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Microsoft Virtual PC: Boon or Disaster?

Updated on November 4, 2012

Virtual Machine Project : Microsoft Virtual PC and Windows XP

Virtual machines are an invaluable tool to the computer savvy user and to technicians everywhere. Whether testing out potential operating systems, training employees on new operating systems or using them for compatibility purposes, virtual machines are used every day in businesses and homes around the globe. There are just as many virtual machine programs as there are uses for them, and some are better suited to certain situations. From my estimation, Microsoft Virtual PC is likely the most used virtual machine clients among home end users, which is why I chose to install MS Virtual PC 2007on my HP PC running Windows 7.

I decided to use Windows XP Professional as my virtual machine, mainly because I have valid licenses remaining for it, and I intend to keep it installed on my PC well after class is over. The process of creating and installing virtual machines is fairly simple, albeit time consuming. There are a few things that I learned along the way that I will use for future installations, whether they occur at home or in a professional environment.

The first step I undertook was ensuring my computer could handle the virtual machine software. After checking the official download page on Microsoft’s website, I had concerns the software may not run properly on Windows 7, as it was not listed as a compatible operating system on the site. I checked the processors and memory requirements, which my computer met, so I assumed that because Windows 7 is newer than the operating systems listed, functionality shouldn’t be an issue. I downloaded the file for a 32-bit (x86) system because my PC only has a 32-bit processor. The download was rather quick, and I opened the installer package with ease.

After determining a proper installation location, I waited as the program installed. Once installation was complete, I ran the software. I had previously used Virtual PC, so I began the process of setting up a new virtual machine. I began by changing the settings, first I named the virtual machine, in this case I named it XP, as that is the operating system I am using. The second setting I changed is the mouse settings, to allow pointer integration, so that rather than having to click in the window want the using right ALT to switch back to the host system, I can simply switch between the two. I also setup the close function to enable save state, shutdown and turn off options when I am ready to close Virtual PC, as well as the undo disks function, so I can revert to a previous state if necessary.

The next step I took was starting the new virtual machine. Before I started the machine I put the Windows XP setup disk into my internal CD/ DVD tray. Next I clicked on the start button, and when the machine popped up, I clicked on the CD drop down menu and selected the use physical drive option, and waited for the prompt to enter the windows setup utility. I do not use an unattended install disk, and I have not slip-streamed any programs in the setup, so I have service pack 3 on a separate disk. After waiting for an insane amount of time for the setup to download all of the installer packages and necessary drivers, I setup XP the way I usually do, with the exception of installing the Asian language compatibility package, because I do not foresee needing them on the virtual machine. I setup the internet connections and other features and I waited for XP to load.

Once XP loaded I swapped out the install disc for the service pack 3 disk and began the installation process all over again. After the required restart from the SP3 installation, I booted up XP yet again and turned on automatic updates, and began customizing the visual look of XP. I first downloaded an XP theme called Zune, and changed the background. Finally, I was done installing and setting up my virtual machine. The whole process took nearly two hours, which was very frustrating, especially since a normal clean XP install usually takes 45 minutes. I also now have the installation program for Virtual PC, which will make my life easier when going through the installation process at a future date.

In conclusion, I have more first-hand experience with the whole thing and have all of the required software, resources and knowledge to repeat the process with relative ease. I recommend learning to use virtual machines to anyone with a vested interest in computing. Overall, I can definitively say I know both the value and frustration of installing a virtual machine.

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