How To: Install Windows 8 on VirtualBox

Recently Microsoft has released preview versions of Windows 8 including Windows 8 Consumer Preview and Windows 8 Developer Preview, pre-Beta releases of Windows 8 designed to give consumers and developers a preview of Microsoft’s next installment of Windows. I am sure there are many dotTechies out there that are dying to give Windows 8 a …preview… but don’t want to install it on their main workhorses. Well, don’t worry — you can give Windows 8 a whirl without having to install it on your computer, per se: You can install Windows 8 virtually on VirtualBox.

Why Install Windows 8 On VirtualBox

The reasoning is really very simple. VirtualBox is a virtualization program, as I am sure most — if not all — of you know. By installing Windows 8 on VirtualBox you are, in effect, sandboxing it from your computer. All your data and files are safe since Windows 8 doesn’t touch your main partition; and any bugs in Windows 8 will not crash your (real) machine. Plus uninstalling/removing/deleting Windows 8 on VirtualBox is very easy with no virtual side effects.

Before We Begin

There are two things you need to confirm before you try to install Windows 8 on VirtualBox.

First and foremost you need to make sure VirtualBox is supported on your computer. At the time of this writing, VirtualBox is available for all three major operating systems: Windows, OS X, and Linux. Both 32-bit and 64-bit machines are supported.

Secondly, you need to make sure your computer can support Windows 8. Officially, Microsoft says “Windows Developer Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows Vista and Windows 7” and lists the system requirements at:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
  • Taking advantage of touch input requires a screen that supports multi-touch
  • To run Metro style Apps, you need a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 or greater

Since you will be running Windows 8 on a virtual machine, you want to make sure your computer has a slightly stronger CPU and slightly more RAM than what is mentioned above. This is because your computer needs to be able to support your current operating system + all its processes + VirtualBox + Windows 8 all at the same time. You are always welcome to try Windows 8 even if your computer does not meet the above requirements, but I warn you it may not work.

How Long Will It Take

When I did this yesterday, it took me a total of about 30 minutes. However, most of the 30 minutes was spent waiting for Windows 8 to actually install (i.e. I was doing other stuff on my computer while Windows 8 was installing on VirtualBox in the background — you can walk away from your computer while this happens) so I actually only did 5-10 minutes of setting up/installing.

The above mentioned 30 minutes does not take into account the time it took to download Windows 8 (or the time it takes to download VirtualBox, if you don’t have it already). Windows 8 is a 2.8 GB/3.6 GB/4.8 GB download (depending on which version you decide to download) so how long it takes for you to download it will vary depending on your connection speed.

How To Install Windows 8 On VirtualBox

Before I start showing you how to install Windows 8 on VirtualBox, please note that I have successfully run Windows 8 Developer Preview 32-bit on VirtualBox in Windows 7. I cannot confirm if Windows 8 64-bit will work using the directions listed below or not since I have not tested it but it should work. Also, Windows 8  might run on VirtualBox in Mac OS X and Linux, too, but the directions may be slightly different than what I have listed below. Anyone that has successfully virtualized Windows 8 64-bit and/or successfully installed Windows 8 on VirtualBox in Max OS C and Linux, please let us all know in the comments below!

That said, do the following to install Windows 8 on VirtualBox:

  • Download and install VirtualBox, if you don’t have it already. If you do have it already, make sure you have the latest version, v4.1.2.
  • Download (alternate download link) Windows 8’s installer ISO file.
  • Run VirtualBox and create a new virtual machine for Windows 8. The process is fairly standard, just like you would create a virtual machine for any operating system except for one thing: Make sure to select Windows 7 as the operating system (since VirtualBox doesn’t officially support Windows 8, yet), give at least 1024 MB of RAM and atleast 20 GB of hard drive space. If you are confused, don’t take tension — just follow the screenshots shown below:


  • Once you have finished creating the virtual machine for Windows 8, you should see it available in VirtualBox. Right-click it and go to Settings:

  • Go to System -> Motherboard and check Enable IO APIC:

  • Go to System -> Acceleration and make sure Enable VT-x/AMD-V and Enable Nested Pinging are checked:

  • Go to Display -> Video and check Enable 2D Video Acceleration:

Note: For better performance you can check Enable 3D Acceleration but you are not required to do so to run Windows 8. Also, for better performance you can give the virtual machine more video memory, but if your computer doesn’t have any more to give, leave it as is. I was able to run Windows 8 just fine with 16 MB of video memory.

