How to install Windows Blue on VMware Player and Workstation

New versions of Windows do not come out often, so when Windows Blue leaked onto the Interwebs during the weekend -- as an early preview build -- it grabbed our immediate attention. There are new and updated apps, new features and a slightly tweaked user interface among the most noticeable changes, some of which my colleague Alan Buckingham has already gone through. But how can you taste the goodies by yourself?

Surely, looking at a slideshow is simply not good enough. As a result, you have two options. First, you can dual-boot Windows Blue alongside your operating system of choice (or install it as the sole option). Second, you can spare yourself any potential issues and headaches in dealing with an early preview build and install Windows Blue on VMware Player or VMware Workstation -- two of the most popular software virtualization products.

But which one should you choose? VMware Player is free and features a straighfoward wizard that makes it easy to use, while VMware Workstation is designed for more advanced and demanding users that wish to have more control over the virtualization environment. Unlike VMware Player, VMware Workstation is not free and requires users to pay for a license after the 30-day trial runs out.

There are two prerequisites to install Windows Blue using either product:

Please be aware that if you plan on downloading the leaked Windows Blue ISO file from BitTorrent you do so at your own risk, so choose wisely.

Before diving into the actual process, you must have VMware Player or VMware Workstation downloaded and installed on your computer and the Windows Blue ISO downloaded and, ideally, stored in an easily-accessible location.

Both VMware Player and VMware Workstation will suggest installing VMware Tools, which brings extra features and performance, so press "Install Tools" after the Windows Blue setup is complete and run the setup.

VMware Player Instructions

Let's kick off with VMware Player first. Follow the next steps to install Windows Blue:

  1. Open VMware Player and select "Create a New Virtual Machine".
  2. Select "Installer disc image file (iso)" and click "Browse" then navigate to the location where the Windows Blue ISO file is located, select it and click "Open".
  3. Click Next, select Microsoft Windows under "Guest operating system" and Windows 8 under "Version" for the 32-bit variant. If the 64-bit Windows Blue will be available and wish to use it instead select Windows 8 x64. Then click "Next".
  4. Type a new name for "Virtual machine name" -- preferably Windows Blue.
  5. Select the location of the virtual machine and make sure you have at least 16GB for the 32-bit Windows Blue and 20GB for the 64-bit Windows Blue (again, if it will be available) free space in the selected location -- 30GB is better to avoid running out of free space.
  6. Select "Store virtual disk as a single file" to keep the virtual HDD in a single file and optimize performance, then click "Next".
  7. At the next screen click on "Customize Hardware...", go to "Memory" and select a minimum of 1GB for 32-bit Windows Blue and 2GB for 64-bit Windows Blue. But, you should double the amount for better results.
  8. At the "Processors" dialog box select the "Number of processor cores" available for your CPU. For a single core CPU it is one, for a dual-core CPU it is two, for a quad-core CPU it is four and so on -- this is to ensure the virtual machine is running at optimum parameters.
  9. Click "Close" then "Finish" to complete the virtual machine creation process and press "Play virtual machine" to install Windows Blue.

VMware Workstation Instructions

What about VMware Workstation? It provides two wizard options -- "Typical (recommended)" and "Custom (advanced)". The former is simpler to use while the latter provides more control but is a bit too complex for inexperienced users. Using "Typical (recommended) in VMware Workstation is identical to using the wizard provided by VMware Player (which I detailed above), so I will explain how to install Windows Blue with the "Custom (advanced)" option.

To install Windows Blue in VMware Workstation by using "Custom (advanced)" follow the next steps:

  1. Open VMware Workstation and select "Create a New Virtual Machine" -- or press CTRL + N in VMware Workstation.
  2. Select "Custom (advanced)" and click "Next".
  3. Click "Next", select "Installer disc image (iso)" and click "Browse" then navigate to the location where the Windows Blue ISO file is located, select it and click "Open".
  4. Click Next, select Microsoft Windows under "Guest operating system" and Windows 8 under "Version" for the 32-bit variant. If the 64-bit Windows Blue will be available and prefer it instead select Windows 8 x64. Then click "Next".
  5. Type a new name for "Virtual machine name" -- preferably Windows Blue.
  6. Select the location of the virtual machine and make sure you have at least 16GB for the 32-bit Windows Blue and 20GB for the 64-bit Windows Blue (again, if it will be available) free space in the selected location -- 30GB is better to avoid running out of free space. Then click "Next".
  7. You have to select "Number of processors" to match the ones installed (typical for a desktop computer to have just one) and "Number of cores per processor" -- for a single core CPU it is one, for a dual-core CPU it is two, for a quad-core CPU it is four and so on. This is to ensure the virtual machine is operating at optimum parameters.
  8. Click "Next" and select the RAM memory size that you want to allocate to the virtual machine -- select a minimum of 1GB for 32-bit Windows Blue and 2GB for 64-bit Windows Blue, but you should double the amount for a smoother operation. Then click "Next".
  9. Click "Next", "Next" and then select "Create a new virtual disk" to set up from scratch -- the other two options should be left alone for inexperienced users.
  10. Click "Next", "Next" and allocate at least the minimum recommended space from step No. 6 under Maximum disk size, then select "Store virtual disk as a single file" for optimum performance.
  11. Click "Next" and type a name for the disk file -- preferably "Windows Blue.vmdk".
  12. Click "Next" then "Finish" and click on "Power on this virtual machine" for the Windows Blue install process to start.

If you fancy Oracle's VirtualBox, my colleague Wayne Williams already wrote a how-to guide highlighting the necessary steps, from loading the leaked ISO file to running Windows Blue for the first time in safe, and virtualized, environment.

Photo Credit: Liv friis-larsen/Shutterstock

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