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Installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview In A VirtualBox Virtual Machine

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Microsoft


Microsoft's juggernaut Windows operating system powers on with the company preparing Windows 7's successor in Windows 8. The new operating system (OS) was first released for public consumption during the last BUILD conference in the form of a "Developer Preview." This release was mainly intended for software developers to start to get a feel for the OS and its new features, but many consumers and technology enthusiasts also took a peek at the OS to get an idea of where MS was going with its next OS.

Coinciding with Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2012, Microsoft released the next iteration of the in progress OS, and this time it is aimed at getting consumer feedback. The aptly named Consumer Preview build is now available for download by anyone interested.

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Windows 8 Consumer Preview Desktop

The question many consumers and enthusiasts are likely asking; however, is what to do with the MS provided ISO, and what the safest and easiest method for testing the beta operating system is. One appropriate answer, and the method covered in this guide, is to use a virtual machine program to test the Windows 8 Consumer Preview inside a VM without needing to muck with or worry about effecting your existing system or settings. Installing to bare hardware will always be faster, but if you upgrade to Windows 8 CP from Windows 7, you will not be able to go back once the beta period is over. By installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview inside a virtual machine will allow you to test out the operating system in a secure environment, and if you have a recent machine with at least 4 GB of RAM, performance of the OS should be sufficient to get an idea of the new OS and whether you want to pursue a bare hardware full install.

I expect that many users are going to be curious about the new build as the Windows 8 OS has ignited several heated debates among enthusiasts concerning the direction Microsoft is going. The new Metro interface, removal of Start Menu, and the overhauled Windows logo are three of the major concerns users have raised, for example.

The specific program in question that we will be using is Oracle's VirtualBox software, which is a free VM host that is very easy to setup and use. Another alternative is VMWare, and the setup process will be very similar (though the exact steps and settings will differ slightly). This guide will show you how to go from the Windows 8 ISO to a fully functional installation inside a VirtualBox virtual machine. If you are familiar with setting up a new VirtualBox VM, you can safely skip those steps. I felt it prudent to go through the entire process; however, for those new to VirtualBox that wish to try out the new Microsoft OS.

Let's begin.

Continue reading our guide on installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview on a Virtual Machine!!

What You Need

  • A recent desktop or laptop computer with:
    • Approximately: dual core CPU (with VT-x), 4 GB RAM, 15 GB hard drive space (or better)
    • A Windows, OS X, or Linux Host OS
  • The Latest Version of VirtualBox (4.1.8 at time of writing):
  • Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO:
    • (use x86 or x64, depending on how powerful your machine is)
    • Download Link
  • Windows 8 Consumer Preview CD Key:
    • DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J
  • Approximately 30 minutes of time to setup.


The first thing you need to do is install VirtualBox and get it set up, if you do not already have it.  If it is already installed on your system ensure that it is up to date (version 4.1.8 as of writing).  To get the install file, head over to the VirtualBox downloads page and download the file appropriate for your current OS. Once it has finished downloading, install it by following the prompts.  If you need further assistance, check out the VirtualBox User Manual which details the installation process for Windows, Linux, Solaris, and OS X hosts.

Tip: The host OS is the operating system that VirtualBox is installed on and is generally (but not always) the operating system that is installed on physical hardware.  The guest OS is the operating system that is installed on the virtualized hardware inside of VituralBox.

You will further need to download the appropriate Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO from the Microsoft website.  If you have 4 gigabytes or more of RAM, you can safely choose the x64 version, but in general if you are unsure which version to use or are running older hardware the 32 bit (x86) build, will work fine.  The x86 ISO is a 2.5 GB download while the x64 version ISO is a 3.3 GB download.  The only other choice you need to make is which language you need.  Make a note of the CD product key listed below the download link(s), as you will need it later.

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With the basic preparations out of the way, you are ready to being installing the Windows 8 OS!  Jump to the next page to get started with the new virtual machine setup.

March 2, 2012 | 01:56 AM - Posted by Laurențiu Roman (not verified)

YOu also need a VT-x enabled CPU if you're gonna virtualize the 64 bit version. YOu can't do it otherwise, no matter how much ram or how powerful of a CPU you have.

March 2, 2012 | 02:38 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

That's true, which processors from the last couple years don't have it though (honest question)? Is Intel still depriving the Celerons of it?

