How to test-drive Windows 8 for free in VirtualBox

Want to dip your toes in Microsoft's modern UI before plunging head-first into Windows 8?

By Alex Castle, PC World |  Windows, virtualbox, windows 8

Yes, VirtualBox will let you run a virtual 32-bit operating system even if your physical processor is 64-bit. Whichever version of the OS you use, it will run better with more RAM, though the 32-bit version of Windows can only handle no more than 4GB of memory maximum.

After you've allocated the RAM, click Create a virtual hard drive now. VirtualBox will ask you how much of your hard disk space it should use to create the virtual PCs hard drive. For the file type to use, choose VDI. You must also decide whether to allocate your virtual hard drive dynamically or all at once. The latter is better for performance, but it will use up all of the space on your host drive at once. We recommend choosing the dynamic option.

Next, you must allocate enough storage space to install the operating system and have some room left over for applications. You can probably get away with allocating Microsoft's 20GB minimum, but wed opt for VirtualBoxs recommended 25GB, just to be safe. If you plan to try out a lot of apps or desktops programs, set aside even more space if you have it available.

One final way of improving your virtual machines performance is to give it additional virtual processor cores. You can do this only if your processor supports hardware virtualization, so check the specs on your model to see whether virtualization is listed as a feature. If it is, click first the Settings button, and then the System menu. Click the Processor tab, and drag the Processors slider to the right to increase the number of cores available for Windows 8. As with RAM, don't allocate all of your CPU cores to the virtual machine unless you want your main desktop OS to chug when Windows 8 is up and running.

Install Windows 8

Your virtual PC should now be set up. The next step is to put the install disc in the drive, figuratively speaking. Click the Settings button, and navigate to the Storage settings, using the left-side navigation panel. There, click the empty CD slot under the Controller: IDE entry in the Storage Tree, and then click the button marked with a CD icon on the far right side of the screen. A file browser window will pop up; in it, find and select the Windows 8 ISO that you downloaded. Don't move the ISO once the virtual machine is configuredotherwise, Windows 8 won't work.

At this point you're ready to fire up the virtual PC for the first time. Select the virtual machine you just created, and click the green Start arrow. A new window will open, and soon you should see the Windows 8 install screen. If you see an error message instead, and you've chosen to allocate virtual CPU cores to the machine, enable your CPU's virtualization option in the system BIOS; then try booting the virtual machine again.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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