Windows® Virtual PC is an optional component of the Windows 7 operating system that lets you run more than one operating system at the same time on one computer. One of the key benefits is that you can use Windows Virtual PC to migrate to Windows 7 while continuing to use applications that run on older versions of Windows, such as Windows XP or Windows Vista®.
If Windows Virtual PC is not located in All Programs on the Start menu, you can download it free of charge from the Windows Virtual PC home page (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=148103).
Hardware requirements for Windows Virtual PC differ slightly from Windows 7. For more information about these requirements, see the Windows Virtual PC Evaluation Guide (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=140338). We recommend that you review the requirements before you try to install Windows Virtual PC because the computer must be configured correctly to install the component.
Windows Virtual PC basics
Windows Virtual PC enables you to run more than one operating system at a time on one computer by providing a virtualization environment. This environment uses virtual machines, each of which is like a separate physical computer. Each virtual machine emulates a physical computer and can run one 32-bit operating system, which is called a guest operating system. The physical computer and the Windows 7 operating system that runs directly on the computer (instead of in a virtual machine) together are called the host. This instance of Windows 7 is sometimes called the host operating system.
Windows Virtual PC offers two basic ways for you to interact with this virtual environment. You can:
- Use applications directly from the host
when those applications are actually installed in the guest
operating system. This is useful when you just want to run
these older applications and you do not need to interact with the
guest operating system. When you use this option, the virtual
machine environment is essentially hidden. The applications are
called virtual applications and are available from the Start menu
of the host. This option is supported for specific versions of
Windows (which require an update) and is suited for business
applications. For more information, see Publish and use virtual
- Interact directly with the guest operating
system and the virtual machine. You can view the desktop of the
guest operating system from a window, called the virtual machine
window—or in full desktop mode, which is similar to a Remote
Desktop client session. This is useful if you want to interact with
the guest operating system. For example, you might do this to
reproduce a scenario for troubleshooting or support purposes.
In either case, you will need a virtual machine. Your options are:
- Set up Windows XP Mode. This option
creates a preconfigured virtual machine with Windows XP Service
Pack 3 (SP3) already installed. After an easy set up, this
environment is ready for you to customize with your own
applications. Windows XP Mode is available for the 32-bit and
64-bit editions of Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7
Enterprise, and Windows 7 Ultimate. For more information, see
using Windows XP Mode.
- Set up your own virtual machine. To do
this, you create a virtual machine and install the guest operating
system yourself. This option is useful if you do not want to run
Windows XP SP3, or if you are using a version of Windows 7 for
which Windows XP Mode is not available. For instructions, see
Create a virtual
machine and install a guest operating system. For information
about the operating systems that are supported for use with Windows
Virtual PC, see the Windows Virtual PC home page
Windows XP Mode is the faster method because it requires fewer steps.
One of the benefits of using a virtual machine is that you can change the hardware faster and more easily than on a physical computer. For example, to add or remove a network adapter or change the amount of memory, you shut down the virtual machine and modify a setting. There is no need to open a computer case. For more information, see Configuring a virtual machine.
Windows Virtual PC includes the Integration Components package, which provides features that improve the integration between the virtual environment and the physical computer. For more information, see About integration features.