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Virtual PC (E)

Why virtualization?
There are a couple of reasons why this is interesting, from my personal view:
  • To standarize on PC setup in large organizations, using a virtual image of a PC could be a very interesting option from a cost perspective. In addition to cost, the flexibility of being totally independent of hardware standards and hardware lifecycle - it is all an amazing thought.
  • Obviously, if you are testing software using different computers (and different operative systems), using Virtual Mashines that can easily be "killed" and restarted when hanging/failing should make life easier for a tester.
  • If you want to combine running several Operative Systems on the same computer - at the same time (not as multiboot, but in different windows at the same time)
  • At home, maybe standarizing on a Virtual setup for you kids might make life easier for you, as you can revert to the previous (standard) setup when your kid has tampered with the system and you do not know what was done...only that the computer does not work as before.

Why not?
Well, if you want your maschine to run FASTER with Virtual Mashines, forget it! It does not run faster than the hosting PC!
The only "exception" to the above is if you are installing an OS in a VM that runs a "lighter" and faster OS than the hosting computer. Potentially you could run a Linux Virtual PC under Win XP and potentially have something running faster.

The options available
The Virtualization platforms available are mainly
  • VM Ware Various options. With VMware Server you can also potentially rund Virtual Computers through a webinterface (I have not tested this yet)
  • Virtual Box
  • Moka 5
  • Virtual PC From Microsoft. A good choice, if you want to virtualize Windows PCs.
The first three ones are the clear options if you want to virtualize

The requirements
  • RAM
You need some of it. Several of the Virtualization platforms warns you if you have less than 1 MB RAM. I started wit 512 kb, and confirm that it did not work! I upgraded to 1,5 MB, and it works. I would strongly recommend to run it on a box with 2 MB RAM.
  • Storage
You configure "virtual harddisks" for all the Virtualization systems. You decide yourselves how large you want your virtual disks to be. I initially set up 4 GB virtual disks with MS Virtual PC and than installed Windows XP Home. This worked fine.

Some of my experiences and hints to share
I have now spent some time fiddling around with the Virtual Mashines.

System of choice for biginners

Installation hints for Virtual PC
Installing Virtual PC system is easy and straight forward. You get the "control panel" to Create Mashines and Virtual Disks.
    • RAM
    You can change this later, but you have to decide how much RAM you want your Virtual Mashine to have. If you want a slow computer, accept the default. If you want more power, add more RAM - but be careful not to overload your host PC with allocating too much ram to your Virtual PCs...

    You can easily change the RAM allocation later at any time, when your Virtual PC is not running.
    • Performance
    Under File - Options in the Control panel of Virtual PC, you can also decide how much processing power you want to allocate to active and passive windows of Virtual PCs.
    • Virtual harddisks
    Hint: The hint is that a new Virtual Disk is just like a brand new - and EMPTY - harddisk. It will not boot, and there is no Windows or other OS to run from it! To set up Windows to run on your new Virtual Mashine, you have to have a Windows installation CD, put it into the drive and boot the Virtual mashine. You will than (hopefully) see that it pics up the installation CD, and you can start the installation of Windows on your virtual disk. Just proceed excatly as you would have done with a brand new PC with a clean harddisk.
    • Standard suite of Software
    If you want your new Virtual Mashine to be safe, I recommend you consider upgrading to the most recent service pack, installing Antivirus and potentially also SW Firewall.

    • Networking
    Networking is one of the challenges of Virtual Computing!
    On my installation of Virtual PC, the default networking setup pickced up my NIC as it is installed on the host PC. This did not work at all! I could ping addresses on the Internet, but I could not open any webpages with Explorer.
    Hint: Go into settings and select "Networking". Here you can change the NIC to "Shared Networking (NAT)". This works as sharing the socets on the card, and - viola - your internet connection works.
    You can even assign several NICs to your Virtual PC, if you want to experiment with fancy networking.
    This is very handy, as you can build your Windows PC harddisk with Virtual PC, than convert it to rund under VMware. Remember, under the VM Ware server you can start the Virtual PCs remotely over the network!