Virtual PC 5.0 for Windows

The Good Creates multiple "virtual" PCs on one Windows-based computer; virtual PCs can run DOS, Windows, Linux, OS/2, and Solaris operating systems; new version runs faster.

The Bad Needs lots of RAM (256MB or more); expensive support; $229 package doesn't include any Virtual PC-tailored operating systems, which cost another $150 to $200.

The Bottom Line Virtual PC for Windows 5.0 boosts performance over the last version. It's the best emulator around for running multiple Windows or Linux OSs on one PC.

Editors' Rating
7.0 Overall

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Review

Virtual PC 5.0 for Windows

Granted, Virtual PC for Windows appeals to a relatively small audience--tech-support types, developers, and businesses running several operating systems, to name a few--but it's still the best PC emulator out there. The $229 program, like its Mac counterpart, lets you emulate any number of fast computers--in other words, create a faux computer within a real one--equip them with nearly any operating system that runs on a PC, and switch among them with a mouse click. Plus, version 5.0 works faster than before and can now run under Windows 98 and XP (previous versions required Windows Me or Windows 2000). Home users should stick to dual-booting (running two operating systems on separate hard drive partitions) if they need more than one OS, but anyone who needs to switch between operating systems on the fly should choose Virtual PC for Windows 5.0. Granted, Virtual PC for Windows appeals to a relatively small audience--tech-support types, developers, and businesses running several operating systems, to name a few--but it's still the best PC emulator out there. The $229 program, like its Mac counterpart, lets you emulate any number of fast computers--in other words, create a faux computer within a real one--equip them with nearly any operating system that runs on a PC, and switch among them with a mouse click. Plus, version 5.0 works faster than before and can now run under Windows 98 and XP (previous versions required Windows Me or Windows 2000). Home users should stick to dual-booting (running two operating systems on separate hard drive partitions) if they need more than one OS, but anyone who needs to switch between operating systems on the fly should choose Virtual PC for Windows 5.0.

Ersatz computers
Virtual PC works by emulating a PC's hardware--the microprocessor, the hard drive, the video card, and the network card--onto which you install an operating system, applications, and files. Virtual PC for Windows 5.0 requires a PC running Windows 98, Me, NT, 2000, or XP but will itself build a virtual machine that runs any Microsoft OS--including DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95/98/Me, NT, 2000, and XP--as well as Solaris, OS/2, and virtually any edition of Linux.

Bring a beefy system
Thanks to a slick wizard, installing Virtual PC takes only 10 minutes. Once you've installed the emulation environment, you must drop an OS onto your new virtual machine (VM). For that job, Connectix sells OS Packs, which are preloaded operating system disc images that you "mount" on your VM; you can get Windows 98, Me, XP Home ($149 each), and 2000 and XP Pro ($199 each). Sadly, unlike the Mac version, Virtual PC for Windows doesn't include any OS packs out of the box. You can also use your own OS setup CDs--say, if you already own a copy of Windows 95--which we did. Two hours after we tore off the shrink-wrap, Virtual PC was running two VMs--one with Windows 98, the other with XP Home--on a machine that used to run just XP Pro.

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Specs / Prices

  • MSRP $129
  • Brand Connectix Corp.
  • Category networking applications
  • Compatibility PC
  • OS Family Windows
  • Version 5
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