Posted by: kurtsh | July 12, 2006

DOWNLOAD: Virtual PC 2004 is now available as a free download

Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 is now available for free… especially for testing Windows Vista within it.
For those of you who have never used a virtual machine emulation product like Virtual PC, Virtual PC installs like a normal application on your Windows XP Professional desktop.   What it allows you to do is simulate one or more new physical workstations "in memory" and install any x86 operating systems into them.
 
For example:  I could configure Virtual PC to create & emulate 3 new workstations in memory that are:
– tied together with Intel network adapters on the same virtual LAN segment
– running 256MB of memory
– running S3 video adapters
– using a CDROM drive (linked to my actual physical CDROM drive on my workstation)
 
Then I could install on each of the 3 ‘virtual workstations’ respectively:
– Windows XP Professional with IE 7.0
– Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise Edition
– Red Hat Linux 9.0
 
I would do this by putting the OS source disc into my local physical CDROM drive and have one virtual machine "boot" to the CDROM drive, install the OS, then change source discs, and on another virtual machine, boot to that new OS disc. etc. etc.  (You can also point to .ISO files to boot off of instead of a the local CDROM drive for faster installation performance)
 
After this, it is possible to run, simultaneously, all 3 operating systems, each in their own window on your Windows XP Professional desktop.  There’s a demo of all of this at:
 
Virtual Machines are very cool because they allow you to:
– Drag and drop files from your ‘real’ desktop to the window in which the virtualized OS is running
– Pause/freeze the virtual machine and put it in stasis
– Rewind time, and reset the virtual machine back to the point at which you started it at
 
This has the following VERY useful scenarios:
– EDUCATION:  You can train people on Virtual PCs and if they make mistakes, they can just rewind time.
– TESTING:  It is possible to test software installs on Virtual PCs to simulate how software will work on a given OS…  or Browser since you can have different virtual machines running different browser revisions
– ISOLATION:  You can run products in a virtual machine and not worry about it impacting your local workstation’s installation.
 

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