Category Archives: Hyper-V and VMs

Upgrades Are Over, Activation Still Works

I read yesterday at that MS was no longer supporting free upgrades from Windows 7 or 8.1 to Windows 10 or 11. “Holy smokes,” I thought to myself, “That’s been a long time coming.” That offer supposedly expired in 2016 but had been working until recently. My next question was: “Does that mean you can’t activate a new Windows 11 install with a Windows 7 key any more?” Based on a hurry-up experiment I just finished, I’m bemused to report that if upgrades are over, activation still works. I’ll explain…

Though Windows 7 and 8.1 Upgrades Are Over, Activation Still Works

Here’s what I did. I downloaded a Windows 11 Pro ISO, I fired up Hyper-V Manager, and I created a new VM using that ISO. When the time came to provide a license key, I plugged in an entry from the list of Windows 7 Ultimate license keys I keep around for testing purposes. Guess what happened?

It worked! In fact, the screencap at the head of this blog post shows the newly stood-up VM with an Activation state of “Active” from that very Windows 7 Ultimate key (anybody else remember that edition?). Thus, though it may no longer be possible to upgrade from running Windows 7 or 8.1 instances, it seems like their keys will still suffice to crate a valid, activated instance of Windows 11 from scratch. Good to know!

Straight from the Source: MS

Mr. Thurrott cites a Microsoft Device Partner Center communication as the source of this information. That item is entitled Windows Ends Installation Path for Free Windows 7/8 Upgrade. It bears a publication date of September 20, 2023. For the moment, though the upgrade path may be closed, it looks like the keys still work for activation. I wonder if this loophole will remain open, or close sometime as well. Stay tuned: we’ll see!

Clarification Added September 30

Thanks to a more recent story from Sergey Tkachenko at WinAero, I now have a better idea of what’s going on. The 7/8 keys still work for versions of Windows 10 and 11 through 22H2. You can’t, however, use those keys to activate a new install of 23H2.  I tried only Windows 11 22H2, not a preview of 23H2 (AFAIK, it’s not out yet in any other form). NOW I get it…


Playing Windows Sandbox Games

Yesterday, I found myself needing to visit some “geographically suspect” websites. Let’s just say they’re in a country much in the recent news. For added, protection I wanted to use the Windows Sandbox, a runtime environment that creates a temporary VM based on your current running image. Once you close it, all traces of its presence disappear. That’s a good thing, when you want no uninvited leftovers later on. Thus, I found myself playing Windows Sandbox games yesterday for the first time on Windows 11.

Steps in Playing Windows Sandbox Games

When I typed Sandbox into one of my Windows test PCs, nothing happened. Indeed, it’s been long enough since I set up Sandbox on Windows 10 I’d forgotten some specific preliminaries are needed:

1. Because Windows Sandbox is a kind of virtual machine (VM), virtualization must be enabled.
2. If you don’t seek to launch Sandbox inside  another VM, you don’t need to worry about nested virtualization. Otherwise, a PowerShell command is needed (see this How-to-Geek article for the specifics).
3. Finally, you have to open “Turn Windows features on or off” and then specifically enable “Windows Sandbox (checkbox checked).

The lead-in graphic shows the bottom portion of the scrolling list inside the “Windows Features” applet in Control Panel. You can get there many ways. I typed “Windows Features” into the Start menu search box and it came right up. The same approach in Settings search works, too.

After the Checkbox, Windows Takes Over

When you click OK after checking the Windows Sandbox checkbox, the Windows installer takes over. It grabs and installs the necessary files to add Sandbox to the target system. At the end of its labors it will tell you “Windows needs to reboot your PC to finish installing the requested changes” (see below). Click the “Restart now” button at lower right.

Playing Windows Sandbox Games.restart-to-run

Once it’s done, click Restart now to complete the install.

After the PC comes back to the desktop, Sandbox will be ready to use. It certainly did the trick for the various websites I wanted to visit both safely and securely. Here’s a snapshot of the resulting sandbox desktop.

I use PatchMyPC to install Chrome and other tools for a more familiar, usable Sandbox. [Click image for full-size view.]


Moment 3 Dev VMs Now Available

OK, then. I read a June 25 story on Neowin with great interest. It’s entitled “Microsoft releases free Windows 11 virtual machines with the Moment 3 update .” If you visit the MS webpage that the story covers, you’ll find VMs to download for VMWare, Hyper-V (Gen2), VirtualBox and Parallels. Inside each VM is a running instance of Windows 11 Enterprise, Visual Studio 2022 Community edition, WSL for Linux 2 (Ubuntu), Windows Terminal, with developer mode turned on. Hence my title here: “Moment 3 Dev VMs Now Available.”

Moment 3 Dev VMs Now Available:
20+ GB Download

Because Hyper-V is my virtualization tool of choice, that’s the version I downloaded to try out on a test PC. That download is about 21GB in size, and took me a good 4 minutes to download over a fairly fast connection.

