Step by step: How to safely test-drive Win8

Fred langa
By Fred Langa

Using safe, free virtual PC software, you can set up and run the Windows 8 Consumer Preview inside your current PC without affecting your other programs or your installed version of Windows.

This method lets you test-drive Windows 8 without having to make potentially risky changes to your current setup. There’s no need for dual-booting, special partitions, and so on.

Setting up Windows 8 in a virtual PC requires numerous steps. I’ll take you through all of them, one by one, to help ensure that everything works right the first time.

First, however, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. A virtual PC (VPC), sometimes also called a virtual machine (VM), is a desktop computer that’s fully emulated in software. You can install a variety of operating systems, applications, and utilities on VPCs and use them just as if you’d installed them on a standalone system.

The operating system (or guest software) installed on a VPC thinks it’s running on a normal, physical system. But it’s not; it’s running inside a protected memory space on the host system. In a VPC, special emulation software masquerades as the BIOS, motherboard, hard drive, CD drive, display adapter, network card, and other components of a physical machine. In other words, VPCs provide all the normal hardware of a standard PC — entirely in software.

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Fred Langa

About Fred Langa

Fred Langa is senior editor. His LangaList Newsletter merged with Windows Secrets on Nov. 16, 2006. Prior to that, Fred was editor of Byte Magazine (1987 to 1991) and editorial director of CMP Media (1991 to 1996), overseeing Windows Magazine and others.