  • Go to Storage and click on the Empty found under IDE Controller. A small disk icon should appear on the right of the program window. Click on that disk icon; then click on Choose a virtual CD/DVD disk file…:

  • Find the Windows 8 ISO you downloaded earlier, select it, and click Open:

  • Once you have loaded Windows 8’s ISO, click OK to exit Settings:

  • Back at VirtualBox’s main window, double-click on your Windows 8 virtual machine or select it via single click and click the Start button:

  • Wait a minute or two while the virtual machine turns on.
  • After the virtual machine has been turned on, you will see a Windows Preview screen…

…and then you should see the familiar Windows install screen:

Congrats! You have successfully setup Windows 8 on VirtualBox. Now all you have to do is follow on-screen instructions to install and configure Windows 8. If you have never installed Windows before and as are confused, follow the screenshots shown below and you will find yourself on Windows 8 in no time:

Once you have successfully installed Windows 8, there is one matter of housekeeping you may or may not want to do. Remember how earlier in Settings you went to Storage and mounted the Windows 8 ISO via the small disk icon? If you leave that mounted, every time you run Windows 8 on VirtualBox you will be prompted with that “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD…” message for 3-5 seconds. If you find this message to be annoying (like I do), all you have to do is go back to Settings -> Storage. Under IDE Controller you should see something that says WindowsPreview… Click on that and then click on the small disk icon on the right. Then click on Remove disk from virtual drive. Then click OK to exit settings. Done. You will no longer see that “Press any key to boot from CD or DVD…” message when you boot Windows 8.

Conclusion

Now you have Windows 8 to play around with. Sure, it is a pre-Beta (so expect bugs, unfinished features, etc.) but nonetheless you should get a feel for what to expect next year. Go explore Windows 8 and be sure to share with your dotTech friends what you find! Comments are always open.

[via Sysprobs]

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58 comments

  1. Insall Windows 8 ?

    I don´t know if to upgrade for WIndows 8 is an intelligent idea. The OS is mostly for touch screen devices. I don´t know how Desktop and Laptop users can enjoy all the features of WIndows 8?

  2. Michael Evan

    @Sreekanth: You should go on google and search Windows 8 no product key ei.cfg

    Download the ei.cfg and put it in the Sources folder inside your Windows 8 installer.

    Also, when I try this it gives me an error saying Your PC needs to restart.

    But my BIOS doesn’t have the thing to enable the motherboard to let me install Win8 in a VM…
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    -Mikey

  3. Damon

    Is this article current? Can it be applied today or has VirtualBox and/or the Windows 8 release changed enough to make this outdated. Windows 8 previews seem to be trending right now.

  4. Mike Simon

    I was able to get it to work by enabling Intel Virtualization in the Bios. Before that, even though I had Win7 64, it was giving me the error screen telling me I didn’t have a 64 bit system.

  5. Ed

    @assainarkutty: I got the same error
    (HP Pavilion dv7, i5 processor, Windows 7 64 bit)
    Before it goes to the fish, right before it goes to the Windows 8 error screen you described, I get a message saying that I am running my OS in 24 bit mode, which may cause problems with the 32 bit OS (Windows 8 32 bit) that will be running in 32 bit, which is weird because I checked my settings and I am running at 32 bit color. I thought maybe me using a 64 bit OS to emulate a 32 bit OS was causing some weird problem thing so I tried Windows 8 64 bit, but that came up with the same error, but saying that my computer doesnt have a processor that can handle a 64 bit OS (which is again wierd, since my main OS is a 64 bit Windows 7).

  6. assainarkutty

    I tried to install WIN8 32bit which was downloaded as ISO image through VM Virtual box as guided by Mr. Ashraf. But it stopped in the beginning of the installation process itself with the below error code displayed.

    Windows Recovery Environment
    Your PC need to be repaired
    An unexpected error had occurred
    Error code : 0xc0000260
    Press Enter to try again
    Press F8 for alternate Boot options

    My laptop is a Fujitsu AH530 with core i3 processor and running Win7 – 64 bit & occasionally using Debian Squeeze Linux OS. without any problem.

    any help to install win8 virtually would be much appreciated.

  7. EGF506

    @sunrise:
    The acceleration was also grayed in mine, so VirtualBox wouldn’t work. I took the link in Arun’s (#39) post and tried VMware Player (the free version of VMware Desktop). Mounting the ISO as a DVD was a little different than shown in the instructions for VMware Desktop, but it worked like a charm on my 4 year old Compaq laptop – I’m actually posting this from a Windows 8 Virtual Machine now.

    When I set up the Virtual Machine, I used the 1028Mb RAM and 20GB HDD suggestions above, and haven’t had any problems. The Windows 8 installation requested the product key, which I found on the Windows 8 FAQ page (see previous post).

    Hope it helps. VMware Player doesn’t have anywhere near the features that VirtualBox does, but at least it worked in this instance.