Once you get over that hump, you’ll find a .vhdx file inside the ZIP folder that’s  a hefty 40+GB in size. UnZip same, and you’ll be able to open that VM inside Hyper-V. I’d recommend doing so from an NVMe SSD, which for many users will mean their system drive. Thus, make sure you’ve got the room!

I’d also recommend deleting the ZIP file once you’ve extracted its contents just to save some space. If you have the expanded file, you don’t need to keep the ZIPped version around. On an 8th gen 4-core i7 CPU (8650U @ 1.9 GHz) laptop, it took just under 5 minutes to unZIP the VM (4:55).

Moment 3 Dev VMs Now Available.unzip

This hefty ZIP file takes a while to unpack…4:55 on my test PC.

Once you’ve got the .vhdx file unzipped, you simply need to create a new VM inside Hyper-V (Gen 2, 4096 MB RAM, default switch). You can then double click the VM inside Hyper-V to launch, and you’ll get a complete Windows 11 instance with all the aforementioned goodies up and running. It took about 4 minutes on my Yoga X380 ThinkPad test PC to get to the desktop shown in lead-in graphic.

Other than the time it takes to download, install and start up, the process is dead easy. Try it for yourself and you’ll see. The only downside is that this is an eval copy of Windows that ages out on September 23, 2023. Thus, it won’t last very long!


VM SSD Speed Falls Off

What did I expect, I wonder? I’ve been digging more deeply into VMs on the amazing Lenovo P16 Mobile Workstation. (It’s got an i9-12950HX, 2TB PCIe x4 SSD, 128GB RAM, Quadro RTX A5500, and Windows 11 22H2.) Most of the time, the VM runs almost indistinguishably from the physical OS. But various IO metrics tell a different story: most tellingly, VM SSD speed falls off measurably. That applies both to the Virtual C: drive inside the VM, and when accessing external USB4 storage devices from the VM.

How Much VM SSD Speed Falls Off

By most metrics, it’s 2X or more. To be more specific, CrystalDisk-Mark results for the C: drive are about half across the board versus the internal Kioxia SSD. For the all-important random read/write 4K single thread, it’s worse than that (2.5X to 3X). Worse still, large file copies to external USB drives fall off a cliff: typical rates of 250-280 MBps fall to 60-70 MBps. This is shown from File Explorer inside the VM in the lead-in graphic above. Here’s a comparison from the physical machine:

VM SSD Speed Falls Off.phys-copy

Notice: USB speed is at least 4X faster on a physical PC vs. a VM.

Let’s Get Physical…

This actually provides an interesting justification for running certain workloads on physical rather than virtual PCs — namely, that IO and completion times can be dramatically affected. But given the convenience, flexibility and open-ended nature of VMs, this is not likely to matter that much except for highly specialized workloads where time is worth more than money.

Fascinating stuff, though — and great fun to play with. Check out the Get a Windows 11 development environment page at MS.


Ready-to-Run Eval Windows 11 Development VMs

MS offers free downloads of ready-to-run Eval Windows 11 Development VMs (virtual machines). They incorporate a copy of Windows 11 Enterprise, Visual Studio 2022 edition, Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), and Windows Terminal. They’re ready to run in developer mode, right “out of the box” as ’twere.

MS makes them available, free, for the following hypervisors:

  • VMWare
  • Hyper-V
  • VirftualBox
  • Parallels

Just for grins I downloaded the Hyper-V incarnation, and spent an enjoyable hour getting it installed and running yesterday, along with some exploration and investigation. The lead-in graphic shows the head of the download page for all this stuff.

Grab Ready-to-Run Eval Windows 11 Development VMs

I was able to bring up the VM simply by opening it in Hyper-V and using the “default switch” for the networking option. It’s just that easy to get it up and going. No kidding. But…

As I explored the new runtime environment I did find some limitations. Turns out the default install in Hyper-V does not resolve TPM issues. There’s a whole raft of “Generation 2 VM Security Issues” about which I had been blissfully unaware.

I’m going to need to work through those issues so I can try again. Why? Because if I want to keep the VM around as more than a transitory eval, I have to be able to upgrade to 22H2 (the download is 22H1). And here’s what the Windows 11 Installation Assistant currently has to say about that:

Upon running the PC Health Check on that VM, I’m informed that no TPM is detected. No TPM, no upgrade. This can be fixed: I see numerous recipes to make that happen. I’ll try them soon.

More Fun Than…

In the meantime, I’m having a gas running VMs on the P16 Mobile Workstation (with 128GB RAM, a 24-core i9 12th Gen CPU, and so forth). Honestly and for the first time, ever, I can’t tell any diff between running a native OS and a VM. It’s awe-inspiring. I’ll keep digging in, and reporting more, but if you too wish to play, visit the download page. It’s a pure joy to mess around with!