[How To] Virtualize with Hyper-V in Windows 8. No extra software needed!

Windows 8 has brought us many features – there’s no doubt about it. Some of them are straightforward and some obscure. One such feature is Hyper-V. Hyper-V is built right into the Windows 8 Pro to satisfy all your virtualization needs. Here is

What is virtualization?

Simply put, virtualization creating virtual hardware and running operating system on this virtual hardware. This proves useful in many cases. Let us say you have a high power rig running Windows 8. You always install updates and you update your programs regularly. Still, there is always that one program which hasn’t seen updates in decades and the developer says that it would run only on Windows XP. Now you’re stuck. Though, compatibility mode solves some issues, it is not the ideal solution in many cases. Virtual machine solves the problem. Create virtual computer, install a copy of Windows XP and you are free to run those old programs. (Plus you can play classic arcade games like Dangerous Dave on DOS!) There are other professional scenarios like app testing, performance testing, etc. where virtual hardware computing proves to be useful.

What is Hyper-V?

Commonly mispronounced as Hyper-5, Hyper-V stands for hypervisor. Hyper-V is Microsoft’s virtualization solution which ran Windows servers. The software giant has now brought this powerful technology to Windows 8 Pro. As this technology was developed primarily targeting the servers, it is rock solid, powerful and offers professional level features like scalability and resource management.

So, how do I make use of it?

Well, as mentioned earlier, you may still have apps which require Windows XP to run. While games and resource heavy programs won’t work satisfactorily on virtualized hardware, small utilities and tiny arcade games should just go fine. Moreover, you can also install another copy of Windows 8 on virtual machine. This way, if you are not sure about the authenticity of any program you downloaded and you want to test it before installing it on real machine, install and test it on the virtual machine.

Okay, I’m convinced. Let’s get started already!

I will try to keep this guide as user friendly as possible. Deep technical details won’t be dealt with. If you are interested in knowing more, please refer to the technical documentation by Microsoft. Let’s get started. For this guide, we are going to install Windows XP on a virtual machine.

Prepare your PC

You will first need to enable Hyper-V. It is disabled by default. Start typing ‘Windows features’ on the start screen. Under settings, you should see a menu ‘Turn Windows features on or off’ – select this menu. There you need to enable Hyper-V by checking the checkbox beside the node called ‘Hyper-V’. Enable all the features inside that node and hit okay button. A restart will be required. Please note that all computers won’t support. New computers with Intel’s i3, i5 or i7 should work out of box. You may have to enable virtualization from the BIOS menu. It is out of scope of this article.

Enable Hyper-V
Enable Hyper-V

Once your computer has done restarting, Hyper-V should be enabled and you should see two new menus added to your start screen viz. Hyper-V Manager and Hyper-V Virtual Machine Connection. You have enabled Hyper-V successfully.

Create virtual machine

In this step, we will create a virtual hardware on which our Windows XP will run. Start Hyper-V Manager from the start screen. The layout might seem intimidating at first. Don’t worry, we’ll just be fine.

Go to Actions>New>Virtual Machine. This will start wizard to create new virtual machine. The wizard gives your two options: either create virtual machine with default settings or create one with custom settings. As we want to know the details, we will choose second option and press ‘Next’ button.

On this screen you can choose a name and location for your virtual machine. Remember, virtual machine is just a bunch of files. These files will be created in the location you specify. Make sure you have enough space in the selected location as virtual machines can take a lot of hard disk space. Once you’re done, hit next.

Choose name and location
Choose name and location

On this page, you can choose how much RAM the virtual machine will have. More is better, but as we are going to install Windows XP later, 1 GB (1024 MB) RAM should be enough. After you have assigned enough memory hit next.

Next screen is about connections. You can leave this setting to the default if you don’t need internet access on the virtual machine. If you would like to connect the virtual machine to the internet, choose appropriate connection from the list. External connections are the ones who connect to internet. Again, this is complicated area. If you want to know more about virtual connections, refer the documentation. Press next.

Your virtual machine would require hard disk to store files, right? The beauty of virtualization is that even the hard disk is virtual! This screen gives you option to create a new virtual hard disk. We probably need to create one now. Give appropriate name and location for the new hard disk. 10 GB of space should be enough for Windows XP. Once you’re done, hit next.

Assign RAM
Attach Hard Disk

On next screen let the default setting be selected, i.e., ‘Install and operating system later’. We will install XP later. Hit next. This screen shows you the summery of your settings. Verify that everything is correct and click finish button!

Finished Virtual Machine
Finished Virtual Machine

Installing operating system

Now, you would see your new virtual machine added to the list of Virtual Machines. Right click on the name and click ‘settings’. Here you can tweak all the settings of your virtual machine. You can manage processors, add or remove hard drives etc. What we want to do is to change boot order. Click on BIOS in left pane. On right pane select ‘CD’ and move it to the top of list.

Change boot order
Change boot order

Now, again on left pane, select the DVD drive. This is virtual DVD drive attached to virtual machine. We are going to insert a virtual Windows XP install disc in this drive. Click on browse button and provide an ISO image of Windows XP install disc. Click ‘Ok’ and you are done.

Provide ISO File
Provide ISO File

Again, right click on the name of the virtual machine and click ‘connect’. You would get a message that the system is turned off. Press the start button from toolbar to start the computer. This powers on your virtual machine just like a real computer! The virtual computer would boot form the CD you provided and start the installation process. Go through the installation process as usual. Once, installation is complete, you are free to use your newly created virtual machine for whatever you want.

Start the machine
Start the machine

What next?

Well, in last few steps, we have created a virtual machine, attached virtual hard disk and DVD drive to it and installed an operating system. What else you do now? Go ahead and play with the new machine! Try to put it in full screen mode and experience Windows XP as if it is installed on real machine. Possibilities are endless.

Prefer some other virtualization program? Let us know via comments.

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