How To Install Windows 7 on a Virtual Machine with VirtualBox

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install windows 7 virtual machineEarlier this month, Microsoft made the Windows 7 beta available for anyone to download and test drive it. Unless you have a spare computer, it can be somewhat inconvenient to test out new operating systems on your main system.  Although it is possible to dual boot Windows 7 with Vista or XP, you may still prefer to install it on a separate machine.  VirtualBox is just the separate machine you’ve been looking for, and it’s free! So, how to install windows 7 on a virtual machine using Virtualbox?

VirtualBox is a free and open source virtualization program. Essentially, it is like having a complete and separate computer within your computer. You can install any operating system on it, including Windows 7. The latest version of VirtualBox (2.1.2) has support for Windows 7, which makes it very easy and convenient to install.

First, you’ll want to download VirtualBox and install it. VirtualBox is available for multiple platforms: Windows, OS X, Linux, and Solaris. During the installation on a Windows system, you may receive a warning that untested software is being installed. Be sure to click continue when those boxes appear, as essential components for VirtualBox to function properly are being installed.

install windows 7 virtualbox

You’ll also need to download the Windows 7 beta. It is a large file, so it may take quite a while to download depending on your connection. The file you will download is a CD disk image. Fortunately, since you’re going to use it on a virtual machine, you won’t have to actually burn it to a CD to use it.

Once you have VirtualBox installed and you have the Windows 7 beta CD image, you’re ready to create your virtual machine amd install Windows 7 beta. Launch VirtualBox and create a new machine. Be sure to select Windows 7 as your operating system.

Windows_7_New_VirtualBox_Machine

Click Next. On the following screen you will select how much memory you would like the virtual machine to have. I believe the minimum requirement for Windows 7 is 1GB of RAM, so be sure to set it to at least 1024MB.

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how to install windows 7 beta

Click Next. On the following screen you will create a new virtual drive for the system. I would recommend using the default option of a Dynamically expanding storage. This way you won’t use any more disk space (on your main system) than necessary. Since you’re using a dynamically expanding drive, the size of the disk is somewhat arbitrary. You just want to be sure not to make it too small, so set it to 100GB to be safe.

Once you’re done creating the virtual machine, you’ll need to configure it to use the Windows 7 disk image you downloaded. Select your virtual machine, click Settings, and navigate to the CD/DVD-ROM section. Check the Mount CD/DVD Drive checkbox and click the ISO Image File radio button. Then click the folder icon and then browse to where you saved your ISO image and select it.

Mounting_the_Windows_7_ISO

If you have a multi-core processor, there’s an option you’ll want to enable to speed things up on the virtual machine.  Go to the General section and on the Advanced tab enable the Enable VT-x/AMD-V checkbox. This allows VirtualBox to take advantage of machine virtualization capabilities of your processor, and improves the performance of the virtual machine.

You may also want to add sound to the virtual machine as well. Go to the Audio tab, and click the Enable Audio checkbox and select Windows DirectSound for the Host Audio Driver. Once you have the machine configured, click the Start button to turn on the virtual machine.

You should see the Windows 7 installation begin. Just follow all the prompts and install Windows. If you need to get back to your main computer at any time, the hotkey to release control of the virtual machine is the Ctrl key on the right side of your keyboard.

Once you’ve installed Windows 7, you can install the guest additions. The guest additions will provide better video and audio support to the virtual machine. The guest additions also allow you to better integrate the virtual machine with your main system.

To install the guest additions, press the right Ctrl key on your keyboard, go to the Devices menu and select Install Guest Additions”¦

Install_Guest_Additions

During the guest additions installation, when prompted if you would like to install drivers, click the Install button. Once you’ve installed the guest additions, reboot the virtual machine. Upon rebooting, all of the virtual devices should be working.

Now that you have the guest additions installed, you will be able to share the clipboard, access to files on the main system, and move the cursor seamlessly in and out of the virtual machine. You can press the Right Ctrl-F and see the virtual machine full screen. What a pretty fish!

Have you tried Windows 7 with other free virtualization programs? Did you try to install Windows 7 as a virtual machine with Virtualbox? If so, let us know which ones and what sort of hacks were required to get it to work.

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Comments (76)
  • Paradigm

    Jorge,

    Thanks so much for the information. I got everything working pretty well but I’m having trouble installing applications on my shared drives.

    I have an application drive that I share with both Windows7 and Ubuntu, I want to also use it for installing applications on my virtual Win7 machine. From my Win7 VM I can see the drive and access files and even execute files from them. However when I try to browse to the shared drive to install applications it shows up with an x on it and says that it not connected. Also when I execute a program from the shared drive, the program can not access any of it’s required data on the same drive, and I get errors saying that it can access the drive. Is there a problem fully connecting these drives, or is it just a limitation of Windows 7 preventing me from installing onto shared drives?

    • Jorge Sierra

      Hmm… I’m not at all familiar w/ how Win7 treats Windows shares, but it sounds as though you may have some kind of permissions issue. Does your Win7 user have permission to read/write to the share?

      You could always make the share public and read/write for all. That should solve the problem, although is an insecure solution. If all of your machines are behind a secure firewall, you should be relatively safe.

  • shahid

    i have successfully installed windows 7 as guest OS on my windows XP system . however i am not able to access folders of my host OS within the guest OS. i have tried sharing folders but now i dont know how can i see them
    any help?

    • Jorge Sierra

      I also had trouble getting the folder sharing to work. I just set up regular folder sharing via Windows to get around it.

  • ssmokin

    Thanks Jorge, yea I took the plunge and used EASEUS partition
    manager to create a 10gig NTFS partition, it was dead easy and Win7 installed straight up.
    Best ssmokin

  • ssmokin

    Sorry, didn’t finish note.

    Has anyone else experienced this and if so is there a work-around?
    Thanks

  • ssmokin

    I am running latest Version of VirtualBox in WinXP(Fat32) on my laptop and attempting to
    install Win7. I notice that you say that to run on USB it needs to be NTFS.
    Is this the same for a standard hard drive?
    There is no mention of this in the forum except for USB use.
    My VB is setup 1024Mb Ram (I have 2gb installed) and 10Gb Drive space(Dynamic sizing).

    I continually get the error “Hard disk full” and this is when the installation is at 4GB file size(85% installed).
    I have deleted files off C and D drives to free up space, altered the ram setting down to give more to the host

    • Jorge Sierra

      Yes, the file size limit applies to a standard hard drive as well. That’s the reason you’re getting that error when you reach the 4GB mark. The virtual hard drive resides within a single file on the host system, so if you install VirtualBox on a FAT32 disk (USB, hard drive, or otherwise) you will encounter this limitation.

      Really the only workaround would be to convert your FAT32 disk to NTFS.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.