I do a lot of my development in virtualised environments. If you aren’t familiar with virtual machines then I strongly recommend investigating further. There are many advantages to working in this way.
- An extra level of security. Whilst it is possible for nasties to traverse the host/guest operating system barrier, unsophisticated Trojans and viruses will be nicely contained
- Sandbox. This is a developer term for a “play area” in your virtual sandbox you can install and try out things and at the end of your session you can chose not to save your changes. This means you get a clean system to start on next time. Of course you can save the changes if you chose!
- Portability. For example when upgrading your host OS from XP to Windows 7! I can seamlessly continue working without having to reinstall all my software again. This does mean my development environment is still running XP but the reduced risk to my work continuity is great. I don’t have to worry that some old app critical to my work isn’t going to run, or I don’t have to clear out several days just to get my PC up and running again.
Note that VMs do require licensing, but, if like me, you have purchased a number of full Windows licenses over the years then you should have one or two spare lying around. Or alternatively you can setup as many Linux based VMs as you like!
Upgrading from Virtual PC 2007 to Virtual PC Windows 7
Getting my existing XP VM up and running on my new Windows 7 host install was relatively easy, however I hit a couple of snags.
- First of all, you need to download Virtual PC. The new version requires that you have a CPU capable of supporting hardware virtualisation.
- The first stumble came when the VM failed to find a network card. This was solved by opening up the virtual PC’s settings configuration screen and reselecting my PC’s network card.
- I then needed to reinstall the integrated components that allow the VPC instance to automatically capture the mouse, allow file transfers etc.
For now it seems everything is up and running OK, however there is still one problem I’d like to solve. With Virtual PC 2007 you could use Win+L to lock the virtual machine, but now this seems to lock my host operating system and not the guest operating system! If anyone knows how to lock the guest OS with a keyboard short cut using Windows 7 Virtual PC then please let me know!