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MS Virtual PC - running a PC inside your PC

review from ClifNotes, Nov 2006, permalink _ Virtualization Software


What is a Virtual PC (or virtual machine)? Wikipedia says:


A virtual machine is an environment which appears to a "guest" operating system as hardware, but is simulated in a contained software environment by the host system. The simulation must be robust enough for hardware drivers in the guest system to work. source


I think a simple explanation is that it allows you to run a PC inside your PC. Click on the picture below to see Windows 98 running inside my Window XP laptop.


I think I may find it useful for trying out programs that I don't actually want to install on my real PC. I can make backups of the virtual PC so that if I really screw it up, I can use an old copy of it to restart it fresh as new.


A friend of mine wrote me last week and wanted to know if IMVU's chat client was safe to use. I already had a virtual PC setup, so I made a backup copy of it and then installed IMVU's chat program. I then ran spyware scans and an analysis of the installed files. Verdict? It was clean as far as I could tell. After I was done, I just deleted the current virtual hard drive and replaced it with my backup. Next time I booted, it appeared I had never been to IMVU or installed anything from them.


What other uses does it have? Tom at TeMerc forums told me that his friend Suzi uses VmWare to surf a virtual PC into really bad areas of the net to pick up new trojans and spyware. They then use the stuff they pick up to help them create removal procedures and tools to help people who get infected by accident. They are both MsMVP's so ... "Don't try this at home!".


Microsoft released Virtual PC as freeware some time ago. According to Microsoft, it runs on Windows XP Professional, Windows Server 2003 and Windows 2000 Professional. However, I'm using it on Windows XP Home Edition and it works great. It's an 18.2mb download, so be prepared for an overnighter on dial-up connections.


Be careful to make sure you have a valid license when you run a virtual PC. You'll be installing your virtual OS from an installation CD just like any other OS. A Microsoft OS will ask you for your product key. Most people have old copies of their Windows 95 and 98 disks around. Just make sure they aren't being used anywhere else on a real PC. On the other hand, many Linux OS's are free and will run on Virtual PC just as well as an MS operating system.


Have fun if you try it. Your Virtual PC's are stored in your "My Documents" folder under a "My Virtual Machines" folder. To back one up, just copy the machine's folder to another location.


Many thanks to a few of the readers here, who suggested that I try this one out. I've had fun with it.



Quote from the website

Virtual PC is a powerful software virtualization solution that allows you to run multiple PC-based operating systems simultaneously on one workstation, providing a safety net to maintain compatibility with legacy applications while you migrate to a new operating system. It also saves reconfiguration time, so your support, development, and training staff can work more efficiently.