Tutorial Thursday

I love testing out new software, but I like to use virtual machines to see what the software is like before I go installing it on my actual system. A virtual machine is a virtual computer environment which allows you to run one operating system form within your current operating system. This gives a lot of benefits with the biggest one being that you can run multiple operating systems (both Linux and Windows) on your computer without ever having to restart it. The next big benefit that I mentioned is that you can test out software and other things before installing it on your main system.

Microsoft offers a Virtual PC program that runs only on Windows and supports the installation of many different versions of Windows. This is the best choice for most people because it is easy-to-use and is actually free.

Probably the most popular solution for using virtual machines is VMware Workstation. This supports a very long list of operating systems but costs $189…which is well out of the range for most consumers. However, VMware currently has a Beta program going on to test the next milestone release of their software, and you can obtain a valid serial number at no cost to you without any restrictions! Despite having the “Beta” label, I would say that the software is extremely stable from my experiences, and works very well with Vista as both the host (your main operating system) and guest (the operating system installed on the virtual machine).

One thing that is frustrating about the virtual machines is that the graphical capabilities are normally pretty limited because they have to be shared with your host operating system. This can definitely have an effect on anyone trying to run Vista in a virtual machine because you won’t receive any of the Aero glass effects, even if your computer completely supports it. There is, however, a workaround to get Aero to work.

Note: This does require your virtual machine to have access to your network, and the host machine has to be running Aero for this to work.

  1. Install Vista on a virtual machine and run it. Make sure to enable remote connections on the virtual machine in the Remote Settings located in the Control Panel under System Properties.
    Virtual Vista
  2. Your virtual machine should be running Vista without the Aero glass. You now need to find out the IP address of the virtual machine. To do this open up the Start Menu, type “cmd” without the quotes, and press Ctrl+Shift+Enter to run the program as an administrator.
    Virtual Vista
  3. At the prompt type ipconfig and press Enter. You are looking for the IP address in the output which should look something like this:
    Virtual Vista
  4. On your host computer start the Remote Desktop client and expand the Options. On the Experience tab, make sure all of the boxes are checked, and on the Display tab make sure the color is set to 32–bit. Then go back to the General tab and enter in the IP address that you found in the previous step.
    Virtual Vista
  5. Enter in the username/password if prompted and now you will have successfully connected to your virtual machine using remote desktop. The only difference is that the host machine is processing the graphics instead of the virtual machine so you can enable Aero on Vista!
    Virtual Vista

I wish there was some other way to enable Aero in a virtual PC, but this is the only way that I have seen. You’re probably wondering why it would even matter whether Aero was running if I just wanted to quickly test out software? There is a lot of new software being developed that takes advantage of Aero’s capabilities, and if I want to test what it really has to offer, I need to have Aero running.

Eventually a better solution may emerge, but until then I think this is the only workaround that’s available. :(

Source: MSDN Blog