Windows 7 is available for testing and I wanted to check it out. How to do this safely without buying a new machine?
There is a short and simple answer, but it isn’t always straight forward. It does come in the form of free software, which is always good.
The solution is to install Virtual PC (Microsoft Virtual PC) on your computer. This software emulates a computer, and you can install an operating system on this emulated computer, which is independent of your host operating system.
This is a great solution because it means you don’t have to trash your current operating system just to test a new operating system that you may or may not like, not to mention all the time spent to configure your machine to be just the way you like it.
It means you can boot up your current operating system, and then boot up Windows 7 from there when you want to mess around with it, and then shut it down when you’re done.
It didn’t take me long to find the free download page on the Microsoft website, and grab a copy.
Very convenient, just the thing, ever so simple …
Or is it?
I came across a number of obstacles and roadblocks, which I will explain in this article, along with how I overcame them.
First of all, I had to decide which computer to install the virtual machine on: the one with more memory, or the more convenient one? Why not both?
I first installed Virtual PC on my laptop with 2G of memory, running Vista Home Premium. That is when I found out that Virtual PC will not run under Vista Home Premium, or so I thought at the time. I later discovered that if you ignore the warnings, it should still be possible to install the virtual software, but I didn’t know that at the time and didn’t try.
Next, I installed in on my laptop with 1G of memory, running Windows XP Pro. It installed quickly and easily, and setting it up to install the Windows 7 operating system went smoothly.
However, the virtual PC/Windows 7 combination was very sluggish. There just wasn’t enough memory available to run comfortably, and the CPU could be faster as well.
So I went out and bought a new hard drive, partitioned it, and set it up with Windows XP Pro. This was long and involved as I had to find all the right drivers for the laptop. In the end I got it up and running.
I installed Virtual PC, then Windows 7, and this time it worked quite well, running a bit slow, but fast enough to be usable.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, it may be cheaper and easier to buy a second had computer with XP Pro or Vista Pro installed, and then go from there.
Doug Samuel writes the Windows 7 Journal, a site about Windows 7.