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Virtual PC and Virtual Server “virtualize“ (who'd a thunk it?) your PC's hardware and the virtual hard disks simply become a file on the file system. 

I use Microsoft Virtual Server R2 extensively for development work.  Right now I'm using it while learning about VS Team System and Team Foundation Server.  I have a Windows 2003 R2 domain controller, a W2K3 Application Server, and a W2K3 database server all running in a virtual environment on my PC. (ok, so it's a server class machine but I deserve it)

There are a couple of features of VPC/VSR2 that are really handy.  The first is Undo Disks.  With undo disks enabled, all changes made to the system are written to a separate file.  They can be saved between sessions if you like but if you are experimenting, you can simple abandon the undo file when you shut down the virtual PC instance.  Now you are effortlessly back to your baseline.  When you get things right, you can choose to merge the undo disk into the main image to retain your modifications.

The second handy feature is Differencing Disks.  It is similar in function to undo disks except that the difference disk becomes a completely new instance of the OS.  The base image remains untouched and should be marked read-only as any change made to the base image will invalidate all images for which it serves as the base.

So, in the case of my team system environment, I have a single base image of Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise marked read only and then three difference disks that are used for the DC, app server and database server.  I only had to install Windows once! 

There was a case recently when I needed to have Visual Basic Embedded installed to take a look at a mobile app.  Not something I wanted to do on my production workstation.  I fire up Virtual PC, create a new instance based on my base XPSP2 image and then install VB Embedded.  Nice and clean. 

Even when you had to pay ninety-nine bucks for it, you saved that much the first time you used it.  Now that it's free...

Just because I can...


posted on Thursday, August 3, 2006 8:08 PM


# re: Virtual PC Is Now Free 8/4/2006 5:07 PM Eric Newton
Now, if they could make it so that a differencing disk could be upgraded to a newer ServicePack... now that would be handy! Not sure how you'd do it with the way Windows handles itself though...

# re: Virtual PC Is Now Free 1/5/2008 9:09 AM emman
hey this site is great.

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