Microsoft has announced that it will release its next Operating System – Windows 10 – at the end of July of this year. Like its predecessors, this version of Windows is also going to include a host of new features and capabilities, including increased security (i.e. support for two-factor authentication), virtual desktops, a personal digital assistant called “Cortana”, and the new Microsoft Edge browser (also known as Project Spartan). You can read more about these features on Microsoft’s Windows 10 webpage. One great thing that Microsoft has done in recent years is to make preview versions of its upcoming operating systems available for the public to try out. Doing so makes a lot sense on Microsoft’s part – the more feedback the company can get on the OS before the actual release the better, and the smoother the transition it will ultimately be for users and customers. Windows 10 proves to be no exception: Microsoft has once again made a preview release available to download for the public.
Many of us are probably curious about Windows 10 and would like to know if it is worth upgrading, especially since the upgrade can be had for free. However, not everyone might want to install an operating system that still in development on an otherwise well-functioning PC. One option of course would be to install a preview release on a second system that is currently not being used, but for those of us that do not have another PC sitting around, there is an equally (if not more) attractive option: By utilizing a free virtualization technology available from Oracle called VirtualBox, one can easily preview Windows 10 inside an existing install of Windows without too much time and effort. In this short Do-It-Yourself guide, I’m going to walk you through a few easy steps do to just that. Read on for more.
Before you begin, you’ll want to make sure virtualization is enabled for your system. While most modern systems support it, it is often disabled by default in the BIOS. You’ll want to make sure it’s turned on (if you’re unsure of the location of the setting, please consult your motherboard’s manual).
Once that’s done, the next thing you’ll want to to is download and install all the necessary software. Head on over to Virtualbox.org to download the appropriate version of VirtualBox for your system. For example, if you are using Windows already, you’ll want to download VirtualBox for Windows hosts. Minimum system requirements for running VirtualBox can be found on their site here. Keep in mind that to successfully run Windows 10, a multi-core processor, 30GB+ of free harddrive space, and 8GB of system memory (2 – 4GB free) are strongly recommended. It can be done with less, but it will not be as good of a user experience. The exact minimum system requirements for installing Windows 10 can be found on Microsoft’s site here.
Once the download has finished, install VirtualBox and launch the software. The VirtualBox creen should look essentially like this (minus the existing virtual machines on the left side which I already configured and installed earlier).
Before moving on to the next steps, it will make sense to also download the Windows 10 preview release disk image already. To do so, visit the Microsoft Windows 10 Insider Preview page and follow the stated instructions. You will need to join the Windows Insider Program if you haven’t aren’t a member already. Then proceed to download the Windows 10 disk image. A word of caution: The download may take some time as the disk image is approximately 3.5GB in size.
Creating a Virtual Machine
Once everything has downloaded you are ready to create your first virtual machine. To create a virtual machine for Windows 10, launch VirtualBox and click on “New” in the upper left corner. Next, you will be prompted to choose a name, type, and version for the virtual machine. Pick any name you want (e.g. Windows 10 Preview), the type will be “Microsoft Windows”, and the version would be Windows 10 32-bit or Windows 10 64-bit (depending on your system hardware configuration).
Next, you will be prompted to choose the amount of memory for the virtual machine. 2GB is recommended, but I’d go for more than that (e.g. 4GB) if your system has the necessary resources.
VirtualBox will then ask you to create a virtual harddrive. You’ll have the option here to use an existing virtual harddrive or create a new one. Since this is the first virtual machine you are creating, choose “Create a virtual hard drive now” and let VirtualBox go ahead with the recommended size (32GB). This can be changed in later setup screen.
The next screen will ask for the Hard drive file type – the default (VirtualBox Disk Image or VDI) is fine here. In what follows, you’ll be given the option whether to have virtual machine storage grow dynamically (i.e. grow as demand for additional storage grows) or be a fixed size in the beginning. Choose your preferred option and click Next. Now you’ll be given the option to change the virtual harddrive size. Feel free to increase or decrease the size as you see fit, just keep in mind the minimum system requirements for Windows 10.
Finally, click the “Create” button and your virtual machine will be created. You’ll be taken back to the main screen and your new virtual machine will show up in the left sidebar. If you would like to tweak additional settings (e.g. how many CPU cores should be utilized, the amount of video RAM, etc.), right click on the virtual machine you just created and choose Settings. There you can make any changes as desired.
Now if you would like, you can try launching the machine you just created (just highlight the machine and click “Start” above), but not much will happen since no operating system has been installed yet, which is the focus of the next section of the tutorial.
Installing Windows 10
In this section you’ll be installing Windows 10 onto the virtual machine you just created. At this point things will start to look quite familiar, as the operating system install process is very similar and the virtual machine just becomes an additional layer of abstraction.
Assuming that the Windows 10 ISO disk image has finished downloading, you’ll want to point your virtual machine to it so that it can be launched and the setup can begin. To do this, right click on the virtual machine you created, choose Settings. Go down to Storage and click on the “Empty” field underneath Controller: IDE.
Click on the CD icon and select “Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file…”. Locate the Windows 10 ISO disk image on your system’s harddisk and click Open. Next, click Ok to exit the Settings screen and launch the virtual machine to begin the install process. After a few moments of initial loading time you should now be greeted with the Windows 10 setup screen.
Go ahead and follow the install process through until the end (it will essentially be the same as installing Windows the traditional way without a virtual machine). Once you are done installing, you’ll need to remove the ISO disk image from the virtual machine (i.e. similar to ejecting a physical CD/DVD). To do this, go back to Settings for your virtual machine, select Storage, and click the CD icon, choosing the option “Remove disk from virtual drive”.
An Important Installation Note: Keep in mind that this is pre-release software and hence may still contain bugs. The install process could fail initially and you may have to try again or choose different options during the install to get things to work.
Launching Windows 10
Once the Windows 10 install process has finished, the virtual machine should reboot one last time and then prompt you with a login/home screen similar to what is shown below.
Next, login with the credentials you supplied during setup and begin enjoying your preview release copy of Windows 10!
Do note that to shut down the virtual machine, you would follow the same procedure as you would normally to shut down Windows (i.e. through the start menu). To start Windows 10 up again, just select the virtual machine inside VirtualBox and click “Start”. Last, but not least, uninstalling Windows 10 is quite straightforward – all you have to do is delete the virtual machine you created inside VirtualBox.
With that being said, I do hope that you enjoyed this quick Do-It-Yourself tutorial on how to preview Windows 10 using VirtualBox. Now that you have Windows 10 up and running, what are your impressions of the upcoming OS? Will you plan to upgrade in July? Let us know by sharing your thoughts and comments below or in our community forum.