Try Out Windows 8 In VirtualBox Right Now For Free

Justin Pot 28-09-2011

Are you curious about Windows 8, the upcoming operating system from Microsoft? Try Windows 8 in a virtual machine, right now, for free. All you need to do is download the free ISO file and set up VirtualBox properly.


What can you expect to see in Windows 8? What You Can Expect To See In Windows 8 No sooner had the dust settled over the bumpy transition from Windows Vista to Windows 7, than Microsoft started fueling interest around its upcoming new operating system, codenamed Windows 8, which is expected to be... Read More Once thing is clear – it will be very different than any version of Windows before it. The traditional desktop is still there, but most functionality will be replaced with “app” style programs. The main interface is designed with touch screens in mind, replacing the start menu with a tile-driven display of all programs. A lot of people are going to hate this, and I’m sure you’ll read a lot of criticism of Microsoft in the months to come. Instead of taking that to heart though, why not try it out yourself and come to your own conclusion? Thanks to a free download from Microsoft, you can.

Try Windows 8 out in VirtualBox and you won’t have to overwrite your existing system with something unstable. You’ll need a pretty powerful computer to do this well, but if you think your computer can cut it then keep reading. And if you want to dig deeply into Windows 8 before getting started, make sure to check out our Windows 8 guide The Windows 8 Guide This Windows 8 guide outlines everything new about Windows 8, from the tablet-like start screen to the new "app" concept to the familiar desktop mode. Read More .

Download Windows 8

The first thing you’re going to need to do is download Windows 8. Don’t worry, this is easy. Just head to Microsoft’s free Windows 8 download page to get started. There’s no need to sign up, and the download links are direct. You’ll need to choose between the 32 and 64 bit versions of Windows 8. If you’re not sure which to choose, pick the 32 bit one; it will work on most computers.

The download took me about a half hour, but obviously your experience will vary depending on your Internet connection. Note that there is no legal torrent for this ISO. You’ll just need to patiently download directly from Microsoft’s servers.

Set Up VirtualBox

You’ll need to install VirtualBox next, which you can download here. It works on Windows, OS X and Linux computers. If you don’t know much about VirtualBox, here’s what you need to know. It allows you to run an entire operating system within the one you already have. Check out the MakeUseOf VirtualBox manual for more information How to Use VirtualBox: User's Guide With VirtualBox you can easily install and test multiple operating systems. We'll show you how to set up Windows 10 and Ubuntu Linux as a virtual machine. Read More .


Once you’ve got VirtualBox set up, you’ll need to create a new virtual machine to install Windows 8 in. When asked which operating system you’re setting up, choose “Windows 7” (making sure to pick “64 bit” if you downloaded the 64 bit version of Windows 8).

try windows 8

Set aside at least 2GB of memory for your virtual machine (if you don’t have 2GB to spare, you should perhaps not try running Windows 8 in a virtual machine).

test windows 8


Create a new virtual hard drive for Windows 8, unless you’ve got an empty virtual drive kicking around:

test windows 8

The default of 2GB is probably a good idea; don’t go any lower than that. Feel free to go higher, but you don’t need to if you don’t intend to install a lot of applications.

You’ve now created your virtual machine, but there are a few more tweaks to make. Select your new virtual machine, then open the settings. Head to “System” and you’ll see these options:


test windows 8

Be sure to Enable IO APIC; this will make things run better. Then head to the Processor tab and enable PAE/NX. Also head to the Acceleration tab and enable VT-X/AMD-V and Nested Paging. These performance tweaks are recommended by How-To Geek and made a big difference for me.

Install Windows 8

Open the “Storage” section of the preferences, and point your virtual CD drive toward the ISO file you downloaded. Save the changes you made, then start up your virtual machine. If all goes according to plan, you’ll see the Windows installation tool:

windows 8 virtualbox


Follow its instructions and you should be in Windows 8.

Your mouse will be “stuck” in the virtual machine as you do this. To switch back to your main operating system, press the right control button on your keyboard (assuming you haven’t changed this key from the default).

Why Isn’t Anything Working?

Once you get there you’ll be greeted with an unfamilar scene – the main Windows 8 menu:

windows 8 virtualbox

You might be frustrated to realize that none of these apps launch, save the traditional Windows desktop. This is because running the new Metro style apps requires a resolution of 1024 X 768 or greater. Head to the Windows Desktop app, then configure your resolution the way you normally would – right-click the desktop, then click “Screen Resolution“. Increase the resolution and you should now be able to run Metro apps.

Have trouble doing this? Installing the VirtualBox Guest additions can help. Click the “Devices” in VirtualBox, then click “Install Guest Additions“. Windows 8 will prompt you to automatically install these additions, but don’t. Head to the Windows Desktop app, then open the Windows Explorer. Head to the CD drive and you’ll find the additions. Right-click the installation file, then set it to run in Windows 7 mode:

try windows 8

Go through the installation, restart, and you should now be able to set your resolution high enough to use Metro apps. I couldn’t get mouse integration working, but I did manage to increase the resolution. Hopefully there will be Windows 8 guest add-ons soon.


