summary, Windows Virtual PC supports all versions of Windows 7 except the Starter edition, Windows Vista (Ultimate, Enterprise and Business) and Windows XP Professional.
All these operating systems have to be 32-bit only because Windows Virtual PC doesn't support 64-bit operating systems.
What Do I Need to Install Windows Virtual PC?
First, you need to make sure that your processing unit (CPU) has support for Virtualization. Virtualization, as the name implies, is a virtual simulation technique of a full hardware PC on which the user can install & run an operating system in isolation.
To see if your CPU has support for virtualization and if it is turned on in BIOS, download and install this Hardware-assisted virtualization (HAV) detection tool from Microsoft. Run the application, click on Yes at the UAC prompt and in the next window you will see if your CPU has support for virtualization or not. Also you have the option to send data to Microsoft or not. Select what you prefer and click on OK.
NOTE: This tool can correctly determine the following:
- if your AMD, Intel or VIA processor has virtualization support and if it is enabled in BIOS.
- if the operating system that you are using has support for Windows Virtual PC.
- if other BIOS settings are incompatible with Windows Virtual PC.
Other standard hardware requirements are:
- 1+ GHz processor (32 or 64-bit) - AMD or Intel hardware virtualization must be supported and enabled
- 1.25 GB memory required (2 GB recommended)
- 15 GB of hard disk space per virtual Windows environment recommended
You can install Windows Virtual PC on Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate, but keep in mind that, if your hardware doesn't support virtualization, you can't use Windows Virtual PC to create and run virtual machines.
How to Install Virtual PC
The first step to install Windows Virtual PC is to access this page. Scroll down until you see 'Step 3 - Select your edition of Windows 7 and desired language for installation'. Select from the drop-down menus the Windows 7 version that you have installed and the language you prefer.
Then click on the Download Windows Virtual PC button.
You will download a file called Windows6.1.-KB958559. When done, double click on it, then click on Yes when you are asked if you want to install the update.
Now read the license terms and click on 'I Accept'.
The installation will begin and it will require a restart when finished. Close all your open applications and documents and click on the 'Restart Now' button.
You can also restart later by clicking on Close. Just remember, that in order for Windows Virtual PC to work without problems, you will need to restart your PC before running it.
Where to Find Virtual PC
You can find the Virtual PC application in Start Menu -> All Programs -> Windows Virtual PC or can use the search box from the Start Menu: type 'virtual pc' and click on its shortcut.
Windows Virtual PC is a good addition to Windows 7, especially for people who need full compatibility for software applications. It's also easy to install, use and configure, but about all these we will write in a future article.
If you have used Windows Virtual PC with an unsupported OS share your experience with us in a comment. Also, don't hesitate to mention any tips and tricks about this tool.