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Installing Windows 8 on VMware Workstation 9: Five FAQs

Check out five frequently asked questions before you install Windows 8 on VMware Workstation 9.

Installing Windows 8, the latest Microsoft OS, in VMware Workstation 9 isn't hard, but some aspects of the process aren't clear. Here are answers to five of the most frequently asked questions about how to install Windows 8 in VMware Workstation 9 for test and development.

1. Can I install Windows 8 in previous versions of VMware Workstation?

You don't have to use VMware Workstation 9 to install Windows 8, but you'll find the install a lot easier with version 9. Workstation includes a list of available virtual OSes to install and, prior to version 9, Windows 8 wasn't on the list. If you're using Workstation 8 or an older version, you'll have to specify the hardware configuration yourself. This shouldn't be a problem, as long as you know exactly which hardware configuration you need.

2. Do I need a registration key to test Windows 8 in Workstation?

To stay within Microsoft's Windows 8 license requirements, you'll need a registration key. Because Windows 8 asks for a registration key early in the installation procedure, make sure you have it available at the outset. Without a key, you cannot properly test Windows 8 on Workstation.

There are ways to avoid using a new registration key for every instance of Windows 8 you install. Just make sure that you don't register the installed Windows 8 virtual computer on the Internet. If registered, the OS tells Microsoft that its registration key was used, and you will not be able to use it multiple times.

Alternately, download an evaluation version of Windows 8 from Microsoft and use that registration key to test the OS for 90 days. This timeframe should allow you to accomplish most of the testing you plan for Windows 8.

3. What is Windows 8's minimal configuration for virtual hardware?

Allocate 2 GB of RAM and 60 GB of available disk space at minimum for Windows 8. Skimpier resources will work, but not as smoothly. You should never go below 1 GB of RAM and 30 GB of available disk space if you want to be able to actually use the virtual machine (VM). Make sure your hardware can run Windows 8 with a minimal resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels.

The VM requirements are already a bit tough, so be sure to meet some minimal hardware requirements for the host OS. For smooth operation, the host needs at least 4 GB of RAM -- 8 GB if possible. Disk space is not that important, as long as your computer has enough available disk space to accommodate the disk files.

4. I don't want to use Workstation's Easy Install option. Can I specify advanced configuration parameters?

Install Windows 8 on VMware Workstation without Easy Install defaults
Figure 1. Avoiding Workstation's Easy Install defaults allows you to configure Windows 8 exactly how you want it.

Workstation's Easy Install became the default OS installation option at version 7. It cuts down on configuration parameter wrangling, but you won't see many of the advanced options available. In Easy Install, many options pass from VMware Workstation to the VM without your intervention.

To bypass Easy Install, select "I will install this operating system later." Then, complete the installation interface and enter all parameters you want to use before starting the actual installation (see Figure 1).

5. Can I install a Windows 8 tablet in VMware Workstation 9?

VMware Workstation creates virtual computers, not virtual tablets. Tablets use a completely different hardware platform, which has specific needs. While you cannot emulate a Windows 8 tablet in VMware Workstation, you can use some tablet functions, such as swiping. Still, you cannot swipe by touching a virtualized tablet screen with your fingers; you'll need to use the mouse.

Once you've completed testing on the Windows 8 OS, read about your production environment considerations for Windows 8 virtual desktops.

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