EDIT: updated requirements with a link to Intel's VT-x support list, thanks.

March 2, 2012 | 02:25 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for the tutorial, worked just fine.

March 2, 2012 | 07:19 PM - Posted by Nilbog

Will you please include how to setup the internet in the VM. I have had everything setup just like it says here. Its been running, but no internet, and keeps telling me that i need a driver...

March 2, 2012 | 09:41 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Hmm can you see anything like virtualbox network card in the host os control panel? The network drivers should have installed with virtualbox. Ill see what I can dig up on my end once im not mobile.

March 2, 2012 | 10:22 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Update: It should be called the Virtualbox Host-Only Network under Network and Sharing center.

In the VM settings menu, go to Network and verify that you have the network adapter 1 enabled and it is attached to NAT in the dropdown box :)

Let me know if this helps :)

March 5, 2012 | 03:26 AM - Posted by Nilbog

Thanks for the help Tim. I finally got it to work after messing with the advanced tab in the network settings. I chose the wrong internet adapter.

March 5, 2012 | 04:23 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

ah, heh, that would do it :) No problem, glad you got it working!

March 3, 2012 | 07:38 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Try a virtual hard drive- very easy, runs natively,doesn't mess up your Win7 install.

Winsupersite has an article on it as well as some other sites.

March 4, 2012 | 07:22 PM - Posted by Veer Maharaj (not verified)

Can you link us to it please? Thanks!

March 5, 2012 | 03:08 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

heh, why do you need that when you have this article? :) Pretty sure by virtual hard drive they mean virtual machine, assuming they aren't spammers ;)

March 3, 2012 | 02:15 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I am sure I did everything in the guide but I got this error

Result Code:
E_FAIL (0x80004005)
IConsole {1968b7d3-e3bf-4ceb-99e0-cb7c913317bb}

Any help??

March 3, 2012 | 04:02 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

When did you get the error, when starting the virtual machine? Go into the settings menu and verify that you have the virtual hard drive attached to the system.

Maybe try this?

March 4, 2012 | 05:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

it was right at the beginning, it didn't have a chance to boot

March 4, 2012 | 05:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I fixed the problem, my bios didn't have VT turned on. But now when it starts Windows says "program has stopped working trying to find a solution".

March 4, 2012 | 08:53 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

hmm.. so with VT-x turned on you don't get the first error but are now getting that when trying to start the VM? Hmm.. does the VM start at all, and do you get to the Oracle boot/POST screen or does it fail even before that? Umm, you might try rechecking your settings and that you aren't assigning it resources you don't have and/or try running VB as administrator. You may need to send the log file (right click on VM and chose show log) to someone, maybe these guys can help:

Sorry you're having such trouble getting VB to cooperate! If you can find the error in question that is causing the crash, feel free to post it and I'll see what i can find but the log file itself is rather long and would prolly be too long to post here ;)

March 3, 2012 | 02:30 PM - Posted by roosauce (not verified)

Thanks for this guys, very helpful.

March 4, 2012 | 09:19 AM - Posted by Steve (not verified)

Great! Turn your $2500 PC into a $30 cell phone! Why not just turn it into a toaster? The garish monochrome colors are just atrocious. Who thought THIS was the future of computing. Now Windows, Mac, Gnome, Unity and KDE have all gone to hell leaving us with very few choices for a GUI that is worthy of a real computer and not a toy.


Good thing this bad joke of an operating system is safely imprisoned inside a Windows XP Virtualbox appliance. Somebody, a LOT of somebodies, got paid to create this insult to a computer and its user. What weren't they thinking?

March 4, 2012 | 04:44 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

If you don't need Silverlight or DirectX, give Linux Mint a go :) It's fast!

March 4, 2012 | 07:07 PM - Posted by Veer Maharaj (not verified)

So i have a question, when you look at an icon on your desktop, you see a picture of something that represents an program or file, right? But when you click on it, you will see a frame around it and between that frame and icon, all that there is, is wasted empty space. Now you have widgets, they are designed to pull information about things, like mini apps always running and if i can say anything about them, they eat a lot of resources, but i always use them.

A tile is a combination of the two, taking the means of starting an app, and the information displaying abilities of a widget and combining them into one. So instead of starting your email app, you can glance the tile and just see whats there.

