There are many good reasons to set up virtual machines on a Windows PC, including testing new configurations and saving old ones.
Win8 Pro and Enterprise come with Microsoft’s Hyper-V application; here’s a detailed tour of how it works.
A quick tutorial on system virtualization
If you’re not familiar with virtualization technology, it can be a tough concept to grasp. In a nutshell, virtualization is the ability to run another operating system at the same time as your primary OS. This technology is not dual-boot — which lets you run only one operating system at a time.
Think of a virtualized PC as a computer running within a window inside Windows. You could, to take an extreme example, have Windows XP, Vista, Win7, Linux, and even an Apple OS all running simultaneously on the same physical desktop or laptop. You could even have Windows 8 running inside Windows 8. The key requirement is owning a CPU that supports virtualization and has enough RAM. Of course, you also need legitimate OS licenses — and, in the case of Hyper-V, the right version of Windows 8.
Why use virtual PCs? Among the many good reasons are that they allow you to test new configurations, troubleshoot system problems, and learn about a new OS without dedicating an entire machine to it; you can also keep an older OS alive. For example, as Microsoft support for XP ends, you might not be ready to completely give up your XP computer. Or perhaps you have applications or data to which you still need access, but you don’t want to spend the time migrating them to Windows 8.1. You could just virtualize an older setup and continue to use it safely.
I virtualized my Windows 2000 Professional computer because it has the tax software and data I used many years ago. From time to time, I needed to look at that information. Creating a virtual system is a much better solution than hanging on to a 15-year-old computer I might not be able to keep running. A virtual PC never has a hardware failure, because the “hardware” is all software.
You can also use a virtualized OS to effectively turn back time. Let’s say, purely as an example, that I monitor websites of ill repute. Unfortunately, those sites are a frequent source of malware, viruses, or other digital diseases. Or possibly a site installs tracking software that can be used to identify me. Whatever unwanted “gifts” from the Web there might be, I don’t want them on my machine.