How to set up a Windows 8 virtual machine

There are a number of options for getting your hands dirty with the new Windows 8.  Naeem has a great setup script for dual-booting, but I decided to try setting up a virtual machine.  I have a number of choices for the hypervisor:

To set up the VM in Virtual Box, click the New button from the toolbar.  In the wizard, choose a name for your VM and then choose WinXP x64 as the OS:

win8 pt1

On the next screen, make sure you give the VM more RAM than the miserable default of 192MB:

win8 pt2

Then you need to setup the details for a new virtual hard disk:

win8 pt3

The rest of the screens in wizard are pretty straightforward.  Once you have your VM setup, you need to connect it to the downloaded Windows 8 ISO.  You do this by opening the settings screen for the VM and clicking the CD icon (took me a while to work this step out):

win8 pt4

Then on the popup menu, click “Choose a virtual CD/DVD file” and browse to the ISO image for the Windows 8 developer preview.

win8 pt5

Now you are good to go!  Start your virtual machine and it will launch you straight into the Windows 8 installation process.  Hurray!

But what’s it like to use Windows 8 on a VM?

To be honest, it’s not the best experience out there.  Simple things like moving the mouse around are noticeably laggy … it’s unlikely to be my laptop since I’m on a Core i7 machine with 8GB RAM. Also, Windows 8 does not seem to get correctly informed of the screen resolution.  This results in the reserved 1 pixel strip being impossible to hit.  Boo!

These performances issues do not occur if you boot the OS on the machine directly, so I’m pretty sure it’s a consequence of the virtualisation.

Having said this, it’s better than nothing.  If dual boot or a dedicated machine are not options for you, then a VM will allow you to have a sandpit for playing with some of the new tech from Microsoft.  Enjoy!

September 16 2011
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