Moreso, the Start screen is really, just a new start menu. Remember when we went from Windows 2000 to XP. People bitched and fussed about the new start menu. They complained it was worse it wasn't as good, yet as a user i saw how much more convenient it was, how much better it was. I wasn't just accessing apps, i was accessing my folders too. I didn't need to clear my desktop to get to my documents folder or my computer, i could get it right there from the start menu.

Now look at the modern start menu in 7. Its a little box in the corner of the screen, it cannot be used side by side with something else. When you bring it up, it's all you focus on. So why just use a part of the screen to show it? Just use the whole screen for the start menu, and show as much information about the apps and places as possible!

Not only that, you dont have to deal with folders to organise apps as you did before, you can 'group' apps into specific areas just as how you would have grouped apps into folders before, but this way its more visual and position based making them even easier to find when you need them. And search works just as how it did on 7 and Vista, just start typing and you app will appear, so if you cant pinpoint something, you can still find it.

Hence why they used a start screen and not just a start menu. Whats even more interesting, is that the old desktop is still there, and its more hardcore than ever. I customised the quick access toolbar on the explore windows and minimised the ribbon and omg I'm in heaven. Every command i can want is right there. The start button has been compacted to a "start corner", but on a physical machine, it works really well because once the cursor reaches that corner, you cant go any further and all you need to do at that point is click and get the start screen and if you right click there, you get things like computer management and loads more.

If u use an app launcher like object dock or rocket dock, you can put away most of your apps there for easy access right there on a side of the desktop. I did that in XP, Vista and still in 7, even with the new task-bar because i use so many apps.

Adding to that, 8 uses way less resources and its snappy as hell. I installed it on a Vostro 1100 with a Sempron processor, ATI Xpress graphics and 1 gig of ram (bleh), the thing ran faster than Ubuntu, Mint and even Knoppix, I was absolutely dumbstruck!!

I know the start screen is a bit offputting if you have become use to menus and lists, but its just the launcher for your regular apps that still work as they always have before, if a little bit better imo.

And if ur a hardcore user (the real kind, not the old git who just likes things to stay the same) who uses multiple monitors and is constantly doing 4 things at a time, the traditional desktop works even better with multiple monitors, and multiple simultaneous apps. Even little things like multiple wallpapers on multiple monitors and panoramic wallpapers are better and easier.

Did you see the new taskmanager? that thing is the Bentley of task managers. On default view its quaint, it shows you what's running and you can end them. Hit the button below and omfg, shit gets real amazing real fast. You can see apps, their processes, the process info, resource utilization, consumption and way more than that.

Even copying files has been overhauled. you can do sequential copies if ur doing multiple file transfers and pause individual transfers while others are proceeding.

I can even right click on iso files and mount them in a virtual disc drive natively no addon apps needed... THAT IS AMAZING!!

If u are truly hardcore, 8 IS where u wanna be... Look forward not back. Things change, they will always change, some you will like, some you won't, not at first anyway, but you just need to adapt.

March 4, 2012 | 07:09 PM - Posted by Veer Maharaj (not verified)

PS: I apologise for the length, i started typing and after 10 mins lost myself. Tim, if you want me to expand this into a full article, i would love you all to post this on the site. Again, i apologise for the length of the comment.

March 4, 2012 | 09:02 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

I'n not yet sold on the Metro start menu, gestures to close and switch apps, and the Windows Store but I do like the new Task Manager and file copy dialogs, those are pretty sweet enhancements! :)

I'm installing the consumer preview on my old laptop now to see how it fairs on bare metal :). You do have a point that there will likely be tweaking utilities for Win 8 just like earlier generations to customize things a bit more and help the OS adapt to my work style, we'll see. Right now though I miss the old start menu, the *bam* fullscreen and then right back to desktop switch is rather jarring just to open a file or another program. Right now, I can just open the start menu and type the program or use arrow keys to get what I want without even having to look at it and can continue reading or watching TV, but on Win 8 it takes me away from that to full screen metro world for little purpose. Now that I was able to change it to a blue background, I'm more okay with it (the green background was atrocious on the dev preview ;) At least.. I remember it being green lol) If they can make the gestures and such easier and more intuitive it won't be all that bad, just not something I love. I'll likely still upgrade for the other shiny stuff I do like though :)

March 5, 2012 | 09:21 PM - Posted by Veer Maharaj (not verified)

There are people still not sold on Window XP's start menu in 2012 and change it back to "classic" every time they reinstall windows. And for that reason refuse to go to Vista/7. Those people are eventually going to be moved to 7 by force in due time. Yet some will still stick with a insecure, buggy, unsupported Win 8 despite everything.

