Microsoft just released updated Virtual PC images for Windows XP that users can legally download. Virtual PC images are a single file that contain a “clone” of an operating system. The Virtual PC software is a free download provided by Microsoft and is used to run multiple operating systems inside of Windows. This is normally useful for developers who need to try a program that they’re developing on multiple operating systems to ensure proper compatibility, but it can also benefit other people.
So why would this be useful for you? The Virtual PC images that Microsoft just released come in two different flavors: one has Internet Explorer 6 (443MB) and the other has Internet Explorer 7 (491MB). This lets you test your websites out to see how they look on other browsers without actually needing to have multiple versions of IE installed on your computer.
There is actually another benefit to this that most people don’t realize. Using these images is also great for keeping your PC free from unnecessary clutter! If you’re thinking that you want to test out an application to see how much you like it, now all you have to do is install the program on the Virtual PC. That way if you don’t like it, you can easily remove it from your computer without wondering what registry settings or folders it left behind.
The only downside to using these is that the images expire August 17th, 2007, but that is still 4–months of free access to a Windows XP testing station. Also, these images are pre-activated, but Microsoft has deactivated the product keys so that they don’t pass the Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) check. This is pretty logical because some users might try to retrieve the product key from the Virtual PC image and use it to install their own version of XP. If Microsoft allowed these keys to pass the WGA checks, then that product key would quickly become a goldmine for piracy.