Running Windows 8 Consumer Preview as a Virtual PC with free software

Windows 8 Consumer Preview is now available from Microsoft for those that want to try out the next version of Windows for free.

Window 8 Consumer Preview can be installed on a dedicated PC but many of us would like to install it as a virtual computer on our existing PC using free virtualization software.   Turns out this is not so simple.  I tried 3 popular free virtualization softwares and found one that worked well, one that crashed and one that failed.   My experience was good, bad and ugly.

To cut to the chase, VMware Player was good.

VirtualBox was bad and Microsoft Virtual PC was ugly.

So if you want to get Win 8 up and running in a virtual environment easiest, I recommend VMware Player.

Just a heads up, Win 8 and virtualization software are in a state of change.  I’m writing this March 7, 2012, and I expect the virtualization softwares to accommodate Windows 8 better in the future.

Here are my experiences with the 3 virtualization products.  By the way, my desktop PC is an Intel Core 2 Duo with 4 GB of RAM with Windows 7 64 bit.

The good: Windows 8 Consumer Preview and VMware Player 4.0.2

Of the three virtualization products I tried, VMware Player just worked.  No crashing and the integration tools work.  I recommend this software to install Win 8 as a guest OS on your Windows host.

An excellent guide:

Well done VMware.

The bad: Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Oracle VirtualBox 4.1.8

VirtualBox 4.1.8 does support Windows 8 but there are issues.  I experienced BSOD during installs and updates and integration tools failed.

VirtualBox does offer the OS Types Windows 8 and Windows 8 (64 bit) and will make default setting selections for you.  This is encouraging.

But I had issues trying to install and run Win 8 on VirtualBox.  BSOD during installation.  Virtual Machine Extensions were problematic.  Extensions for 32 bit Win 8 refused to install the video driver and I tried installing several ways – by the menu, manually from the mounted .iso, manually using Windows 7 compatibility mode (as suggested by some users) and command line mode.  Extensions for 64 bit mode installed but the video device showed an error – Code 37.  Trying to uninstall 64bit video drivers threw the virtual machine into a boot loop – “Preparing Automatic Repair/Diagnosing Your PC/Attempting Repairs” and BSOD.  Booting Win 8 in VirtualBox complained of 24 bit color.  VirtualBox SATA drivers may BSOD, use IDE.

You may need to adjust settings for motherboard, processor and other features.  Use a search engine to find successes, failures and resolutions.

Note a Dynamically allocated HD less that 6MB will cause the install to fail saying not enough disk space.

Here is a good guide:

Another guide:

The ugly: Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Microsoft Virtual PC 2007

This is not supported by Microsoft!  This is so lame.  I want to run a Microsoft desktop virtualization product on a Microsoft OS to test a new Microsoft OS and it fails.

If you try you’ll get this screen:

This screen is the new BSOD?  Microsoft discusses Win 8 and virtual machines in this MSDN blog post The blog reports  products that are “Functional”:  Hyper-V, VMware Workstation 8.0 for Windows and VirtualBox 4.1.2 for Windows.  “Non-functional”:  MS Virtual PC, MS Virtual Server, Windows 7 XP Mode, WMware Workstation 7 or older.

More on Win 8 not supported by MS Virtual PC 2007:

This glitch is as bad as 1995 when Bill Gates wrote the book “The Road Ahead” around the same time as Microsoft released Windows NT.  The book included a CD which if you tried to run it on an NT machine, you got this error: “Sorry, The Road Ahead does not run on Windows NT. Please install on a computer running Windows 3.10 or greater.”


I hope my experiences help you along exploring Windows 8 in a virtual environment.


Additional notes.

My host PC for testing is Windows 7 64 bit up to date OS with a lot of software, 4GB, and it runs fine.

These notes probably apply to you all that are developing Apps and whatever for Win 8 and using Windows 8 Developer Preview.

Another option for running Win 8 is dual boot.

I did not test other virtual machine environments, there are other options.

The MSDN blog dances around how running Win 8 on a virtual machine will not be as easy or fast as running it on a dedicated PC  because Win 8 will “run “very close to the metal,””.

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