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Many Windows users aren't aware of it, but a powerful virtualization tool is built into every copy of Microsoft Windows 8.x Pro and Windows 8.x Enterprise, Client Hyper-V.
This is the very same Type-1 hypervisor that runs virtualized enterprise workloads and comes with Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2. The virtual machines you create on your desktop with Client Hyper-V are fully compatible with those server systems as well.
If you're a software developer and need to do testing, or simply want additional operating system(s) running on your computer, such as Linux, Hyper-V can be a great feature to have enabled on your PC.
Client Hyper-V has remarkably few limitations compared to its Server sibling. They are:
- Does not have Remote FX capability to virtualize GPUs
- Cannot do Live migration of virtual machines from one host to another
- Cannot use Hyper-V Replica
- Does not include Virtual Fibre Channel
- Cannot do 32-bit SR-IOV networking
- Cannot do Shared .vhdx
If you need to be able to do these, you might want to consider the free Hyper-V Server product, or Windows Server 2012 R2.
For additional information on the full feature set of Hyper-V, click here.
Client Hyper-V is only available in the following versions of Windows:
- Windows 8 Pro 64-bit Edition
- Windows 8 Enterprise 64-bit Edition
- Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit Edition
- Windows 8.1 Enterprise 64-bit Edition
For this demonstration though, we'll concentrate on the Windows 8.1 versions, as it is a free upgrade from Windows 8, and that's the version most users will likely be using.
Enable 64-bit Virtualization Extensions in your PC BIOS
To install the Hyper-V feature on your PC, you'll need a computer with 4GB of RAM with a 64-bit processor that has Second Level Address Translation (SLAT).
Many PCs on the market have this feature, but some budget processors and older 64-bit systems do not. Additonally, while many PC BIOSes have virtualization features turned on by default, your PC might not.
As BIOS menu layouts are not universal, you'll want to consult your PC BIOS documentation as to where the feature is located in your firmware setup and what it is called.
In the example above on this Dell consumer Core i7 laptop, it is simply referred to as "Virtualization" under the "Advanced" menu.