Why run Windows 10 Preview as a Virtual Machine?

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader Fred S. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I was very much intrigued by your article on Windows 10 Technical Preview. I understand this is a beta operating system and it most likely contains a lot of bugs. At the same time, I'm also very excited to try it. In your previous article, you mentioned I could run Windows 10 as a virtual machine. I don't have much knowledge or experience with virtual machines, and was wondering if you could elaborate a bit more on the subject? "

My Response:

Certainly. You can think of a virtual machine as a computer within a computer. For many folks, this is a very new and interesting concept. So, why would anyone want to use a virtual machine in the first place? I'll try to explain.

The Host and Guest Operating System

In simple terms, a virtual machine is a guest operating system. It runs on a host platform (whether it's MS Windows, or a bare-metal hypervisor platform, such as Citrix XenServer or VMware vSphere). Essentially, the guest operating system runs independent of the host. In our case, we would be running Windows XP / Vista / 7 / 8 as a host, and Windows 10 as the guest.

The Virtual Machine Sandbox

One of most powerful features of a virtual machine is the fact that the guest operating system is 'sandboxed'. Thinking back to childhood, a sandbox is meant to keep sand within a box and presumably separate from the rest of the yard. In the same way, the host operating system is protected from the guest, should something go wrong. For example, the guest might suffer from a crash, virus or malware infection - but the host would remain unaffected.

Pausing, Cloning and Resuming Guests

Another very powerful feature is the ability to pause a virtual machine (VM). Once a VM is paused, you can make 'snapshots' - effectively an instantaneous backup. You can then clone the paused virtual machine into other clones (for testing purposes), or resume a paused machine at a later time. All of this makes utilizing virtual machines especially useful in a test environment.

Using a Virtual Machine as a Test Environment

In our case, the test environment would be Windows 10 Technical Preview. Because Windows 10 is not a finalized product, it's guaranteed to have bugs, and in all likelihood will not function properly. It's for this reason that you would not want to use Windows 10 Technical Preview as your primary operating system.

That's why running Windows 10 Technical Preview as a virtual machine makes sense: if something were to go wrong, you could easily switch back from the guest (Windows 10 Technical Preview) to your host (Windows 7, for example) without having to reset or reboot the computer.

Other Benefits of Virtual Machines

Other benefits of running virtual machines include: saving energy consumption and physical space, and producing less waste in terms of manufacturing fabrication. In the old days, computer data centers might contain thousands of PCs. Now, new PC hardware contains powerful multi-core CPUs and oodles of RAM, which can easily manage several virtual machines at once.

Who Can Run a Virtual Machine, and How?

This is a long-winded and technical question, and depends on many factors.

To keep things simple: if you plan to run Windows 10 Technical Preview on your existing Windows system, I would recommend that you only attempt to do so if you have at least a quad core processor and 8 gigabytes of RAM.

A Windows 10 Technical Preview virtual machine will need at least 1 CPU core and 2 gigabytes (4 preferred) of RAM to operate at a decent speed. You will also need a hypervisor (software that runs your virtual machines). Oracle's VirtualBox will work just fine, but at this present time I'm unsure if VMware Player has the capability to create virtual machines. I personally use VMware Workstation which can play and create VM's.

I hope that helps to shed some light on the subject.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of Infopackets.com. With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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jeffwhittle's picture

Thank you very much. You information and explanation are greatly appreciated.

DavidFB's picture

I'd agree that if you want to give an OS a real system test, you want to run it directly on the hardware. But if you want to take a look and get to know it a bit, perhaps do a write-up, then a VM is the way to go.

I can recommend VirtualBox. It's pretty straightforward to install, though you may have to fiddle a bit to be able to print or share files with the host. Having 3 players involved does complicate troubleshooting but theres lots of online discussions. Also, like VMWare, you can download some VMs preinstalled free.

Nowadays, its also a great way to run WinXP if you have any software that requires it. I also run Linux and Android in VB.

Another big advantage of VMs is there's no rebooting to change OS's. They just run in a window. Fred Langa once demo'd running 9 versions of Windows on one PC.

Finally, I would note that VMs are a very well developed technology. Many large web sites run entirely on VMs so sessions can be redistributed on the fly to adjust to variable server load. Even if you're not aware of it, you probably access a VM several times a day.

eharsh_3322's picture

Have created Windows 10 Technical Preview VM with VMWare Player. So far running fine.