  8. Ed

    I can’t get this to work. The download is an exe file that wants to install itself if I activate it, not create an iso, and the whole point of me doing this was so I could check out Windows 8 without installing it on my main. I really wish I had access to my old desktop now.

  9. Windows 8 Problems

    Well.. Installing Windows 8 on VirtualBox is tricky but not that hard once you get to know the basics.. Windows 8 developer preview installer is currently available for download from the official Windows 8 website. If you would like to get first hand experience on what is new in Windows 8, I strongly recommend that you install it on a Virtual Machine rather than trying it on your primary computer..

  10. Antonio

    Hi,
    i need your help please. I installed windows 8 from dvd as dual boot with windows 7. The setup completes fine but after finishing all process in Coping files, expanding windows files, ………..etc it restarts (like usual) but when the pc start it says to select os (win7 or 8) after selecting win 8 it shows “Preparing” and then show “Windows 8 cannot be installed on you computer hardware”
    please help.
    I got inter core 2 duo E7400 @2.80ghz, 2gb ram, gigabyte g31 motherboard and ati radion 512mb ddr2 vid ram

  11. Aguazales

    Just FYI, some BIOS have advanced virtualization support like VT-X/AMD-V disabled by default. I had to edit my BIOS settings to get it to work. Also, you can install the Guest Additions drivers in Windows 8 with Compatibility Settings, although idk if this is a good idea or not :/

  12. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Harerton Dourado: I believe if that is the issue people are facing, VirtualBox will give some sort of popup warning message. I am not 100% sure about this, though.

    I believe most of the issue people are having is due to hardware that can’t support virtualization and/or Windows 8 virtualized.

    @Igor: Was it not working when you didn’t have 2D acceleration enabled? Did you get it to work afterwards?

    @Chaotic: What exactly is the error message you are getting? Can you show me in a screenshot?

    @sunrise: Um, yeah, a laptop with Vista Basic probably doesn’t have enough power to run Windows 8 virtualized. :-P

    @Lucas T: Thanks for clearing that up for us!

    @ACER: Make sure your ISO is not corrupt and make sure you enable all the settings I mentioned above. The MD5 for the 32-bit download is 9b7798438fa694ecfa465c93a4c23c97.

    @Quartzkyte: Odd. Did you try to go to Settings and enable/disable other settings to see if it worked? You may need to play around with it a little.

    Also, make sure your ISO is not corrupted.

    @David: Glad to hear you finally got it to work!

    @David Baker: Sha-1 isn’t matched to what?

    @meanpt: Yeah, VirtualBox doesn’t officially support Windows 8 so that is to be expected.

    @David Baker: Glad you finally got it to work!

    @xain: It looks like you are trying to repair the Windows installation. You should install new Windows. See my screenshots above and follow what the arrows and red boxes tell you to do.

    @xain: Um, according to your screenshot the ISO is loaded just fine. You are just using the wrong option.

    @qwer: Make sure your ISO is not corrupted. Also make sure all the settings I mentioned in the article above are enabled.

    @xain: Nope.

    @David Baker: I don’t think that will work because, as I understand it, qwer isn’t able to boot into Windows. It craps out on him after the initial screen.

  13. David Baker

    64-BIT W/ DEV TOOLS INSTALLS ON VIRTUALBOX!

    (Yes I know this is shouting, but I wanted to get your attention.)

    As a side note, I’ve downloaded this three times. The first with a download accelerator, that didn’t speed anything up, the second time using Chrome, the third (successful) time was using Firefox. I know that the browser that you use should not matter. Also, the third download was at a different location.

    I just thought I would throw this out to you who are experiencing install issues, as my second download said it downloaded the full 4.8GB file, but when I looked at the file it was only 1/2 the size.

    My setup:
    Windows 7 64-bit
    4GB RAM
    Intel Core i5 750

    I selected the OS at Windows 7 64-bit, but Windows Other *may* work as well.

    @Ashraf: If you want to contact me, you should have my email attached to this post, just let me know.
    I appreciate what you do here.

  14. Quartzkyte

    @David: any clue of what happened between

    “Windows could not complete th installation. To install Windows.. restart..”
    Also seemed to hang with a black screen.. still using CPU.

    and

    Finally, it ran.

    ?

  15. David Baker

    I tried Windows 8 w/ dev tools, but I kept getting an error that it needed a disk for my cd/DVD drivers.
    Also, I couldn’t get virtual box to accept the iso, and was linking through my virtual DVD drive, which could read the disk.
    I downloaded it again (without the d/l accelerator this time) and will try tomorrow.
    My sha-1 isn’t matching, will that be an issue?

