Since last week I am using Windows 7 as my primary operating system, specifically it is Windows 7 RC 64-bit edition build 7100. Yesterday I installed Windows Virtual PC beta so I can continue to use virtual machines. I use virtual machines for different usage scenario’s, mostly for SharePoint and Microsoft .NET development and testing purposes. This post sums up things you need to know when you want to use the new Windows Virtual PC beta.
Windows Virtual PC beta
Windows Virtual PC beta is the successor of Microsoft Virtual PC and comes with new features. The most important feature is Windows XP Mode which allows you to run Windows XP applications in a seamless mode. Applications incompatible with Windows 7 can still be run on Windows 7 by using the Windows XP Virtual Machine. The applications available inside the virtual machine can be run from the Windows 7 start menu, see the screenshot. For more information see Microsoft’s Virtual PC home page.
Screen sizing and full screen support
It allows you to maximize your screen. It has build-in functionality to display your virtual environment in full screen. Technically it works the same as the full screen method I described as a workaround for Microsoft Virtual PC some time ago, Windows Virtual PC has it just implemented out-of-the-box and makes it more user friendly.
Program availability and supported guest operation systems
The Windows Virtual PC program is available as an 32-bit and 64-bit version, although only 32-bit guest machines can be used. I don’t understand why Microsoft hasn’t added support for 64-bit guest machines, other products like VMware's already support this. With Exchange 2010 beta being released as 64-bit-only, SharePoint 2010 announced as 64-bit-only, I see more products following and feel the need of having 64-bit guest machine support.
Virtual PC Integration Components
The current Virtual PC Integration Components version 14.0.7084.0, previously known as Virtual Machine Additions, has support for Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP1 and Windows 7 guest machines only. I’m using Windows Server 2008 as my guest PC and have installed the Virtual PC Integration Components, but some features are not working. E.g. drag&drop of files between your host and guest environment is not possible and sharing a local drive. After the installation I had to reactivate my Windows Server 2008 environment.
Virtual Machine Configuration file
The Virtual Machine Configuration file has an extension of .vmcx, previously it had a file extension of .vmc. Both are XML files, but the XML file structure don’t look the same. I have created a new Virtual Machine myself targeting an old Virtual Machine hard disk (.vhd) file. Windows Virtual PC wasn’t able to open the .vhd stored on an external USB hard disk drive. Copying the Virtual Machine hard disk file to my local hard disk drive and attaching it to the Virtual Machine did the trick. It looks to me like a bug, but more testing with other virtual hard disks located on external USB drives is required.
I have not tried to rename an Virtual Machine Configuration file extension from .vmc to .vmcx. If you have tried this, share your knowledge.
Drive and folder sharing
You cannot share a specific folder at the moment. Maybe this is because Windows Server 2008 is not supported by the integration components yet, but I really feel to need to share files between the host and guest environment. As a workaround I use an USB storage device, attach it with guest operating system and transfer files using that storage device.