Microsoft Virtual PC is one of the top contenders in a growing line of Virtual Machine utilities. The latest version, called Microsoft Virtual PC 2007, allows users to conveniently run multiple operating systems on a single computer. Users can switch operating systems as easily as they switch applications instantly, with a mouse click. Because each virtual machine acts like a standalone computer, each VM can has its own sound card, video, hard disk(s), network card(s) and its own processor.
Since each VM runs its own operating system, users can install and run most x86 operating systems. Microsoft fully supports the following operating systems running in a virtual machine on Virtual PC: Windows Vista Enterprise, Windows Vista Business, Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows 98, Windows Me, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP and OS/2, but users can also install Windows 2000/2003 Server systems, Linux builds and other operating systems. The operating system that runs on the physical computer is called the host operating system and the operating systems that run on virtual machines are called guest operating systems.
You can download Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 for free from the following link: Download details – Virtual PC 2007
Note that besides Virtual PC, Microsoft also offers a more robust product called Virtual Server 2005 R2. We will deal with that product in a later article. The main purpose of Virtual PC is to allow the user to run multiple guest machines on one real host machine. So in that case, let’s prepare to create a new virtual machine.
Virtual PC hardware considerations
Disk – The first step in creating a new VM is to figure out what we want to do and where we want to do it. You need to make sure that the computer you plan to use meets or exceeds the minimum requirements for Virtual PC. This is not hard to accomplish, but you must remember that each guest operating system that you plan to install and use requires a lot of disk space, depending on the type of operating system you plan to install. For example, a basic VM installation of Windows XP (without any Office application or similar) requires a minimum of 2GB for the system partition, and that will quickly fill up. Windows Vista installations require a minimum of 15GB for the system partition. Windows Server 2003 requires 2GB for the system partition, but that’ll fill up the moment you install services like Active Directory and others. So plan accordingly.
Memory – Another prominent consideration when running VMs is their memory usage. The host computer must have at least enough memory to cover the requirements of the operating system running on the host computer, in addition to all operating systems you plan to run simultaneously on virtual machines. To determine the recommended physical memory and disk requirements for a sample of Virtual PC guest operating systems look at the following table:
|Guest Operating System||Memory||Hard-Disk Space|
|Windows 98 Second Edition||64 MB||500 MB|
|Windows 2000 Professional||128 MB||2 GB|
|Windows XP Professional||256 MB||2 GB|
|Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Ed.||256 MB||4 GB|
|Windows Vista Ultimate||512 MB||15 GB|
Just add the requirement for the host operating system that you’ll be using to the requirement for the guest operating system that you’ll be using. If you’ll be using multiple guest operating systems, then you need to add the total the requirements for all the guest operating systems that you need to run simultaneously. For example:
- Users will run Windows 98 SE and Windows 2000 Pro as guest operating systems concurrently on Windows Vista Business. The minimum memory requirement is then 512 MB + 64 MB + 128 MB = 704 MB.
- Users will run Windows XP Pro as a guest operating system on Windows Vista Ultimate. The minimum requirements is then 512 MB + 256 MB = 768 MB.
The above table has only the basic numbers. Remember that the more RAM you have the more you will be able to allocate to your guest machines, and the more guest machines you will be able to run simultaneously.
CPU – Microsoft Virtual PC requires a computer with a 32-bit CPU or 64-bit CPU. You can run Virtual PC on a multi-processor computer, but it uses only one processor. The rule of thumb is that the faster the CPU is, the better your computer will handle the extra load of running many VMs at the same time.
Note: The Microsoft Virtual Server program will allow you to configure how much CPU load you want to allow for each VM. This is not possible with Virtual PC.
Creating a virtual machine in Microsoft Virtual PC
After figuring out how much system resources you need on your computer and how many to allocate to the gust machine you will now create the VM.
- Open Virtual PC and click on New.
- In the New Virtual Machine Wizard click Create a Virtual Machine.
- In the Virtual Machine Name and Location click to browse to point to the location where you want to place your new VM. Note that the best location for the VM is on a separate disk and NOT on the same physical disk as your host operating system. If you do not have a separate hard disk in your computer you might consider using a USB 2.0 external hard disk.
- In the Operating System window select your required guest operating system. Note the large list of Microsoft-based operating systems. If you plan to install a non-Microsoft OS then choose “Other”.
- In the Memory window note that Virtual PC tries its best to determine the recommended amount of RAM to allocate to the new guest VM based upon your selection in the previous step. You can manually change that setting.
- In the Virtual Hard Disk Options window click to select A New Virtual Hard Disk. If you’ve already created the hard disk in a different manner (read my “Creating Differencing Disks with Microsoft Virtual PC” article for more info), then select An Existing Hard Disk.
- In the Virtual Hard Disk Location window browse to the location of the new hard disk, and give it a proper name. Try to be as specific as possible and try to place each VM in its own folder. You need to specify the size of the new virtual hard disk. Make sure you’ll have enough space on it to install whatever OS that you want, and also plan for any additional software or services. Note: Virtual PC uses dynamically expanding disks, meaning they start out as small .VHD files, but the VM itself “sees” them in their full size. As space is taken on the virtual hard disk by the VM, the size of the .VHD file increases.
- When you’re done click Finish. Your new VM is ready to boot.
Now continue to my “Installing a new OS on a new VM with Microsoft Virtual PC” article in order to learn how to install the required operating system on your new guest VM.
- Download MS Virtual PC 2007
- Installing a new OS on a new VM with Microsoft Virtual PC
- Creating Differencing Disks with Microsoft Virtual PC
- Manage Virtual Server Machines with VMRC Plus
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