By Ed Bott
December 8, 2011, 6:00pm PST
Summary: If you’re planning to test the beta of Windows 8 when it arrives early next year, you’d better start thinking about your hardware now. One of the killer features of the new operating system, Hyper-V virtualization, is picky about hardware. Here’s what to look for.
Are you planning to test Windows 8 when the beta release arrives in February? If so, you’d better start thinking about your hardware now.
You might have your eye on a surplus PC as a Windows 8 test bed. A two-year-old PC seems like a perfect candidate for a test bed—after all, the system requirements for Windows 8 are unchanged from those of Windows 7. But if you go that route, you might find that you’re unable to use one of the most significant new features in Windows 8.
I’m talking about Hyper-V, the virtualization technology that is being built into a desktop version of Windows for the first time. Windows 7 offered similar capabilities through the use of an add-on program called Windows Virtual PC. Hyper-V integrates this capability directly into the operating system, using technology that has proven itself in the server versions of Windows for more than three years. The average consumer will never need it, but it’s a godsend for IT professionals, developers, security researchers, and enthusiasts.
On a test PC running the Windows 8 Developer Preview, I’ve been using Hyper-V extensively, and it’s been rock-solid. At the moment, for example, I have Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 7 Enterprise, and a second instance of Windows 8 running in isolated virtual machines on a Windows 8 host. I used VMs, for example, to document the setup process for Windows 8 for my new book, Ed Bott’s Windows 8 Head Start
; without this capability, I would have no way to capture screen shots showing how the installation and repair features work.