Virtually Possible

Monday, June 15, 2009

Just in case there is anyone out there who, like me, encountered difficulties trying to get Microsoft's Virtual PC working on the Windows 7 RC -- the short version of this post is, it does work, and works well. If you're having problems, read on to see my trials and tribulations which will hopefully get you on the right track too.

First, yes, I have been running the Windows 7 Release Candidate for a couple weeks now, and love it. It blows Vista away (and all jokes about Vista's catastrophe aside, it did have plenty of good features). Seriously, Windows 7 is not just a fixed Vista, it's pretty cool in its own right (will eventually post lengthier thoughts on Win7, but don't want to digress too much here). If you're thinking about upgrading from XP in the near future, I'd skip Vista, and go straight to Windows 7.

Second, if you visit the official Virtual PC site (, you get a lovely little microsite dedicated to telling you all about the new Windows Virtual PC beta (notice it's now "Windows" Virtual PC, instead of "Microsoft" Virtual PC), the "Windows XP Mode" (which is basically a shortcut way of launching a given application inside a Windows XP virtual machine), and download links to all the goodies. Both of which are currently available either as built-in features of Windows 7, or as free downloads for Windows 7, depending on when you downloaded your pre-release version of Windows 7, though its expected to be packaged as features when Windows 7 offically releases. So, I download Windows Virtual PC beta and get started.

Unfortunately, the new Virtual PC only supports "hardware assisted virtualization". What is that? ( Basically, it is technology built into newer CPU's that allow running virtual machines through Virtual PC or VMWare or other Virtual platforms make better/optimal use of the real hardware. In previous versions of Virtual PC, it's been an option to take advantage of "hardware assisted virtualization" if your hardware supports it. In this version, Virtual PC does absolutely nothing if your hardware does not support "hardware assisted virtualization". If your CPU has the necessary support, you are likely already up and running with the new Virtual PC. Unfortunately, my 2-year-old laptop did not have the necessary CPU support.

So, I notice that there is a link on the same site for the current "Microsoft Virtual PC 2007", just in case you're not running Windows 7 yet. Under the supported platforms, it says nothing about whether or not this version will run on Windows 7 -- it says that this is for people running some version of XP or Vista. Well, I already know that the version intended for Windows 7 doesn't work for me, so let's take a stab at Virtual PC 2007. It downloads and installs just fine (which I take as a good sign, since Windows 7 has so far warned me anytime I have installed something that is not compatible with it). Unfortunately, when I launch it, it gives me an annoying little message that Virtual PC 2007 is not compatible with my current platform and promptly shuts down. I was virtually unhappy.

So, I do what any other geek would do, and start google-ing for hacks that will let one of these run on my system. Of cource, since both Windows 7, and Windows Virtual PC are both so new, I am not getting much. Almost all my google results are people trying to run Windows 7 inside a virtual machine on some other platform. That doesn't help me.

Finally, I run into an post from someone (sorry, lost the link) who for some unknown reason was trying to get both "Windows Virtual PC" and "Microsoft Virtual PC 2007" to both work side-by-side on Windows 7. His trouble was that although he had the appropriate hardware to run the new Virtual PC on Win7, he couldn't get VPC 2007 to run side-by-side -- he was getting the same "not compatible with your current platform" message that I was getting. Ne noted that VPC 2007 WAS working on his Win7 machine until he installed the new VPC. hmmmm.

So I uninstall both Virtual PC 2007, and the Windows Virtual PC beta (rebooting after each). Then I re-install just Virtual PC 2007. Viola, it works, and I am virtually pleased. And apparently, if I had just ignored Microsoft's suggestion that I need the new VPC for Win7, and gone with VPC 2007 in the first, I would have had no troubles.

So my advice to you? If you have not yet installed any flavor of VPC on your Win7 machine, first check whether your CPU supports "hardware assisted virtualization" ( If it Does, then go with the new "Windows Virtual PC" for Win7. If it does Not, then install the standard "Microsoft Virtual PC 2007".

If you've already found out the hard way, as I did, that virtualization just isn't working on your Windows 7 box, then un-install all the flavors of VPC you have, then re-install "Microsoft Virtual PC 2007". You should be virtually good to go.

1 comment:

Cathy said...

I "virtually" understood most of this. Glad you fixed. You so smrt!

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