Monday, February 23, 2009

Installing Windows 7 Beta in Sun's VirtualBox

With the release of the new windows 7, a lot of people want to try it out. However there is always a risk in corrupting your current environment. One smart way to try it out is to try one of those new buzzing "virtualization" software out there. Here is the instruction on how to do that and run Windows 7 in your current environment without having to reinstall your whole machine.

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There are a couple of tricks to get Windows 7 Beta working correctly in VirtualBox, and I’m going to show you how to get it done, from start to finish.

I’m going to assume you’ve already downloaded the ISO and gotten your installation key (Get them here before January 24), and burned the ISO to a disk. With VirtualBox you don’t necessarily need to burn the disk, and in fact the steps I’m going to go through here just mounts the ISO to make it available as a disk to the virtual machine.

I’ll be using VirtualBox 2.1.0 on a Windows SP3 host.

First, to make the ISO available to the guest operating system, we’ll need to add it to the media manager.

  1. Open VirtualBox and click on File, then Virtual Media Manager.
  2. When the Virtual Media Manager opens, click the CD/DVD Images tab.
  3. Click the Add button.
  4. Navigate to the Windows 7 Beta ISO file you downloaded. Choose it and click Open.
  5. You should now see your ISO listed on the CD/DVD Images tab of the Virtual Media Manager. Click OK.


Ok, now let’s set up the guest virtual machine within VirtualBox.

  1. In the main VirtualBox window, click the New button.
  2. Click Next to start the wizard.
  3. Type a name for your new virtual machine in the Name box. I called mine Windows 7. Choose Microsoft Windows in the Operating System box, and Other Windows in the Version box. Click Next.
  4. Next we need to decide how much memory to give to the guest operating system. The minimum requirements for Windows 7 recommend 1 gig of memory. But my host machine has only 2 gig installed, and I didn’t want to give Windows 7 half of that, so I decided to give it only 512MB. Windows 7 was a little sluggish, but usable. Use your own judgment when deciding how much to give your guest operating system. When you’ve adjusted the memory how you like it, click Next.
  5. Now we need to create a virtual hard drive for the new guest operating system. Click the New button to create one.
  6. Now click Next, make sure Dynamically expanding storage is selected, then click Next.
  7. Now we need to choose the location of the virtual disk. The default location is C:\Documents and Settings\username\.VirtualBox\HardDisks, and the default size is 20GB. The minimum suggested hard drive size for Windows 7 is 16GB, so 20GB is plenty to get it installed and mess around with it a little. If the size and location are good for you, click Next.
  8. Click Finish. This completes the virtual drive creation wizard and returns us to the virtual machine wizard.
  9. You’ll see the drive we just created listed. Click Next.
  10. Click Finish. You’re, well, finished!

This gets the virtual machine created with some basic hardware settings.


Most of these settings are fine, but we need to enable the sound and tell it to mount the Windows 7 ISO you downloaded.

  1. Click on Audio in the right pane. When the window opens, check the Enable Audio box, and choose Windows DirectSound. Click OK.
  2. Click CD/DVD-ROM in the right pane. Check Mount CD/DVD Drive, then choose ISO Image File. Make sure the ISO we added to the Media Manager is chosen here. Click OK.

These settings will get us up and running with a CD drive and sound. There are a lot of other settings we could have a look at here, and you can go look at those on your own, but this is all we’re going to work with here.

Now our virtual guest machine is finally ready. So now go ahead and Choose Windows 7 in the left pane and click the Start button.

If you’ve installed Windows Vista in the past, the Windows 7 install procedure will look very familiar. If you’ve not installed Vista and have experience only installing Windows XP, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Installing Windows 7 requires very little user interaction.

First, you’ll be asked for language information, then the installation type.


Choose Custom here. On the next screen you should see only one drive and all of it should be unallocated. This is the virtual drive we created earlier. Just click the next button.

Now comes the longest part of the installation, so sit back, enjoy your beverage of choice, and wait. Later on you’ll be asked for your time zone, user name, password, and key. Provide all of those, then in a few minutes you’ll be rewarded with a fish.


When you see this fish, you’re done installing. This is the Windows 7 desktop. Feel free to mess around a little and check things out. After you look around a bit, you’ll no doubt notice that there is no network, no sound, you can’t install the VirtualBox Guest Additions, and your mouse gets trapped in the virtual machine window. Press the right CTRL key to get it out of there.

To solve these problems, we’ll need to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions. But wait! Didn’t I just say we can’t install them? We can install them, but the installer is not compatible with Windows 7, but it IS compatible with Windows XP. So We’ll just run it in compatibility mode.

  1. If your mouse is currently stuck in the guest window, press the right CTRL key to get it unstuck.
  2. Now click Devices in the menu bar, and choose Mount CD/DVD-ROM, and then choose CD/DVD-ROM Image.
  3. This should look familiar. Choose VBoxGuestAdditions.iso, then click the Select button.
  4. The AutoPlay window should open at this point. Choose to open the folder and view files.


  1. Right-click the VBoxWindowsAdditions file and choose properties.
  2. In the Properties window, go to the Compatibility tab.
  3. Check the Run this program in compatibility mode for: box, then choose Windows XP (Service Pack 2) in the box below it. CLick OK.
  4. That should put us back at at the screenshot above. Now you can double-click the VBoxWindowsAdditions file to run it.
  5. Click Yes to allow the changes.
  6. Click next to begin the installation wizard.
  7. Click Agree then click Install.
  8. After a few seconds, you’ll be asked if you want to install the Sun display drivers. Check the box for Always trust software from “Sun Microsystems, Inc.” and click Install.
  9. After a few more seconds the installation will be finished. Click Finish to restart your virtual machine.

You’ll notice you still don’t have sound or network, but at least you can smoothly move your mouse back and forth between the guest and host operating systems. To get the sound and network working, we’ll need to install the drivers by hand. Don’t worry, it’s not hard at all.

  1. Click the Windows button in the bottom left of the virtual machine window, then right-click on Computer and choose Properties.
  2. On the left sidebar of this window, choose Device Manager.


You should see two items under Other Devices, and both should have the yellow exclamation point beside them. They should be the ethernet controller and the multimedia audio controller.

  1. Right-click on Ethernet Controller and choose Update Driver Software.
  2. Choose Browse my computer for driver software.
  3. Click the Browse button and choose the drive with the VirtualBox Guest Additions.


Click the OK button, then click Next. After a few seconds the driver will install.

Now that the network driver is installed, we only need to wait a few seconds to install the sound driver. One of the cool (Or scary, depending on how you look at it) things about Windows 7 is that if some piece of hardware needs a driver, Windows 7 will just go out and look for it. In this case, it goes out to the internet, finds a driver for the Intel 82801AA AC’97 Audio Controller and installs it without any interaction from you. Kinda cool, huh?

So that’s it. In a nutshell, to get everything in Windows 7 working correctly in VirtualBox, you need to run the VirtualBox Guest Additions in Windows XP compatibility mode, manually install the network driver from that CD image, then sit back and wait for the sound driver to install.

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