Microsoft released a developer preview of Windows 8 last night and surprisingly made it available for general public too. Though this brand new OS is half-baked and is meant to be used by developers to build apps for Windows 8, it’s way too tempting for a non-developer to let go the opportunity to get the first taste of a hot & sexy OS.

Not to worry, we have a detailed yet simple guide to help you install and test-drive Windows 8 on your existing PC using a free to use virtualization software called VirtualBox. Though there are other VM (virtual machine) software like VMware Workstation and Virtual PC, I would advice you to go with VirtualBox as I have been getting reports of failed installations on VMware and Virtual PC, possible because Windows 8 requires IO APIC enabled to run on VMs, which is available only on VirtualBox.


  • It is very important for you to confirm that your PC supports Hardware Virtualization. If you are not sure, use this guide to check.
  • If it supports hardware virtualization, make sure you enable it via BIOS.

How to Install Windows 8 on VirtualBox

Note: This guide is written for Windows 8 Developer Preview and installed on a Dell Studio 1555 Laptop running Windows 7 64-bit version using VirtualBox 4.1.2 VM software. But it should hold good for all builds of Windows 8 and all versions of VirtualBox 4.x on all PCs running Windows (and may also work on Mac/Linux).

1. Download the latest version of VirtualBox.

2. Download Windows 8.

3. Install VirtualBox. Installation is quite simple & straight-forward.

4. Click on “New” to create a New Virtual Machine Wizard.

5. Type the name of the VM (“Win8” for example). Make sure you select Microsoft Windows as the Operating System and Windows 7 as the version. Select Windows 7 64-bit if you are on a 64-bit system. Click on Next


6. In the next window, you are supposed to allocate the memory for this VM. The thumb rule is to allocate half of the available RAM. For example, if you have 4GB RAM, allocate 2GB for this VM, so that you will still have 2GB for the host OS.


7. Next step is to create a virtual hard disk. Assuming you haven’t created a startup disk before, it is wiser to leave the default settings and click on Next.


8. Here as well, leave the default setting (VDI) and click on Next.


9. In this step, you are free to choose either of the options, but I recommend Fixed size as it would ensure you don’t end up short of HDD space after sometime.


10. You can increase or decrease the Virtual disk file size as you wish. But make sure you allocate at-least 14GB of space. The default value of 20GB is a safe bet though. Click Next to complete the configuration.


11. You will be greeted with the Summary page with the settings you have chosen. Click on Create button to begin creating virtual disk file.


12. Step back and wait for virtual disk file to be created. It might take some time depending upon the size of the virtual disk file you have allocated.


13. Once the process is completed, you will be greeted with the screen below.


14. Before you go ahead and start the Windows 8 VM, make sure you change a couple of important settings. Click on Settings and

  • Choose System tab on left panel. Make sure Enable IO APIC is checked.
  • Also, under Acceleration tab, make sure both Enable VT-x/AMD-V and Enable Nested Paging are checked. Click OK to exit.

15. Now click on Start button. This will start the “First Run Wizard”. Click on Next.


16. Here, you would need to select the Windows8 ISO file which you downloaded in Step 2. Click on the Yellow folder icon to browse through to the folder containing the ISO file and select the ISO file. Click on Next.


17. Windows 8 installation will start. Choose the appropriate language, Time, Currency and keyboard settings and click on Next.


18. Next few steps are straight-forward and you should then see this “Installing Windows” screen.


19. Once the installation is complete, you will be asked to add an user. If you have a Windows LiveID, just enter your email address and Windows will fetch the details from the web. If not, you can either create a new LiveID or choose to enter a custom username and password. Tip: In Settings page, it is better to choose “Express Settings” instead of “Custom settings” as I had problems connecting to the internet when choosing Custom settings option.


20. Once done, you will be greeted with the new metro style Start screen!


Troubleshooting tips

1. If you get an error “This 64-bit application couldn’t load because your PC does not have a 64-bit processor”, it means you haven’t enabled hardware virtualization and/or IO APIC for the VM. Enable both, shutdown the PC (not just restart) and start again.

2. If you have problem connecting to internet after installing Windows 8, try choosing Intel PRO /1000 MT Desktop under Advanced Configuration of Network tab.

3. I have not been able to get the metro styled apps working as they just don’t open (except for Control Panel, Windows Explorer and Show desktop). There is no fix for this as I know yet. Will update as and when I get to fix that.
Update: The fix is to change the resolution to 1024×768. To do that, go to Control Panel (old style) -> Display -> Resolution

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