  16. David

    Ooh. lots of patience and reattempts to get installed in Virtualbox. And yes, I did change the BIOS settings to support virtualisation.

    So I even had the privilege of seeing the new BSOD..

    During installation attempts, variously got
    DPC Watchdog Violation
    “A required CD/DVD Driver is missing. If you have a driver floppy disk, CD or DVD..” !floppy disk!
    “Windows Setup could not configure Windows to run on this computer’s hardware”
    “Windows could not complete th installation. To install Windows.. restart..”
    Also seemed to hang with a black screen.. still using CPU.

    Finally, it ran.
    Hmm, now, just how would you install a program and launch it.. I guess the demo doesn’t allow that. In fact beyond the first set of apparently dummy apps and a desktop with explorer and IE it didn’t seem to do too much.

  17. Igor

    I installed the 32 bit version just fine in virtualbox v. 4.1.2r73507, i just didnt enable 2/3D acceleration, i’ll enable it now :)

    @Harerton: virtualbox asked me to enable virtualization in my bios ONLY when i was installing 64bit guest in virtualbox, before that i was using 32bit xp/7 without it, i dont know if Windows8 x86 need’s it because i enabled it before win8 x86.

  18. Harerton Dourado

    I’ve read somewhere that there is an option on virtualization that needs to be set on the host computer BIOS.

    Maybe that’s the reason some people are not succeeding.

    The first attempt to install gave me an error at 98% (something about a missing file). Then I tried again using the same virtual disk and everything went OK.

  19. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @sunrise: Windows 7 x32 is my host and I am using VirtualBox v4.1.2r73507. In my experience you must have Enable VT-x/AMD-V and Enable Nested Pinging checked in order for Windows 8 to work.

    The virtual disk page is slightly different because I actually didn’t have the latest version of VirtualBox installed when I wrote this article (dumb of me). I have since then updated to the latest version and updated the guide. The difference isn’t that major — you just have one extra step where you must select what type of virtual disk format you want. The general process is the same.

    @r0lZ: You can.

    @Ted Myers: Let me know if it works.

    @Lucas T: o_O This will be interesting.

    @Carl: If you provide us with more details (i.e. your Wiondows, what version you are downloading, if you followed all the directions mentioned above) we may be able to help.

    @Lucas T: Ditto.

    @r0lZ: Yeah, that probably means your computer doesn’t support it. As I mentioned in my response to sunrise, in my experience Enable VT-x/AMD-V and Enable Nested Pinging is necessary. When I tried running Windows 8 without it, it kept crashing.

    @Quartzkyte: Are you having the same issue as rolZ that some options in settings are disabled?

    @Prema: Thx!

  20. Prema

    incase you guys are kinda like me nad have no clue on hwo to shut Windows 8, here is the insturctions:
    How Do I Restart, shut down or Sleep my Windows 8 Computer?

    **if you have a tablet (obvious you dont so disregard this one part) swipe from the right to bring up the uh whatever the hell side menu thing is called (keep forgetting the name) and click settings

    **or hit Windows+I shortcut to bring it up and hit the power button from the selection menu on the bottom right

    **or press ctrl+alt+del and hit the power button in the lower right

  21. r0lZ

    No avail, I can’t install the 32-bit version on my Win7 X65 (SP1) system.

    Me too, I don’t have the System -> Acceleration tab. (I know that some options are available only if you have a specific hardware/CPU supporting them. That might be the reason, as I’m running the latest version of VirtualBox.)

    When I try to install the Win8 preview, I can see the “Windows8 Developer preview” screen, but after 15 seconds, a message is continuously printed on screen. The message says that I have to power down the machine. When I try again, exactly the same scenario happens. (I have also had once a VirtualBox critical error.) Anyway, I give up.

    So, either we must wait for a more stable Win8 version, or VirtualBox doesn’t support Win8 without a specific hardware. Pity!

  22. r0lZ

    Quote: I cannot confirm if Windows 8 Developer Preview 64-bit will work using the directions listed below or not since I have not tested it but it should work.

    I don’t think so. As far as I know, VirtualBox cannot run X64 systems.

  23. sunrise

    @ashraf: what is your host spec and your virtualbox version? because i can’t select the acceleration tab (its grayed). i use virtualbox version 4.1.2r73507
    btw…create new virtual disk page is different with mine

    thankx

  24. Ted Myers

    Everything works fine until I get about 10% installed at which time the installation is cancelled and I get the message required files cannot be found or are corrupt. I then get a message that bootmgr cannot be found. I thought the bootmgr was included in VirtualBox or Win 8 Dev Review. Any ideas what might be happening. Could my download be corrupt? Thanks.