The most tedious part of trying out a new software development environment is downloading and installing all the different tools.
To remove that hurdle, Microsoft offers free virtual machines with a full suite of development tools already installed.
The most recent releases of these preconfigured VMs are available on the Windows Dev Center in packages built for four popular virtualization platforms: VMware, Parallels, VirtualBox, and Microsoft's own Hyper-V.
Each virtual machine is built on Windows 10 Enterprise, Version 1511 (a 60-day evaluation edition) and includes a full copy of Visual Studio 2015 Community Update 1 and the Windows developer SDK and tools (Build 10586).
It also includes the Microsoft Azure SDK for .NET (Build 2.8.2), along with a collection of Universal Windows Platform samples (Build 2.0.4).
For developers looking to reuse code they've already written for iOS apps, each VM includes the Windows Bridge for iOS (Build 0.1.160304) and a set of Windows Bridge for iOS samples.
Each VM also has the Windows IoT Core SDK for Raspberry Pi 2 (Build 10586.0.151029-1700), along with Windows IoT Core project templates (Version 1.0).
Before you click that download button, one caution: These are very large files. The Hyper-V virtual machine, which runs on Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 Pro/Enterprise as well as current Windows Server editions, is the smallest of the bunch at 18.3 GB. The Parallels and VirtualBox VMs are 18.9 and 19.0 GB, respectively, and the VMware version is largest of all, at 20.3 GB.
For developers or IT pros who don't need that full suite of dev tools, a 90-day evaluation of Windows 10 Enterprise is available from the TechNet Evaluation Center. At a mere 3.6 GB for the 64-bit version, it's downright svelte.
The TechNet site also offers access to evaluations of deployment and management tools, including System Center Configuration Manager and Endpoint Protection, version 1511, and the Windows 10 Deployment and Management Lab Kit. The latter is a 26.3 GB download.