Advantages of Virtual Machines
Schematically the advantages of virtualisation can be shown. VMware Player is a program which emulates hardware with a system BIOS suitable for the OS being installed in question. You can use such a utility to install Windows or Linux without interrupting your host Operating System or partitions on your hard drives etc. This virtual system BIOS will be a generic VMware BIOS and will be unrelated to the actual system BIOS of your system. The Virtual Machine will essentially result in an entire OS being a single Window within your Host OS. See below:
Legacy Windows OS
On modern hardware its pretty much impossible to install Windows 98SE as all the hardware on the market today is significantly newer than the drivers available for Windows 98SE and because Windows 98SE was made obsolete a long time ago so no new drivers will ever be made. VMWare player on the other hand emulates hardware with a system BIOS which is friendly for a Windows 98SE install. XP is now going the same way.
Virtualisation therefore allows one to install legacy Windows OS and within these legacy Windows OS one may install the legacy programs and continue to use them on their modern computer. With VMware tools the screen size will automatically readjust to the size of the Window and drag and drop is supported between the VM and the host.
VMware is my preferred program for virtualisation because of its ability to connect to legacy hardware via USB devices and Serial Ports. This makes it the best VM solution if you need a legacy OS to control legacy but specialised hardware such as a very old scientific instrument.
Most computers that are 2012 or later should have plenty enough power to handle virtualisation on top of the host Windows 10 OS the exception being low end tablets. Higher end models from 2010-2011 should also be sufficient.
If one wants to test out the Windows 10 Insider Preview or also to install Linux without compromising their base Windows installation then Virtualisation is also the best way to go. If any problems are encountered the VM can simply be deleted and a new VM made without affecting any of your files, programs or settings on your Host PC.
Download Links, Creating Installation Media and Introduction
With the VM comes the Virtual BIOS and although physical drives such as a floppy drive and an optical drive can be used to begin the installation or launch a program within the legacy OS newer computers are shipping without these drives. It is therefore useful to convert CD/DVDs to read only .iso and Floppy Disks to read only .flp formats on a computer which has the drives. VMware can then utilise these virtual formats. VMware can also connect to hardware via USB, Serial Port and Parallel Ports. VMware tools allows for the installation of most of the VMs system drivers and also allows drag and drop between the VM and host:
- Creating a .iso Image from a CD/DVD and Creating a .flp Image from a Floppy Disk. Connecting to Hardware and Changing BIOS Settings
These guides will take you through a clean installation of Windows Retail or Enterprise in a fresh VM which will offer the best system performance and is hence recommended. I will list only the “good” versions of Windows such as Windows XP and Windows 7 in particular. The focus of these guides is first to revive specialised software and secondly to use the specialised software to connect to specialised hardware. I use a scanner as a basic demonstration but this can also be applied to a scientific instrument. There is unlikely to be any specialised software for legacy hardware locked to bad versions of Windows such as Windows ME (Windows XP or Windows 2000 were preferred), Windows Vista (Windows 7 or Windows XP were preferred) and Windows 8 (Windows 7 or Windows 10 are preferred) due to poor performance and poor consumer uptake:
These guides will take you through the cloning of a physical Windows OEM Install and the conversion to a Retail/Enterprise license which may be necessary if you have a specialised setup without the installers for your specialised software.
These guides are mainly for those who want to try Linux to see what its like. In general I recommend playing/testing Linux in a VM opposed to playing with partitions on your hard drive and accidentally losing your Windows Install:
- Ubuntu (Free)
- Mint (Free) – Guide not written yet
- Fedora (Free) – Guide not written yet