How To: Install Windows 8 in a Virtual Machine

** This is a lengthy post with lots of pictures which are clickable to view full size. Following the included steps should take approximately 30 minutes, but well worth it!  Your CPU must have virtualization support, which most newer CPU’s do but it may have to be enabled in your BIOS! Virtualization can be checked using the free version of SIW Home. **

As a Daves Computer Tips reader I know you’re chomping at the bit to have a look at the Windows 8 Consumer Preview! The question becomes how are you going to install it? Do you have an unused machine? Do you install it in a dual boot configuration? Neither of these options are ideal. The former requires an extra computer and the later could lead to possible boot problems down the road for the novice user.

What I use (and recommend) is the use of a virtual machine, which allows you to install other operating systems within your present OS. I use multiple VM’s (virtual machines) here at DCT for testing operating systems, creating screenshots, comparing features, and answering visitor questions. Virtual Machines allow me to accomplish all this with little fuss and without leaving my main computing platform. I can run Windows 7 and Windows Home Server, as an example, right alongside MS Outlook and Firefox – and switch seamlessly between them.

Virtual machines are programs and any OS installed lives within that program so there is little chance it can affect the original operating system in a negative way. Close the virtual machine and everything is back to normal. Restart the virtual machine and it is as you left it.

Virtual Machine benefits:

  • Generally easy to set-up
  • Can install multiple operating systems on one computer
  • No multi-boot issues
  • Can open, interact with, and view multiple operating systems at the same time
  • Easy to remove without affecting the host (original) operating system
  • It’s fun

There are many different virtual machine host software packages available. I’ve used most and always come back to VirtualBox. It’s free, easy to use, and I’ll use it in this tutorial!

Let’s get everything together!

First you should download and install VirtualBox from the VirtualBox download page. Windows users will need the download labelled VirtualBox 4.1.8 for Windows hosts x86/amd64.

Next you need to download the Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO from the Windows 8 Download page. I suggest downloading the 64-bit version in your language.

Finally you need to download and install ImgBurn so we can burn the Windows 8 ISO file to a blank DVD.

Additionally you need the license key for Windows 8: NF32V-Q9P3W-7DR7Y-JGWRW-JFCK8 and a blank DVD.

 Burning the Windows 8 ISO to DVD with ImgBurn

Insert a blank (writable) DVD into your DVD burner and open ImgBurn. Select Write File to Disc from the available options.

Select the Windows 8 ISO you just downloaded at the top, choose your DVD burner in the middle (if you have more than one), and finally click the burn icon at the bottom.

The burning will begin. This will take a few minutes.


Be sure to leave the DVD in the drive while we complete the next step!

How to Configure VirtualBox for Windows 8

Now that you’ve burnt the ISO image to DVD leave it in the DVD drive and open VirtualBox.

Your screen will look slightly different as I have several virtual machines already installed. Click the New icon at top left.

This will open the New Virtual Machine Wizard. Simply click Next to begin the wizard.

In the first box enter a name for the virtual machine. I suggest “Windows 8 Consumer Preview” so there is no confusion later should you use VirtualBox for other operating systems. Next select the version of Windows the virtual machine will host – Windows 8 64-bit in this case – followed by clicking Next.

The next screen allows you to determine the amount of RAM available to the virtual machine. I suggest trying 2GB, or 2048MB. Simple move the slider to the right until 2048 displays in the box and click Next.

In the following window you will be creating a virtual hard drive for your virtual operating system to use. 20GB is more than sufficient for our purpose. Be sure that Start-up Disk and Create new hard disk are both selected. This will create a virtual hard drive with the same name you gave to the virtual machine earlier. Click Next to proceed.

The next screen allows you to change the type of virtual disk create. The default is VDI, which is fine for our purposes, so just click Next to continue.


The next option is whether the size of the disk should be fixed or dynamic. Choosing Fixed will create a file (virtual disk) that is 20GB. Choosing Dynamic will create a much smaller file that can grow (should the need arise), yet the size will appear as a full 20GB to the operating system. We want Dynamic, so click it if not already selected and then click Next.

The following window shows a summary of our disk settings and should be correct based on our previous choices, but now is the time to make any corrections. Click Next.

Finally! Click Create to allow VirtualBox to create the virtual disk.

One final summary before the virtual machine is create. Click Create.

In just a few moments you’ll be taken back to the VirtualBox dashboard where you will now see your new virtual machine listed in all its’ glory! Highlight the virtual machine (if it isn’t) and click Settings so we can tie up a few loose ends.

In the settings window that opens select Display in the left column. This is where we adjust the amount of memory given to the virtual display adapter. The default is 27MB, but 64MB is a reasonable setting to ensure we experience Windows 8 in full glory! Move the slider to the right until the result is 64MB in the box. Click OK to close the window and return to the dashboard.

 How to Install Windows 8 in VirtualBox

Congratulations! You’ve just created your first virtual machine! Now, sit back and relax as the fun begins!

To install Windows 8 simply highlight the virtual machine in the left column and click Start at the top of the dashboard.

You will be presented with a First Run Wizard to guide you though the process of choosing the location of the installation media (the DVD you created earlier that should be in your DVD drive). Click Next to begin the wizard.

Now choose the drive letter where the Windows 8 DVD is located and click Next.

You’ll receive another summary screen. Click Start to begin the installation.

At this point you will see a new window open as the virtual machine starts. The new window will look as if another computer is running on your monitor because it is! The virtual machine will boot from the DVD drive you specified and begin the Windows 8 installation process.

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About the Author

David Hartsock

Executive Editor/Owner/Admin of Daves Computer Tips and all-around good guy - Dave's interest in computers began in the early 1980's during the Apple II era. In the early 1990's the PC began to replace proprietary and mainframe devices in Dave's industry so he began to learn and experiment with the PC. Through DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and now Windows 10. Dave became the "go to" guy for friends, family, and coworkers with computer problems. Daves Computer Tips was born in 2006 in an effort to share these experiences with others in an easy to understand, plain English, form.

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