If you read any of the tech blogs, you know that the Windows 8 Consumer Preview is now available for anyone to try. What holds most people back from trying pre-release versions of Windows is having someplace to install it that won’t trash your existing OS installation. Often times this is done by creating a new partition on a hard disk and installing the preview OS there. Easier, in my mind at least, is to install the new OS in a virtual machine. That’s what I decided to do this morning. I already use virtual machines for other purposes (for example, I have a virtual machine running Windows XP so I can run some older software that’s not compatible with Windows 7). I use VMWare Player, a free product from VMWare.

It took me a few tries to successfully install the Windows 8 preview, so I thought I’d document what worked for me. Here we go:

1) Download and install VMWare Player. It’s not hard to install but the download is pretty large and the install takes a few minutes.

2) Download the ISO file for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I used the 32-bit version (I tried without success to install the 64-bit version). This is a large download (2.5 GB). Make a note of the product key listed on that page, too–you’ll need it later.

3) Launch VMWare Player, and click on the “Create a New Virtual Machine” link to launch the create wizard.

VMWare Player main window

4) In the wizard that appears, the first screen asks how you’ll install the guest operating system. Select “I will install the operating system later.” This keeps VMWare Player from using its “Easy Install” feature. The click the Next button.

5) On the next screen, select Windows 7 as the guest operating system.

Select Guest OS

6) On the next screen, specify the name and storage location for your virtual machine.

Name the virtual machine

7) On the next screen, specify the maximum size of the virtual machine. The default should be sufficient.

Specify the maximum size of the virtual machine

8) The next screen is the last screen for the wizard, but before clicking the Finish button, we need to customize the hardware, so click on the Customize Hardware button.

Almost ready to complete the wizard.

9) First, adjust the memory upward if you have the capacity. I have 4 GB in my system and set the VM memory size to be 2 GB.

Set the memory for the virtual machine.

10) Next, select the “New CD/DVD” item in the hardware list. On the right side, in the Connection box, select “Use ISO Image File” and click the Browse button to specify the ISO file you downloaded in step 2 above. After that, you can click the Close button to return to the final wizard screen. Click the Finish button in the final wizard screen to proceed with creating the virtual machine. VMWare Player should automatically launch the new VM and connect it to the ISO file and begin the process of installing Windows 8 in the VM.

11) The Windows 8 installation is pretty straightforward, but if you need them, instructions can be found in this article on the Ars Technica web site.

12) At this point, you should be up and running with Windows 8 in a virtual machine, including internet connectivity. The only other setup thing you might want to do is install VMWare Tools in the virtual machine. VMWare Tools enhances the virtual machine by improving performance and adding additional functionality. You can get the latest version by going here on the VMWare web site and downloading the latest version (do this from within the virtual machine–that’s where it needs to be installed). Once you have the installer file downloaded, right-click on it, select Properties from the context menu, and then go to the Compatibility tab in the Properties window and set compatibility to Windows 7 and click OK to save that setting. Then right-click again on the file and select Run as Administrator to actually install it. Just accept the defaults and let the installer complete its work.

That’s all there is to it. Enjoy!

 

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