Windows 8 Turns 1 PC Into 5, 10, or 5000

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has announced that Windows 8 will allow users to create multiple virtual machines on a single computer. It's a feature that's previously only been available on Microsoft's server version of Windows.

The tool, which is referred to as Microsoft's "Hyper-V," allows users to make virtual copies of PCs -- all within 1 PC (hence, it's "virtualized"). Virtualization, more importantly, addresses major security issues in that it separates the host hardware (your computer) from the operating system (Windows) and the applications which run within Windows.

Run 5, 10, 5,000 Mini-PCs Inside 1 PC

A user running a virtualized environment could (in theory) could have 1 PC and operate 5, 10, or 5,000 mini-PCs all running their own copy of Windows. It's an extremely powerful idea and it's really only began to take off in the last few years, most notably with web servers.

In terms of a malware attack on a Windows PC: if a user inadvertently downloaded a Trojan virus infected file, the malware would be limited in how far it could spread within the system.

A user could, for example, simply start another Virtual Machine that is not infected and continue on with work, and or keep a separate virtual machine simply for browsing the Internet without worrying it will affect the rest of the system.

Easy Test Software and Hardware Without Hassles

At the moment, there are two prominent uses for virtualization technology.

One is for software developers to be able to quickly test out how a program performs in different versions of an operating system without the need to have multiple machines on hand. This can also be used with individual applications; for example, a webmaster could instantly try out a site design in several different editions of Internet Explorer without the hassle of installing and uninstalling the browser each time. (Source:

The second reason to use this function is to save on hardware costs. It's possible to use a single machine running virtual computers, then connect multiple sets of mice, keyboards and monitors. The virtualization means that multiple users can be working at the same time as if they had their own separate computer.

Such an approach is particularly popular in schools in developing countries where the resources of a single good computer can easily be split between several users, cutting down on cost and wasted capacity.

Hyper-V to be Built onto Desktop Editions of Windows 8

To date, such uses have only been available using a special type of computer known as a server, running a separate version of Windows. Now, Hyper-V will be built directly into the main desktop edition of Windows 8.

The tool will only work with the more advanced 64-bit edition, though it will include support for running virtual copies of 32-bit operating systems. It requires at least 4GB of memory, which will allow the user to create up to four "virtual machines".

The tool uses dynamic management, meaning that the user sets minimum and maximum memory levels for each virtual machine, but beyond this the computer automatically assigns memory based on the particular demands at any one moment. (Source:

Of course, the virtualization technology will only work on processors which support virtualization, which are the newer generation CPUs.

Virtualization and Porting Virtual Machines

Even more impressive with virtualization is the way it operating with the underlying hardware.

For example, with some virtualization software such as Citrix XenServer, you can simply make a copy of your virtual machine (which would appear as an icon), and then port it onto new hardware without ever having to reinstall the underlying operating system or its applications.

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