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Virtualization : Windows 7 and Existing Virtualization Environments - Sun xVM VirtualBox

7/11/2012 3:59:17 PM
So far we have only discussed the virtualization capabilities inherent in Windows 7—virtually loading Windows 7 and using the Windows XP Mode virtual system within Windows 7.

Sun xVM VirtualBox

The first environment we want to discuss is Sun’s xVM VirtualBox software. This open source virtualization software can be downloaded from www.virtualbox.org and installed on your system. At present, VirtualBox requires one of the following host operating systems to run properly:

  • Linux (We have tested this on both Fedora and Ubuntu and have seen no issues.)

  • Mac OS X

  • OS/2 Warp

  • Windows XP or later

  • Solaris

If you plan to run Windows 7 using VirtualBox, you should make sure that your system has sufficient resources for all the various system configurations you plan to use. In addition, allow for system resource utilization by the host and allow 256MB of memory for the VirtualBox software itself. Your video output should also be fully supported by the host system.

Installing Windows 7 Under Sun VirtualBox

Before installing Windows 7 as a virtual system, you need to make sure your host operating system is installed on your computer and you have installed the Sun VirtualBox software.

After you have done these two things, you can start installing Windows 7.

Your first task is to start the VirtualBox console and then use it to create and configure a virtual hard disk instance for your Windows 7 installation. We have found that the settings shown in Tables 1 and 2 are the bare minimum that is acceptable for running Windows 7 from within VirtualBox.

Table 1. Minimum Settings for Running Windows 7 Under Sun VirtualBox
OS TypeMicrosoft Windows
VersionWindows Vista (see note below)
Base Memory Size512MB
Boot Hard DiskClick New, and see below
Hard Disk, Storage TypeDynamically Expanding Storage
Hard Disk, LocationAny appropriate location on your system
Hard Disk, Size20.00GB

Table 2. Expanded Recommended VirtualBox Settings for Windows 7 Virtual System
GeneralBasicOperating SystemMicrosoft Windows.

BasicVersionWindows Vista (we expect that an updated version with Windows 7 compatibility will be available by the end of 2009).

BasicBase Memory800MB.

BasicVideo Memory128MB.

BasicEnable 3D AccelerationYes.

AdvancedBoot OrderWhatever you think is appropriate. However, note that initially you will need to enable CD/DVD-ROM boot ahead of the hard disk.

AdvancedEnable ACPIYes.
Hard Disk
Enable SATA ControllerYes.

SlotHard DiskThe VDI file that you create for the virtual system instance.
Mount CD/DVD DriveYes.

Host CD/DVD Drive
Normally we would suggest this. However, see the next item for an alternative option.

Host CD/DVD DriveEnable PassthroughYou must enable this option if you plan to let the virtual installation of Windows 7 use your computer’s CD/DVD drive.

ISO Image File
We found some issues with DVD drive passthrough from our host system. As a result, we wound up creating an ISO from the DVD drive on the host system and then mounting the ISO as a DVD image with this option to install Windows 7 to our virtual environment.
FloppyMount Floppy
If your system has a floppy drive, and you plan to allow the virtual system to use it, you must select this option. We never used it because none of our test systems had floppy drives.
AudioEnable Audio
If you want your virtual system to be able to use the host computer’s audio capabilities, you must enable this option.
Host Audio DriverIf you select Null audio driver, the Windows 7 virtual system will “see” an audio card but will not be able to send any sound out through it.
Audio ControllerSoundBlaster 16.
NetworkAdapter 1Enable NetworkYou must enable at least one network adapter for your virtual system to be able to communicate on the Internet.
NetworkAdapter 1Adapter TypeIntel Pro/1000 MT Desktop.
NetworkAdapter 1Attached toNAT.
NetworkAdapter 1Cable ConnectedYes.
Serial PortsPort 1Enable Serial PortEnable this only if you plan to let the virtual system use your computer’s serial ports. In our test cases, we left this turned off.
Enable USB ControllerYes.
Enable USB 2.0 (EHCI) ControllerYes.
Shared Folder

By default, no shared folders are created. We found it useful to create a shared folder for the virtual system, which linked to the host system’s desktop. Click the plus sign (+) icon in the upper-left corner to create a shared folder.

