Microsoft releases Virtual PC 2007 SP1

Microsoft releases Virtual PC 2007 SP1

Summary: Last week Microsoft released Virtual PC 2007 Service Pack 1, with support for Windows Vista SP1 and Windows XP SP3 as host and guest, and Windows Server 2008 Standard as a guest OS. In the past, I've been underwhelmed with Virtual PC, but this update is surprisingly snappy. If you're thinking about installing Ubuntu 8.04 in a virtual machine, you'll get an error message almost immediately. Conspiracy? Nope. I'll show you where to find the simple, step-by-step workaround to get it running right.

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Via Microsoft's Ben Armstrong, I learned last week that Microsoft has released Virtual PC 2007 Service Pack 1 (x86 and x64 packages are available for download, and release notes are also online now).

The new package supports Windows Vista SP1 and Windows XP SP3 as host and guest, and also supports Windows Server 2008 Standard as a guest OS.

In the past, I've been underwhelmed with Virtual PC, mostly for its sluggish performance. Lately, I've been using the beta of Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008, which I described last month). So, in the spirit of giving the new release a fair try, over the weekend I installed Virtual PC 2007 SP1 on two different quad-core Intel machines running x86 and x64 versions of Windows Vista Ultimate. I was very pleasantly surprised. In under two hours, I set up VMs running Windows XP SP3 and Vista Home Basic SP1. Previously, Vista installs in a VM had been agonizingly slow. This time, installation was completed in about 45 minutes, which is only slightly 10 minutes longer than a comparable install would have been on the physical hardware. Installing the Virtual Machine Additions made for excellent performance in the VM.

When I tried to install Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) in a VM, I was greeted with an ominous error message at the very start of the process. See for yourself:

Error when trying to instrall Ubuntu 8.04 in Virtual PC 2007 SP1

Conspiracy theorists will assume that this is a Microsoft plot to cripple the popular Linux distro. However, it took me only five minutes to find the step-by-step instructions that allowed me to complete the installation and get graphics working at an acceptable resolution. The source? Microsoft blogger Sean Earp, whose informative post, Installing Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron in Virtual PC 2007, was in turn condensed from a post and several comments at the Arcane Code weblog.

When I was done with the relatively simple installation workaround, the Virtual PC console looked like this (with OpenSUSE 10.3 in the process of being installed):

Virtual PC 2007 SP1 console

Some of the weaknesses in Virtual PC remain. It still doesn't provide support for Aero graphics, meaning any Vista VM will be stuck with the Windows Vista Basic theme. And it doesn't support external USB devices (except for keyboards and mice, of course). So you can't use a Virtual PC VM to directly access a USB device such as a scanner or TV tuner.

Next, I tried moving the virtual hard drive created with Virtual PC to a machine running Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V. Virtual PC supports sound from a VM, using a virtual 16-bit Sound Blaster device, and Hyper-V has no sound support, so I was prepared for all transplanted VMs to be missing sound capability. For the Ubuntu VM, I had to replace the standard (virtual) network adapter with a Legacy Network Adapter. As soon as I did that, it worked perfectly.

If you already use Virtual PC 2007, this is a must download. If you had tried it previously and rejected it for performance reasons, it might be worth another try.

Topics: Microsoft, Operating Systems, Software, Windows

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13 comments
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  • Now if it would only support x64 guest OS's (nt)

    ...
    pmcgrath@...
    • No kidding! (nt)

      .
      JoeMama_z
    • Out of curiosity...

      Why do you want to run x64 in a VM on a desktop system? I can understand the case for x64 compat on a server, but on a workstation? Are you going to use more than 3.2 GB of RAM in a VM?

      Just curious what the user case is here.
      Ed Bott
      • I would like to use 64 bit images also

        For testing purposes of course, I use VMs for testing environment but up to now I have been unable to use MS Virtual PC/Server because it does not support 64 bit and because it has such *poor* support for OSs other than MS offerings.

        I think that more people would complain if it were not free; they probably expect that you get what you pay for.
        balsover
  • RE: Microsoft releases Virtual PC 2007 SP1

    in reference to above comments..damn on the no 64bit support of client os'es
    richvball44
  • RE: Microsoft releases Virtual PC 2007 SP1

    Would be interested in your experience in getting openSUSE v10.3 installed as a guest in Virtual PC 2007.
    MikeLH
    • OpenSUSE v10.3 fails to install

      The mouse fails to be recognized in the VM window, and if I use the keyboard to step through the install it fails, complaining that the ISO install media fails checksum validation (I checked the download and confirm via checksum that it is valid).

      I'm sure that there's a similar workaround required, just as with Ubuntu, but haven't seen anyone document it yet.
      Ed Bott
  • RE: Fedora support?

    Has anyone tried it with Fedora?
    archnova
    • Installed Fedora 9 successfully here

      I got the same processor error as with Ubuntu. When I used the noreplace-paravirt switch in install it completed fine. I then had to edit the line in the Grub menu to include that parameter as well. After that, I was able to boot just fine. Haven't done much with this VM yet other than run a browser and confirm that it works, but I'm reading this post and these comments in the Fedora VM right now.
      Ed Bott
      • Thanks!

        Thanks Ed! I will be installing Fedora 9 soon...
        archnova
  • RE: Microsoft releases Virtual PC 2007 SP1

    I tried installing VPC SP1 and it stopped with a message that Windows Explorer was using files that needed to be updated and that Windows Explorer needed to be shut down--darned if I know how to do that without shutting Windows down altogether. [Ignoring it just gets you a VPC installation that doesn't work right; it wouldn't bind to the network adapter. And VPC worked just fine for me before I installed the SP.]
    Any thoughts here?
    frank_s
    • Try posting a comment at Ben Armstrong's blog

      Link is in the first sentence. Or use the VPC newsgroups.
      Ed Bott
  • No USB support !!!!! :-(((

    Typical MS. Do a half ass job. Tease ya. Put someone to the trouble of installing VPC the XP OS then find out can't use it with USB device, ie HD and Flash drive, what a waist of time. But what do you expect for free? In this case, at least the basics, and USB support is a BASIC ! This product should rate a 50 out of a hundred at best.

    Shame on MS for calling this product a "Virtual PC", it is NOT. It is an "Almost" VPC. It can do networking but not USB, what a joke!
    The Ralph Malph