Installing an Operating System

Installing an operating system on a virtual machine can be accomplished just like installing on real hardware. This section illustrates how similar the procedure is.

Install Windows on the Virtual Machine

At the end of the preceding procedure, we already inserted a boot floppy in the virtual floppy drive and a Win98 CD in the virtual CD drive, so that will not be covered here.

This particular Windows 98 CD is an upgrade version, which means it will do a compliance check to verify we have the requisite prior version of Windows. In this example, we'll use Windows 3.1 installation floppies to satisfy the compliance check. In preparation, I have placed images of the Win 3.1 floppies on the host machine's desktop.

Step 1:

Start the Virtual PC Console.

Double-click the selected virtual machine (or highlight it and click the Start button).

The virtual machine will start up in a window, and "boot" from the virtual floppy disk. The floppy will finish booting and leave us at the A:\> prompt. In this illustration, the virtual CD drive is "drive R:".

Enter the command r:\setup to launch the Setup program on the Windows CD.
Step 2:

Continue following the on-screen prompts to install Windows, exactly as would be done installing Windows on a real hard disk from a real CD.

Note that when you click in the vm window, the vm will capture the mouse. Moving the mouse will then move the mouse pointer in the vm window. Mouse movement will be restricted to the boundaries of the vm window, and we will not be able to move the mouse outside the window to control the host machine or click on the host machine's desktop. To release the mouse, press the Right-Alt key on the keyboard. Then we'll be able to use the mouse on the host machine until the next time we click back in the vm window.
Step 3:

To satisfy the compliance check, we need to swap floppies. Press the Right-Alt key to release our mouse from the vm, then drag the first Win 3.1 floppy from the host machine's desktop and drop it onto the floppy drive icon in the lower-left status bar. Now that we've inserted the floppy, click back in the vm window, instruct Setup to look in drive A:, and click Next to continue.
Step 4:

Repeat Step 3 to insert additional floppy disks as necessary.

Continue to follow the on-screen prompts and complete the installation of Windows.

Note that as Windows searches for and installs drivers for new hardware, the hardware it sees will be the emulated hardware in the virtual machine, not the host machine's hardware.

This procedure installs the Windows 98 operating system on the virtual hard disk. This basic procedure can be used to install any other Microsoft operating system, and some non-Microsoft operating systems, as well. In this example we have used images of floppy disks and CDs, but the same process can be done using real floppy disks and CDs. To use real disks, right-click on the floppy or CD icon in the lower-left status bar and link the virtual drive to the host machine's real drive.

author: Dan Goodell