Quite frankly, the 8 SS, functions the same way the 7 SM did, with better customisation of app listings and is more easily used across more types of devices without having to do different UI for every class of chassis.

I do say, there could have been more options on how the SS is viewed, listing of apps and such for desktops and laptops, but that will come with times, Windows 9 and such.

Windows 8 is a trial run for such features in a sense. But if u can find a workflow with this UI, when they improve the UI in Win 9, or even the RTM of Win 8, you will be better off for it.

Regarding your comment on using the SM while you watch a video/read etc, to find an app or file simultaneously...

How often would you pull up an app that wasn't pinned to your taskbar or in an applauncher like objectdock?

For files you could just hit explorer with Win key + 2 to search for files...

Tweaking your workflow to adapt to the SS isn't hard, Windows allows for so many ways to do the same thing its uncanny. And if it doesn't, someone somewhere has a 3rd party app that does it for you.

I just figured a way around your problem with the SS being too 'jarring' in under a minute.

Are there any other problems you want me to figure out for you as well?

If you think I'm being a "fanboy" or i am being "harsh" with my comments, i do apologise, but its comments like yours, a journalist, that sow the seeds of acceptance or dislike in these early stages.

You have yet to install it on a actual machine and test it but are already saying you "are not sold on the SS".

Please use it for a few days on an actual machine before you start making such comments. I spent a few hours using it on a VM and i am already accustomed to dragging down to close apps. Its pretty natural and makes sense. Its as easy to remember as watching something fall down into a trash can and knowing down is for what ur done with.

Once i remembered that alt+tab / win key + tab, still worked for app switching i was back to my old self.

If you are a true "hardcore" user, you adapt, if ur just old, you whine. The excitement factor with a new OS is learning how to do old things in a new, and hopefully, a better way. That better way may be made obvious to some and less so for others. For insane on the brain users who watch videos while we use word and Chrome at the same time, it may ba harder to do, but its still there.

Here is one prob for me the metro screen fixed. When im watching a video, my other windows, as im movieng them around somehow always end up covering a bit of my video window. If i snap in the metro video player to the side of explorer, it never gets covered and i always see it, while i do my work in PS, Word etc.


O_O Goddammit, look at how much i wrote again, wtf is wrong with me :S

March 6, 2012 | 06:30 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

I used the Developer Preview installed on a touch enabled convertible tablet for about a month and I thought it worked well there, but ended up wiping it and going back to win 7 as the touch screen got extremely wonky after a windows update (likely updated the driver from the version I installed and Win 8 ended up not liking it lol) and made it so that I couldn't navigate at all without constant random clicking and I did not have the time to mess with it. I'm not running the Consumer Preview on that machine and, again, it is not liking the touch panel and I can't find the old driver version I used the first go around, so I just disabled it. On a laptop with a smaller screen, metro is okay with mouse and keyboard but I'd like to see the gestures tweaked and be more like Opera's as right now they require a lot of physical mouse travel to close apps and such. The ability to hold down a key or side mouse button to activate the gesture input, then do a small flick in, for example, the down direction to close an app would be a heck of a lot easier than going to the top of the screen and dragging all the way to the bottom. On a cramped desk or a laptop with a small trackpad, the current movement is a pain. Would it really be hard for them to add a close button that appears on hover?

I'm not saying everyone should hate it, if you like it that's fine and I'm glad that you are finding it useful. In it's current form, it just doesn't work for me. I'm willing to give them feedback and see where they go with it. In the end though, I have to reserve the right to not like it, just like others have the right to swear by it. At least give me credit for trying to give it a fair shake? :).

