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Just when you think you explored all of Windows, some feature pops up which makes you enjoy it even more. For example, did you know you can run Ubuntu or any other Linux distribution — any other operating system for that matter — on Windows using Microsoft’s own software? Here’s how!

Hyper-V: Microsoft’s Answer to Virtualization

You’re reading this on a computer with an installed OS. For the most part, that’s what computers do: create a contained environment by which users can view, edit, and run files. Few, however, bother with using two or more operating systems on one single computer.

Disclaimer: According to Microsoft, Hyper-V is available on 64-bit versions of Windows Professional, Enterprise, and Education in Windows 8 and later. It is not available on Windows Home edition.

While this may seem needless to some, virtual machines — programs that simulate whole disc images, operating systems included — can be fantastically practical for regular and power users alike. Have a specific piece of software you’d like to use, but aren’t sure of its stability? Want to annoy those pesky PC telemarketers How to Avoid PC Repair & Tech Support Scams How to Avoid PC Repair & Tech Support Scams Not every PC technician has your best interest at heart. Some apply sleazy sales tactics or will scam you into buying their service. We reveal popular methods and help you identify trustworthy PC repair technicians. Read More ? Would you like to try out a Linux distribution from the comfort of your Windows desktop? Even with these examples, we haven’t even scratched the surface to what virtual machines can do. That’s where Hyper-V comes into play.

For our purposes, however, it suffices to say: if you want to try out a new Linux distribution, you can do so without formatting your hard drive or committing to a dual boot. In fact, you won’t even need a third-party installer.

Installing Hyper-V

There are a few ways to install Hyper-V, all very simple. The easiest are PowerShell 5 Reasons You Should Use PowerShell Instead of Batch Scripting 5 Reasons You Should Use PowerShell Instead of Batch Scripting PowerShell is what you'd get if you crossed the Command Prompt with Batch Scripting, threw in some extra features, and kicked it all up several notches. Here are several reasons you should try it. Read More and Windows Features.

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For PowerShell, open your PowerShell application by clicking on your Start Menu and typing in powershell. Right-click on the Windows PowerShell option and select Run as administrator. Then, enter the following into PowerShell:

Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName:Microsoft-Hyper-V -All

Press Enter and you’ll be prompted to download Hyper V. You can also download Hyper V using a GUI (Graphical User Interface) by entering windows features into your Start Menu and selecting the Turn Windows features on or off option.

windows features

Enable the Hyper V option and select OK to download.

Run Linux From Hyper V

Now we can get started. If you’re familiar with virtual machine software, Hyper-V will become quickly familiar. If not, virtual machine software is still simple to understand. Begin by opening your Hyper-V Manager. Open your Start Menu and type in hyper v to see this option.

hyper-v manager windows 10

Next, we’ll need to create a virtual machine from an ISO image. Right-click on the parameter labeled DESKTOP to the left of the window, below Hyper-V Manager. Select New, and then Virtual Machine. You can also do this via the Actions menu to the right of the window.

virtual machine wizard

This will open your Virtual Machine Wizard. The wizard will walk you through the complete process of creating a virtual machine.

Follow the wizard, taking particular attention to the following:

  • Assign Memory: You will assign a quantity of startup RAM memory to your virtual machine. The RAM will then be allocated to your virtual machine when it runs. Remember, your RAM limit determines the overall speed of your virtual machine. Try to keep your virtual machine functional rather than optimal — 4 GB will allow your virtual machine to run standard applications, while 8 GB is typically the most one would need to run resource-intensive games. In order to ensure your virtual machine runs smoothly, check the Use Dynamic Memory for this virtual machine option.
  • Connect Virtual Hard Disk: Select Create a virtual hard disk. As for the Size parameter, remember to include both the size of your OS and additional storage for files, programs, and so on. Windows 10, for example, takes up around 20 GB for the 64-bit version.

Work your way to Installation Options. Within this window, select Install an operating system from a bootable CD/DCD-ROM. Next, select the Image file (.iso) radio button and select your ISO file through the Browse button.

installation options

The above example includes Elementary OS It's Time to Try Something New: Elementary OS Loki It's Time to Try Something New: Elementary OS Loki Elementary OS isn't your typical Linux distribution. Some would say it isn't a distro at all. But is Elementary really a usable alternative to Windows and macOS as its developers claim? Read More , a free and beautiful Linux distribution available at this link. You can use whatever ISO file you wish.

Activating and Using Your Virtual Machine

Now that you’ve created a virtual machine, you will need to both activate and open your virtual machine in order to use it.

hyper-v installed operating system

You should see your installed OS labeled under the main Virtual Machines window. Right-click on your virtual machine and select the Start option. Your virtual machine will then initiate. When its State is set to Running, you can now start the virtual machine. Right-click on your running machine and select Connect. This will finally open your ISO.

elementary os hyper-v

Install your OS as you would any other. You now have a fantastic, first-party virtual machine of a Linux distribution at your disposal. The best thing about installing Linux distributions The Best Linux Operating Systems The Best Linux Operating Systems There are many Linux distributions available for a number of different purposes, which makes it difficult to choose at times. Here's a list of the very best to help you decide. Read More is the selection. Linux is capable of absolutely anything. From a beautiful distribution to a largely technical one, Linux has you covered.

“You Got Linux in My Windows!”

What’s better than one operating system? Two operating systems, working in tandem with one another in one trusted application. Now you can try out a Linux distribution, stable or otherwise, in a safe environment. Well, that and any other operating system. So… what are you waiting for?

The next best option to try out Linux is to dual-boot it with Windows 7 Reasons Why You Should (and Shouldn't) Dual Boot Linux 7 Reasons Why You Should (and Shouldn't) Dual Boot Linux Often, making the choice of installing Linux over Windows can be tricky to justify. But why not opt for both? Here are five reasons to dual boot and two reasons you shouldn't. Read More .

What’s your favorite virtual machine software? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Pierre
    July 4, 2017 at 8:15 am

    so why has Microsoft created, yet another Microsoft Propriety Product
    - that will only run on it's platform?
    ie: what was wrong with Virtual Box or VMware ??

    • Bruce Epper
      July 5, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      Hyper-V is not new. It was released as part of every Windows Server version since 2008 and some client OSes. Hyper-V itself supersedes Microsoft Virtual PC. The first version of that available for Windows-based machines was Connectix Virtual PC v4.0 which was released in June of 2001. In 2003, Microsoft acquired the software (along with a server version) from Connectix.

      VirtualBox was initially created in 2007 by Innotek GmbH, acquired by Sun in 2008, then Oracle in 2010.

      Although VMware Workstation was released in 1999, the type 2 hypervisor familiar to desktop users was not released until 2008.

      So, from this simple timeline, you can see that Microsoft was actually ahead of the game with virtualization on the desktop once they realized the advantages it offered in the enterprise. Though their initial acquisition was driven more by the opportunities in the data center, they also realized how it could be leveraged by power users and coders/testers on the desktop.

  2. Dupu
    July 3, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Vagrant is not native to Win platform, and its a bit more complicated, but more sophisticated with virtualmachine configuration. And there is lot of Vagrant boxes out there pre-configured for special use (LAMP stack, Laravel etc)