Running your old version of Windows XP in a Virtual Machine

If you haven't heard by now, Windows XP has come to the end of its life. After April 8th, 2014, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP, which means no more security patches or hot fixes. Using Windows XP as a primary operating system is no longer an option. But you can still use your old version of Windows XP and the installed programs on a newer version of Windows using a Virtual Machine (VM).

A physical to virtual migrated version of Windows XP inside of VirtualBox running on Windows 8
A physical-to-virtual migrated version of Windows XP inside of VirtualBox running on Windows 8

The problem most people are having with going to a new version of Windows is that they have software installed on Windows XP that they cannot install or will not run on a newer version of Windows. Either the software came pre-loaded, they lost the installation media or the company went out of business. If you're one of these people, there is hope.

I've written a few times about using VM's to run different operating systems on the same computer. Basically, you create a virtual hard drive and install your operating system inside of it. You can also create a virtual hard drive from your physical hard drive. This way you can upgrade to a newer version of Windows and still have access to your old Windows XP programs.

Note: With the change of hardware from physical-to-virtual, Windows will need to be re-activated. Physical-to-virtual hard drive migration of a Windows installation is a valid function for customers with full retail copies of Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.

To do this you will need two programs, Microsoft's Windows Sysinternals Disk2vhd and Oracle's VirtualBox. Both programs are free for personal use and the links to the software are below. First thing to do is create a virtual hard drive from your existing physical hard drive. Start up Disk2vhd and you get only one simple menu. Select 'Prepare for use in Virtual PC' and 'Use Volume Shadow Copy' and deselect 'Use Vhdx'. Next select the location for the virtual hard drive file. For the best performance, you should create the virtual hard drive on a different physical drive (network or external).

The Disk2vhd main screen with options
The Disk2vhd main screen with options

Now it's time to install VirtualBox on the new system. Remember to also download and install the VirtualBox Guest Extensions. Once installed, copy over the virtual hard drive you created with Disk2vhd. Next you create a new VM with settings (operating system, memory, etc.) based on your old computer. You then will be prompted to create a new virtual drive or use an existing one. Browse and select the virtual drive that you created.

Modified boot menu in physical to virtual migrated version of Windows XP
Modified boot menu in physical to virtual migrated version of Windows XP

The first time you start the VM, it will find the new VM hardware and try to install drivers for them. If it fails to find drivers, just go to the 'Devices' tab on the top menu and select 'Insert Guest Additions CD image'. Open Windows Explorer and browse to the virtual drive named VBOXADDITIONS and run VBoxWindowsAdditions. This will install the keyboard, video and mouse drivers. You will have to tweak the settings to get it run flawlessly. If you're migrating a version of Windows XP, I recommend disabling access to the internet, since there is no longer security updates and patches for Windows XP after 4/8/14.

For more information on VirtualBox or Disk2vhd, just follow the links below.

Oracle VM VirtualBox
Sysinternals Disk2vhd

Try Windows 8 for free with Windows 8 Consumer Preview

You would think that doing computer repair for a living, the last thing I would want to do is try out a beta operating system. But I have to admit that I love playing around with new operating systems (been doing it since Windows 95). And now it's time to try out Windows 8. And you can try it out too, for free, with the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Desktop interface inside of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview
Desktop interface inside of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

The first thing you will notice is that the Start button is gone. It's been replaced by a row of charms that appears when you swipe away from right side of the screen. And the Start menu from previous versions of Windows is also gone, replaced by the Metro interface. You can access it by clicking on the Start charm on the ride side of the screen or by pressing the Windows logo key.

Metro interface inside of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview
Metro interface inside of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview

The Metro interface inside of Windows 8 is more touch screen intensive, incorporating gestures like pinch / stretch and press / hold. But with a little customizing, I was able to make the Metro interface work for me on my desktop computer without a touch screen (I'm a big Windows logo key user). Here's a quote from the Microsoft website:

It's Windows reimagined and reinvented from a solid core of Windows 7 speed and reliability. It's an all-new touch interface. It's a new Windows for new devices. And it's your chance to be one of the first to try it out.

See what's new

Swipe, slide, and zoom
Touch a full-powered PC. It's fast and it's fluid. Take natural, direct, hands-on control.

Apps, front and center
Apps in Windows 8 work together to get things done faster. Get them from the Windows Store.

Your Windows, everywhere
Windows 8 can connect you to your files, photos, people, and settings, wherever you sign in.

Wall-to-wall web
Internet Explorer 10 Consumer Preview brings you immersive web browsing on screens big and small.

The familiar, made better
Still devoted to your mouse and keyboard? Windows 8 makes the tried-and-true feel brand new.

Geek note:
Windows 8 Consumer Preview is a beta version of Windows 8. Fun to play around with but in no way should you use it in a production environment. It is recommend to install it on a virtual machine like VirtualBox or a non-production computer. And remember that some of the features and/or functions may not work properly.

For more information on the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, just follow the links below:

Windows 8 Consumer Preview
Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Run another OS on top of your existing OS for free with Oracle VirtualBox

Have ever wanted or needed to run a different operating system then what you currently have installed on your computer? Maybe you want to run an old Windows 95 game or maybe try out Linux and just don't have another computer to do it. Then maybe a VirtualBox maybe be the answer.

Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 and Windows 8 running inside of VirtualBox
Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008 and Windows 8 running inside of VirtualBox

One of my favorite things to do is trying out new software (Android-x86, Windows 8). I have used VM's (virtual machine) for many years now to do just that and have found VirtualBox to be the one I use the most often.

Windows 7 with multiple monitors running inside of VirtualBox
Windows 7 with multiple monitors running inside of VirtualBox

With it's flexibility in configuration, multiple monitor support and support for 64-bit virtual machines (only on 64-bit host operating systems), it's my choice for VM. And did I mention that's it's free. Here's a quote from the VirtualBox website:

VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2. See "About VirtualBox" for an introduction.

Presently, VirtualBox runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh, and Solaris hosts and supports a large number of guest operating systems including but not limited to Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Windows 7), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4 and 2.6), Solaris and OpenSolaris, OS/2, and OpenBSD.

VirtualBox is being actively developed with frequent releases and has an ever growing list of features, supported guest operating systems and platforms it runs on. VirtualBox is a community effort backed by a dedicated company: everyone is encouraged to contribute while Oracle ensures the product always meets professional quality criteria.

For more information on Oracle VirtualBox, just follow the link below:

Oracle VirtualBox

Try Windows 8 for free with Windows 8 Developer Preview

By now, you have probability started hearing the buzz about Windows 8. Maybe it's the new interface, Metro, which brings touch screen ease of use and the simple tile look of the Windows 7 phone to the desktop. Or maybe it's the Metro apps, that with a connected Windows Live account, can be downloaded and used on any Windows 8 computer you login to. Or, my favorite, the improved multi-monitor options. But did you know you can try it out right now for free with the Windows 8 Developer Preview?

Login Screen inside of Windows 8Developer Preview
The login screen inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. You slide the screen upward to get to the username and password fields.

Windows 8 Metro Interface
The Metro interface inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. You scroll from left to right to access the different categories of tiles.

Now I have to warn you that the Windows 8 Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8. Fun to play around with but in no way should you use it in a production environment. And remember that some of the features and/or functions may not work properly.

Windows 8 Windows Explorer
The new look of Windows Explorer inside of Windows 8 Developer Preview. Windows Explorer now sports a ribbon style toolbar.

You can upgrade an existing version of Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7. But be forewarned that you cannot uninstall this release. You can also create a multi-boot setup, with Windows 8 on a separate partition. I use Oracle's VirtualBox to run experimental operating systems like this. I downloaded to latest version and it already had pre-configured settings for Windows 8.

Here's a quote from the Windows 8 Developer website:

The Windows 8 Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for developers. These downloads include prerelease software that may change without notice. The software is provided as is, and you bear the risk of using it. It may not be stable, operate correctly or work the way the final version of the software will. It should not be used in a production environment. The features and functionality in the prerelease software may not appear in the final version. Some product features and functionality may require advanced or additional hardware, or installation of other software.

Note: You can't uninstall the Windows 8 Developer Preview. To go back to your previous operating system, you must reinstall it from restore or installation media.

System Requirements

The Windows 8 Developer Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
  • Taking advantage of touch input requires a screen that supports multi-touch
  • To run Metro style Apps, you need a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 or greater

Notes about installing the Windows 8 Developer Preview

A clean install is supported on all builds, but you can upgrade if you are installing a download without the developer tools. You will receive the full set of migration options when setup is launched in Windows. To dual-boot, you must first boot from media and choose an alternative partition.

For more information on the Windows 8 Developer Preview, just follow the links below:

Windows Dev Center
Windows 8 Developer Preview downloads

Run Android OS on your netbook, laptop or personal computer with Android-x86

With all of the talk nowadays about moving from personal computers to smartphones and tablets, I was wondering if I could have the best of both worlds. I wanted to know is if I could run a version of the Android OS on my netbook. Having setup both multi-boot computers and virtual machines, I thought that it might be possible. And with the Android-x86 Project, it is.

Android-x86 opening screen running inside of a Oracle VirtualBox
Android-x86 opening screen running inside of a Oracle VirtualBox

The Android-x86 Project is an Apache open source project working to port the Android operating system to the x86 hardware architecture. It's the same hardware architecture that is in almost all netbooks / laptops and personal computers. They have several different builds for different types of systems (ASUS, HP, Lenovo, etc.), mainly netbooks, laptops and tablets.

Android-x86 main screen running inside of a Oracle VirtualBox
Android-x86 main screen running inside of a Oracle VirtualBox

Android-x86 can be run from a cd, installed into a virtual machine like Oracle's VirtualBox, a USB drive or your computer's hard drive as the primary operating system. You can even set it up to multi-boot with Windows. Here's a quote from the Android-x86 website:

This is a project to port Android open source project to x86 platform, formerly known as "patch hosting for android x86 support". The original plan is to host different patches for android x86 support from open source community. A few months after we created the project, we found out that we could do much more than just hosting patches. So we decide to create our code base to provide support on different x86 platforms, and set up a git server to host it.

For more information on the Android-x86 Project, just follow the links below:

Android-x86 Project - Run Android on Your PC
Installation - Android-x86 - Porting Android to x86

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