Microsoft goes virtual

If you frequently boot your PC into different versions of Windows to enable software compatibility or to support other computer users, Microsoft’s $219 Virtual PC 2004 can simplify your life. The program allows you to install and run Windows 95/98/Me, Windows NT/2000/XP, MS-DOS, or even IBM’s late, lamented OS/2 Warp from within your PC’s current operating system without repartitioning drives or rebooting.

But stock up first on RAM and disk space. Running a virtual copy of Windows 2000 using a Windows XP Professional host system requires a minimum of 224MB of RAM and 4GB of disk space. Running memory-intensive software in either OS will require more (I’d recommend 512MB).

Although it’s not supported, I did install and run a copy of SuSE Linux 8.2 using the utility. Which brings up another Virtual PC 2004 limitation: Microsoft supports only Windows 2000, XP Professional, or Tablet Edition as a host OS. I was able to install Virtual PC 2004 on a machine with XP Home Edition, but don’t expect Microsoft to help if you try it and things go wrong.

Despite these drawbacks, I found Virtual PC 2004 useful and stable. If you need broader OS support, consider VMware’s $385 Workstation 4, available locally from Aeronaut Industries (www aeronaut.biz).

Microsoft Virtual PC 2004
Price: $219
Vendor: Microsoft
Phone: 13 20 58
URL: www.microsoft.com.au

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