Technology Tales

Adventures & experiences in contemporary technology

Running Windows 7 within VirtualBox

12th January 2009

With all the fanfare that surrounded the public beta release of Windows 7, I suppose that the opportunity to give it a whirl was too good to miss. Admittedly, Microsoft bodged the roll-out by underestimating the level of interest and corralling everyone into a 24 hour time slot with one exacerbating the other. In the event, they did eventually get their act together and even removed the 2.5 million licence limit. I suppose that they really need to get 7 right after the unloved offering that was Vista so they probably worked out that the more testers that they get, the better. After, it might be observed that the cynical view that the era making people pay to “test” your products might be behind us and that users just want things to work well if not entirely faultlessly these days.

After several abortive raids, I eventually managed to snag myself a licence and started downloading the behemoth using the supplied download manager. I foresaw it taking a long time and so stuck with the 32-bit variant so as not to leave open the possibility of that part of the process using up any more of my time. As it happened, the download did take quite a few hours to complete but this part of the process was without any incident or fuss.

Once the DVD image was downloaded, it was onto the familiar process of building myself a VirtualBox VM as a sandbox to explore the forthcoming incarnation of Windows. After setting up the ISO file as a virtual DVD, installation itself was an uneventful process but subsequent activities weren’t without their blemishes. The biggest hurdle to be overcome was to get the virtual network adapter set up and recognised by Windows 7. The trick is to update the driver using the VirtualBox virtual CD as the source because Windows 7 will not recognise it using its own driver repository. Installing the other VirtualBox tools is a matter of going to Compatibility page in the Properties for the relevant executable, the one with x86 in the file name in my case, and setting XP as the Windows version (Vista works just as well apparently but I played safe and depended on my own experience). While I was at it, I allowed the file to run under the administrator account too. Right-clicking on executable files will bring you to the compatibility troubleshooter that achieves much the same ends but by a different route. With the Tools installed, all was workable rather than completely satisfactory. Shared folders have not worked for but that might need a new version of the VirtualBox software or getting to know any changes to networking that come with Windows 7. I plan to stick with using USB drives for file transfer for the moment. Stretching the screen to fit the VirtualBox window was another thing that would not happen but that’s a much more minor irritation.

With those matters out of the way, I added security software from the list offered by Windows with AVG, Norton and Kaspersky being the options on offer. I initially chose the last of these but changed my mind after seeing the screen becoming so corrupted as to make it unusable. That set me to rebuilding the VM and choosing Norton 360 after the second Windows installation had finished. That is working much better and I plan to continue my tinkering beyond this. I have noticed the inclusion of PowerShell and an IDE for the same so that could be something that beckons. All in all, there is a certain solidity about Windows 7 but I am not so convinced of the claim of speedy startups at this stage. Time will tell and, being a beta release, it’s bound to be full of debugging code that will not make it into the final version that is unleashed on the wider public.

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