I get that this is the CP, but I would really like to see them do some sort of gesture intro or help page for the gestures to introduce all the new ways to closing and switching between apps, I think that would go a long way towards letting people have a fair chance at adapting and not getting frustrated. I had no idea the drag down to close was even an option until someone on Tested forums pointed it out, for example :P. Maybe some sort of intro on first boot for OEM machines or setup for self installs. I think I remember there being something like that in Win XP?

I'll probably leave Win 8 on the laptop for awhile to test and see what tweaks come out. Right now I'm sticking with Win 7 on my desktop as I can't risk bugs or instability mucking up my schoolwork or writing.

Anyways, I usually try to keep my desktop (er, the software desktop not the physical computer) as free from icons as possible and my taskbar only has a few important programs pinned. I am one of those crazy people that has a bunch of chrome windows, netflix (or more recently WMC TV), Focus Writer, ect open and spread out over the desktop :P Having the start menu in the screen lets me glance over at it or usually I dont even have to look at it as I know what the first search result will be and can just win key->type->enter and it opens heh. I just don't see the point of having to go out of the desktop to metro, and back out even if it is for a split second why take up the whole screen? I guess I could use that explorer search you mentioned to keep me from having to go the roundabout through Metro land.

I don't know, I just prefer how things are now, I understand why some people like the Metro improvements (the mail app is pretty nice btw) but the full screen experience is just not for me at this time :). I defended myself over at tested in saying that the operating system should ideally be invisible and adapt to the user, not the other way around, and I still think that. Seriously if Metro works for you and improves your experience, that's awesome and be sure to give them as much feedback as possible to make it even moreso, but I still have some concerns about it before I'm sold on it working to help me, well, work :). I'll keep on testing periodically and dipping my toes in the Metro pool to see if the water is warm enough for me lol.

heh, by all means post away man :) I tend to ramble and have long posts as well. If only the ExtremeTech forums were still live... I had some mini novels over there! :D

March 6, 2012 | 06:37 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

EDIT: Hmm, do you know of any way to get the cursor to automatically be in the search box of explorer when i open it with Win+4 (where my explorer icon is)? If I can get it to do that, that would mostly solve the issue of quick searches :).

PS. Not sure if I mentioned it in the article, but I do love the new task manager, file copy stuff, and so far I have been getting network file transfer speeds that are much, much faster than Win 7 to Win 7 using the same hardware! I have to give MS props for that!!

Usually when I do big file transfers over Wifi (G only though I do have a new router coming that has N, a long overdue upgrade!), I usually get about 1 MB/s avg speeds which is really slow, but after installing Win 8 on the laptop, I happened to transfer a movie from the laptop the desktop and saw it shoot up to 8 MB/s, avg'd about 6-7 MB/s which was a big surprise! Dunno if it was just a fluke but I hope not :D

March 4, 2012 | 06:15 PM - Posted by Veer (not verified)


Oh the side by side metro app functionality won't work in VB, because it only works at 16:9 resolutions. VB even with VB extras installed only allows for 4:3 aspect ratios.

Sad but true.

Turn off pointer integration, it makes mousing into the corners easier, if not you just end up going outside the VM and onto your desktop. It gets very frustrating.

New tip, Windows Key + Print Screen, takes a snapshot of your desktop and saves it to the picture folder automatically, nifty eh?

March 5, 2012 | 03:10 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

Really, that printscreen shortcut will be pretty nifty! :) Yeah, they have a minimum 1366x768 resolution to do the 2/3 and 1/3 metro apps, which will be hard to get in a VM.

March 4, 2012 | 10:55 PM - Posted by rajorman

never like the interface the w8, I slapped on a Elitebook 2560P decked out and it was some of the worst UI experienced. Most of the power user experience is gone with windows 8, after 4 hours of fiddling around with it I re-formatted and put my W7 pro 64bit back on.

I think windows 8 is more aimed at "grandma / Grandpa " that dont really know there way around a computer but can easily use the big pretty tiles to help them out.

good try M$ but no cigar ;)

March 5, 2012 | 01:08 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

hehe, I can't say that I blame you ;)

I think grandma and grandpa are going to take one look at Win 8 and ask me wtf that is and where did their Windows, email, and internet go LOL

March 6, 2012 | 06:14 AM - Posted by Varunn Pandya (not verified)

After I agree to the terms and conditions window and the select the custom install option, t doesnt detect any device drivers. How should i solve that problem?

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