I have pretty much settled (for the most part) on using Microsoft's Virtual PC 2007 as my virtual machine of choice both at home on our Vista Premium and XP Home systems, as well as at work on Windows 2000 (VPC 2004) and XP Professional.
I must concede that it does have some limitations
- Doesn't play well with many Linux builds,
- Doesn't support USB ports/devices,
- Doesn't easily support direct connection (USB/parallel) printers.
The main benefits for me are that it doesn't install as deeply into my system as VMWare's offerings and that as a Microsoft product, it is pre-approved as a "compatible" product at work for our systems.
I've posted more on virtualization and Microsoft Virtual PC more than I realized:
So when a commenter on my post on getting Virtual PC 2007 to run on XP Home had some problems, I suggested some of the alternatives.
- QEMU - (free) - Great for Linux builds and able to run in Windows
- Qemu Manager - (free) - Utility to manage QEMU images.
- QGui QEMU Launcher - (free) - Utility to manage QEMU images
- BOCHS - (free) - Another virtual machine engine.
- VirtualBox - (free) - New offering for virtual machines. Looks pretty sharp.
- VMware Workstation - ($) - VMware's wonderful tool for virtualization, lots of performance and features, allows creation of your own virtual hard-drives for use with VMware.
- VMware Player - (free) - VMware's free tool for virtualization. Almost all the tools that VMware Workstation has, but can only be used to run pre-existing VMware images, not create them from scratch.
Of course, if you know the right sources or techniques, you can build your own VMware drives using some other utilities and then use them, avoiding the need to pay for VMware Workstation in most cases.
Both of these sites have been heavily updated since I last visited them and are now highly refined and easy to use.
Follow the steps on either page and select the options you need to configure your "blank" VMware virtual hard-drive file, then download the pre-configured file. Then you are good to do for your own system loading.
It's a piece of cake now!