After you have created the virtual system instance, including its associated virtual hard disk image (VDI file), you can install Windows 7.

Mount the Windows 7 DVD in your system’s DVD drive.

From within VirtualBox, select the Windows 7 virtual system instance and then click the Start arrow (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Starting the Windows 7 instance for system installation.

Based on the recommended settings, your virtual system should start to boot and then load from your host system DVD drive. If you have any issues with this process, stop the virtual system, copy an ISO image of the Windows 7 DVD to your system, and then mount that ISO image as the DVD drive under VirtualBox.

Install and configure Windows 7 as you normally would.

After Windows 7 is installed in your virtual environment, test the network connectivity from within the virtual system using Internet Explorer.

Configure the Windows 7 virtual instance as you would any other system installation. Note that you can perform normal application migration operations from within VirtualBox with no issues, so migrating applications and settings should be as simple as they would be to a regular Windows 7 installation.


The next environment we discuss is VMWare. In this case, we ran Windows 7 under VMWare Workstation 6.5.2. However, any VMWare product will support the 32-bit x86 platform that you need to run Windows 7, and virtually any VMWare product that you can get will also support 64-bit Windows 7 installations if your underlying hardware will support it. In practice, this means that you can run Windows 7 virtually under VMWare installed on Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003, Server 2008, any recent version of Linux, and Macintosh OS. The precise operating system requirements may vary depending on which version of VMWare you are using. VMWare Server, for example, requires that you use a server version of Windows as your host operating system; Windows XP and Windows Vista would not work properly.


To run the 64-bit version of Windows 7 as a virtual system under VMWare, your host system must have a 64-bit processor and a BIOS compatible with x86 virtualization. Intel systems require VT hardware virtualization, and AMD64 processors must be revision D or later.

You should note the minimum system requirements for running Windows 7 under VMWare shown in Table 3.

Table 3. Minimum Requirements to Run Windows 7 Under VMWare
Memory512MB for VMWare, plus 768MB for Windows 7, totaling 1280MB. Of course, more is better, and VMWare recommends 2GB–4GB of memory to run a guest OS under VMWare.
DiskVMWare requires 1.7GB for installation purposes. You will also want 20GB of disk space available for the actual Windows 7 installation.

Installing and Configuring VMWare

The first task you need to perform is to install the VMWare software. Install and configure the VMWare environment using the procedures laid out in the VMWare documentation. In our case, we needed to install both VMWare Workstation (which creates the virtual machine) and VMWare Player (which runs it).

After you have done so, create a new virtual machine. During the configuration, you will be asked for the location of the installation media, as well as configuration information, such as your license key and the default user. By entering this information ahead of time, you can allow VMWare to automatically configure the system. This situation also pointed up the ease of having an ISO image of the Windows 7 installer. From within VMWare Workstation, we selected File, New, Virtual Machine, which launched the New Virtual Machine wizard. From there, we selected a typical installation and then pointed the installer at the ISO file we had created earlier. The wizard asked us for a product key, user name, and password; then it asked for a virtual machine name and a location in which to store the virtual machine. Finally, it asked for some configuration information—how big the disk was to be and whether to store the virtual system disk as a single file or split into smaller files.

Once the virtual system was created, we ran it from VMWare Player. The first time we powered up the virtual machine, it automatically detected the ISO; started it; and ran the installation process, configuring the Windows installation using the information we had already entered.


One item we noted during our testing process was that configuring VMWare under a Linux host was less simple than configuring other virtual environments. After we got past the configuration issues, however, there were no problems of any kind running Windows 7 under VMWare.

Other Virtual Environments

A number of other virtual environments exist that you can use to virtually deploy Windows 7. As a rule, you should stick to virtualization software that supports either x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit) technologies. Wikipedia maintains a useful list of virtualization software that supports Windows-oriented virtualization.

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