If it seems to you that the emulator of a computer system is purely specialized software, you should try to change your mind. If you don't know how to use a virtual machine, you miss the opportunity to get acquainted with programs, games, systems without changing the current state of the computer. But even Microsoft has put its operating systems on the conveyor and supplies them to users with decent regularity. When you want to see everything with your own eyes, and you don’t want to (or cannot) reinstall the system, virtual machines will become a useful tool.
Why do you need a virtual machine
A virtual machine is a general name for the results of the work of emulators of the computer's hardware platform, with the help of which it is really possible to create an isolated software environment. So, on a computer with Windows 7, you can run Windows 8 and fully work in it, while in the "master" OS, no changes will occur. The "guest" system uses the hardware resources of the receiving side (that is, of course, it will not be possible to increase performance), ignoring the system resources. When setting up a virtual machine, you can set a variety of parameters and check, for example, whether GTA V will run on an old computer with 2 GB of RAM and a 1 GB video card.
So, a virtual machine is needed in order with maximum comfort:
- to work in another (or several at the same time) operating system;
- run programs designed for a specific OS;
- test software products for compatibility;
- improve network security;
- Experiment with OS and BIOS settings.
A person who has not encountered emulators probably does not know how to install and use a virtual machine. Therefore, any terms and instructions seem to him complex, specialized. In fact, the emulator is installed in the same way as any other program: we launch the installer, answer the system's questions, wait for the installation to complete. Next, we create and configure a virtual platform to fit our needs.
To install a virtual machine on a PC, we need:
- an installer of the selected emulator (VirtualBox, VMware Workstation, Microsoft Virtual PC, 1C-Bitrix: Virtual Machine, DOS-Box);
- PC that meets the system requirements of the program developer;
- free hard disk space;
- A bootable image of the OS to be installed.
If your computer is running Windows 7, then Microsoft Virtual PC is already included in the software package supplied with the operating system. Similarly, the Hyper-V hypervisor is enabled in Windows 8, so you don't have to install anything else: just enable this component in the menu and restart your computer. If the solutions from Microsoft do not suit you (or the OS assembly is corrected and the necessary components are missing), you can use third-party software products, the most popular of which are considered to be VirtualBox from Oracle and VMware Workstation from VMware.
Hyper-V on Windows 8
The Hyper-V hypervisor is included in the operating system assembly, only it is not activated by default. To enable this component, go along the path Control Panel - Programs and Features - Enabling and disabling Windows components - Hyper-V (check the box). After restarting your computer, you will see shortcuts for the management programs and for starting the virtual machine. The installation is now complete, now you need to create a virtual platform directly.
Launch Hyper-V Manager, select the Actions tab - Create - Virtual machine. The configuration wizard will prompt you to choose manual configuration or automatic (by default, with standard parameters). By clicking on the Finish button, a new platform will be created and you can start working. The Next button will allow you to select in stages the location of the program files, the amount of RAM and hard disk (no more than the real ones, of course), enter the name of the virtual machine and install the OS on it from a disk image, from a bootable USB flash drive or DVD.
During the manual configuration process, you will have to choose the generation of the virtual machine if you have one of the latest Hyper-V releases installed on your system. There are no significant restrictions for the first generation, while the second assumes the installation of only Windows 8 / 8.1 (64-bit) and Windows Server 2012. In this case, outdated hardware will not be emulated (COM ports, IDE drives), only SCSI will remain, and BIOS will be replaced with UEFI.
One more nuance should be borne in mind: by default, the program will create an expandable VHDX virtual hard disk for the virtual machine. To work with operating systems earlier than Windows 8, you will need to create a VHD that can support up to 2 TB.
To access the network on the new platform, a virtual switch must be configured. For the interaction of virtual machines with each other, we choose a private network, communication with the main system is provided by an internal network, and access to the Internet is provided by an external one. You can enable access to the WAN for both the guest and control systems at the same time. In the settings of the already created virtual machine on the Parameters tab, select the required virtual switch. You can later remove it for this system and choose another one.
After starting the guest system, you can work in it in the same way as in the main one. The window is minimized and expanded, cursor movements and keystrokes are intercepted by the emulator. The Hyper-V component is also implemented on Windows 10, so users of this OS do not need additional software to install virtual platforms.
Microsoft Virtual PC on Windows 7
This virtual machine is included in one of the Windows 7 service packs. If you do not have it in the menu of applications and components, then you just need to download the necessary update from the Microsoft website, read the license agreement and restart your computer after installation is complete. Virtual PC will appear in programs along with the already installed software.
In fact, Virtual PC was created as a tool for interacting Windows XP with Windows 7, to make it easier for users to migrate to a new operating system from the old legendary one that broke all records of longevity. Therefore, XP Mode was immediately included in the program, which allows you to install a virtual WinXP in a couple of clicks without a bootable system image. To do this, just select XP Mode, then - the location of the virtual system files, accept the license agreement and set the parameters of the accounts.
XP Mode is one of the options that demonstrate how to use a virtual machine on Windows 7. You can install any Windows operating system in manual mode. In the Start menu in the Virtual PC folder, launch the program and continue working in the familiar explorer. We select the button Create a virtual machine and follow the instructions of the system. In the future, all our guest platforms will be displayed in the Virtual machines folder.
In the process of creation, we indicate the location of the files of the new system, a friendly name, the amount of RAM of the future virtual PC, the ability to connect to the network (select a real network adapter), parameters of the virtual hard disk. Everything, the platform is ready, you can proceed to installing the guest operating system!
This is done in the virtual machine parameters menu. The first step is to mount a bootable OS image: select a virtual DVD drive and an.iso file with the desired system. Or just insert a regular boot disk into a regular drive. Now you can start the machine, the installation will proceed in the same way as in the case of a real PC. Upon completion of the process, you will need to install the integration components: on the Virtual PC Service tab, select the appropriate item and launch the application. The installation wizard will do the rest, all you have to do is reboot the new system.
Most likely, in the process of working with guest systems via Virtual PC, the following information will be useful to you:
- USB devices can be connected to the guest system, for this it is enough to select the required flash drive in the USB menu, camera or scanner and enable sharing. However, using them in both systems will not work at the same time.
- To print documents from the guest system, select Add a new device - Network printer and install the driver (it can be done as PnP). The print will go to a local printer.
Specifics of working with VMware and Virtual Box
If you want to work with non-Microsoft operating systems, you will have to use software from other developers. Some of the most popular programs are VMware and Virtual Box. They differ significantly from each other in functionality, but the algorithm of operation for all emulators is very similar:
- Installing the program.
- Creation of a virtual machine with the specified parameters.
- Installing the OS.
- Starting the guest system.
VMware Workstation is a paid program that is not cheap by Russian standards, but supports work with any OS, fine-tuning of network adapters, USB 3.0, any hardware platform. There is a free version of VMware Player, which allows you to create virtual platforms, but the functionality is reduced. However, users believe that the Player is quite suitable for home use.
Virtual Box is available in paid and free versions. The proprietary one allows you to deal with physical USB devices and iSCSI, otherwise it does not differ from the free version. The program can also work with hard disk images created in Virtual PC and VMware Workstation..