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Using Virtual Machines to run old programs in Windows 7

I this article, I an going to show one of the uses for Virtual Machines in Windows 7. More and more often I am asked 'How can I get an old program to run on Windows 7?'. I ran into this issue a few years back when one of my favorite search programs (WebCompass) was discontinued. The last operating system it was released for was Windows 98. So when I when over to Windows XP, it ran fine, until Service Pack 1. It lost functionally when one of the system DLL's it depended on got upgraded. That's when I started to use Virtual Machines (Virtual PC 2004 & 2007).

There are a few different Virtual Machines out there. I have used the top three (VMware Player by VMware, Inc., Windows Virtual PC by Microsoft and VirtualBox by Sun / Oracle). For this article, I will demonstrate Windows 7 Virtual Machines and Sun VirtualBox. Instructions on how to create a virtual machine in Windows 7 and install a guest operating system follow.

Note: The following demonstration was done using virtual machines originally created in Virtual PC 2004, upgraded to Virtual PC 2007 and then upgraded to Windows 7 Virtual Machines.

How to create a virtual machine in Windows 7 and install a guest operating system

A guest operating system runs in a virtual machine. If you do not want to use Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 3 (XP Mode) as the guest operating system, you can create a virtual machine. You will use a wizard to create the virtual machine and customize it by specifying details such as the name and the amount of memory to assign to it. Before you create the virtual machine, consider the following questions:

  • How much memory will you allocate to the virtual machine? Be sure to allocate enough to run the guest operating system and all applications that you want to run on the virtual machine at the same time.
  • Where do you want to store the virtual machine and what do you want to name it? For example, you might want to use a name that identifies the guest operating system, or describes how you want to use it. You can use as many as 80 characters for the name.
  • What type of virtual hard disk do you want to use?
    - Dynamically expanding virtual hard disk. This type requires a minimum of 8 MB free space on the physical storage media. The size of the disk (and the .vhd file) grows as the disk is used, up to the maximum size specified when the disk was created.
    - Fixed virtual hard disk. This type of disk requires as much physical storage space as the size you specify for the disk when you create it. The size of the .vhd file is the same as the virtual hard disk size and remains unchanged.
    - Differencing virtual hard disk. This type requires a small amount of physical storage when you create the disk, and requires more storage as the size of the disk grows. The maximum size of a differencing disk is restricted by the maximum size of its parent hard disk.
  • And where do you want to store it?

After you create the virtual machine, you can modify it as needed.

To create a virtual machine

  1. Open the Virtual Machines folder. From the Start menu, click Windows Virtual PC. If the menu item is not visible, click All Programs, click the Windows Virtual PC folder, and then click Windows Virtual PC.
  2. The Virtual Machines folder opens in Windows Explorer. From the menu bar, click Create virtual machine.

    Note:
    The Virtual Machines folder provides details about all the virtual machines created by the current user, as well as access to the tools for creating and modifying virtual machines and virtual hard disks.

  3. The Create a Virtual Machine Wizard opens. Proceed through the pages of the wizard, choosing the options that are appropriate for the guest operating system.
  4. After the wizard finishes, the virtual machine appears in the file list in the Virtual Machine folder.

After you create the virtual machine, you can install the guest operating system. The procedure varies slightly depending on the type of installation media you plan to use, such as physical CDs and DVDs, .iso files, and network-based installation servers. The following procedures describe how to use each type.

To use a CD, DVD, or .iso file to install a guest operating system

  1. To use a CD or DVD, insert it into the drive and then skip to the next step. To use an .iso file, do the following:
    • Right-click the virtual machine in the file list, and then click Settings.
    • In the left pane, click DVD Drive. In the right pane, choose Open an ISO image. Click OK.
  2. Start the virtual machine. In the file list, select the virtual machine and click Open. Windows Virtual PC opens and displays the video output of the virtual machine.
  3. The virtual machine searches for bootable media. Setup begins after bootable media is found.
  4. After the installation is complete, install the Integration Components package. From the Tools menu of the virtual machine window, click Install Integration Components.

To use a network-based installation server to install a guest operating system

  1. Start the virtual machine. In the file list, select the virtual machine and click Open. Windows Virtual PC opens and displays the video output of the virtual machine.
  2. The virtual machine automatically starts the PXE boot agent and attempts to contact the remote installation server. Watch the screen for instructions. When prompted, press F12.

    Note:
    If the remote installation server does not respond, you will receive the message “Reboot and Select proper Boot device.” Check the virtual machine settings to make sure the network adapter is connected to an external (physical) network. If it is, check with the administrator of your network for instructions about using a network-based installation server.

  3. Select an operating system from the choices offered by the remote installation server.
  4. Use the setup utility for the operating system to complete the installation. If you need to restart to complete the process, press CTRL+ALT+END, or click Ctrl+Alt+Del from the virtual machine window.

Enjoy,
Scott

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