If you’ve got Windows 8 running you can now let us know what you think of Microsoft’s upcoming operating system. Do you like it? Please leave us your thoughts in the comments below.

Also feel free to ask questions if you get stuck setting things up, because we’re here to help.

Related topics: VirtualBox, Virtualization, Windows 8.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. RoddG777
    December 14, 2011 at 11:48 am

    cCan I install and use this windows 8 trial in my linux OS using Virtual box?
    I currently have unubntu installed alongside my Vista home premium.

    • jhpot
      December 14, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      It should work in Ubuntu's virtualbox just as well as in Windows or OS X.

  2. Davdun75
    November 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Have installed VirtualBox and set this up easily, and burned .iso to DVD... no problems BUT... as DVD "Expands Windows Files" during install, it hangs around the 10% mark, or less, despite subsequent attempts. Any thoughts? 

    • jhpot
      November 28, 2011 at 3:28 pm

      First off: you didn't need to burn the ISO to DVD, because VirtualBox can read ISO files directly.

      I'm not sure what that problem might be. How much hard drive space and RAM did you allot?

      • Davdun75
        November 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm

        40GB and 4GB... not sure how to direct VB to read .iso from host HD...

        • jhpot
          November 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm

          You can mount the ISO under Disk settings; pick the CD drive and the option is there.

          Did you follow the recommended settings above? This isn't the easiest hack in the world, but it should work if your hardware is good enough...

  3. Mimale74
    November 18, 2011 at 2:44 am

    20 GB

    • jhpot
      November 18, 2011 at 3:35 am

      Well, that should be more then enough. It's possible that your download didn't complete properly, or it's possible that something changed with Windows 8 since I wrote this that is causing problems with Virtualbox. Did you check out all of the other settings above? If so, let us know what your specs are.

  4. Mimale74
    November 18, 2011 at 2:24 am

    Can't get it to install past 97%  Do I chalk this up to another poorly written Makeuseof article, or is there something I am missing?

    • jhpot
      November 18, 2011 at 2:43 am

      As in, the Windows 8 installation is hanging? That's really odd. How much hard drive space did you allot?

  5. jhpot
    October 21, 2011 at 10:57 pm

    It might well be that your computer can't support this. You could ask on MakeUseOf Answers, though.

  6. Kmelkon
    October 21, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    its not working with me ... im using virtual box ... after it says loading files .. an error box appears sayin that VT-xAmd-v hardware acceleration has been enabled but is not operational .... etc ... 
    plz help 

  7. nyas
    September 30, 2011 at 5:05 am

    i have installed it to a new partition and now cant boot from old xp partition :(
    bootfix doesnt fix it
    does anybody know what should i do now? :p

  8. ??? Indronil
    September 29, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    why become a beta tester if you don't get any benefits ????will microsoft give anything for free or will it give rewards??????????????????????
     it is far more better to test Linux destros................what do you all think friends???????????

  9. marlon
    September 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Does it really have to be through virtualbox or can you put it in a bootable usb?

  10. ::marcus
    September 29, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    i couldn't figure out why most of the tiles would do nothing when tapped. i went back to the windows 8 site and read carefully the differences in the versions. the 32 bit version indicates that it does not include the applications like the 64 bit does.

    • JoeyDee
      September 29, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      I think you better clean your reading glasses...
      Windows Developer Preview English, 32-bit (x86)

      DOWNLOAD (2.8 GB)

      Sha 1 hash - 4E0698BBABE01ED27582C9FC16AD21C4422913CC

      Includes a disk image file (.iso) to install the Windows Developer Preview and Metro style apps on a 32-bit PC.

    • JoeyDee
      September 29, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      Check your resolution, must be AT LEAST 1024x768 for Metro UI to work.

  11. ::marcus
    September 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    justin -

    i loaded up the x86 version on a tablet as the tablet could only support x86. the problem i ran into is that the 32 bit version does NOT include any of the apps. So... basically, you're left with a really lame experience and a browser.

    • jhpot
      September 29, 2011 at 2:45 pm

      Are you sure the problem isn't your resolution? I'm pretty sure the 32 bit supports apps, but I could be wrong...

  12. JoeyDee
    September 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    V-Box guest additions unsupported in Win 8. Try VMware Workstation 8 ($199, 30 day free trial).

    • JoeyDee
      October 21, 2011 at 11:36 pm

      ...or VMWare Player 4...CD/DVD select Use physical drive and check (enable) Legacy emulation under CD/DVD Advanced Settings will avoid the dreaded "A required CD/DVD device driver is missing" when installing via DVD. Burn ISO to DVD using Win 7 USB/DVD Tool & 7's native 3rd party progs required. 

    September 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    Getting error.
    Looks like it needs hardware vertualisation

    • jhpot
      September 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm

      You might well run into problems doing this, depending on your hardware. Windows 8 isn't officially supported by VirtualBox yet, which certainly doesn't help.