Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Windows Virtual PC vs. VMWare Workstation

If you have been using virtualization for a long time, in all likelihood, you have been using VMWare Workstation.  Therefore, if you are like me, you probably have never considered using Virtual PC in the past. 

However, today I was working with a colleague and he had decided to use Virtual PC.  After all, he was running Windows 7 x64, and Virtual PC for Windows 7 was a very small download, so why not?
After he installed Virtual PC, he attempted to create a Virtual Machine using Windows 7 x64 as a Guest OS.  However, as soon as he attempted to build the virtual machine from the Windows 7 x64 ISO image, he got the following error message: "Attempting to load a 64 bit app but this CPU is not compatible with 64 bit mode".  Well, I had seen this error message before in my days of building VMWare Workstation VMs, so I thought about checking the BIOS and verifying that Intel Virtualizaiton technology was enabled on his system. 

Interestingly enough, the Intel Virtualization technology WAS ENABLED in his BIOS.  Therefore, we restarted and tried it again.  Same error message--That was strange.  So I did some further digging and discovered that Windows 7 Virtual PC does not support 64-bit Guest VMS!  As it turns out, this is a limitation enforced specifically by Microsoft and therefore, one can only run 64-bit Guest VMs if you are running Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V.

Therefore, if you are planning to run 64-bit Guest VMs on your Windows 7 workstation, stick with VMWare Workstation or Player. 

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