To create your own virtual lab you need a virtualization software. There are many virtualization softwares available in market for e.g. Vmware, Virtual Box, virtual PC, etc. I will recommend to use Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 (in short VPC) for learning and experimental purpose.
VPC is a free tool, you can download VPC from the below link.
Installation of VPC is pretty easy. The first time you run it, you will see the below window. From this console you will setup and configure your virtual machines. Click New to start launch the configuration wizard.
Step 1: Create a new virtual machine
Start by clicking on the New button, and you’ll see this dialog:
Here we have 3 options, and I will recommend to use the first option when you are creating the machine for first time , second option when you are ok with default settings selected by VPC for the OS you are going to install and third option when you already have a virtual machine and you want to attach it to this console.
For our first virtual lab, I will select first option ‘Create a virtual machine ‘ and click next.
Step 2: Give a name to virtual machine
In th next window, shown below, you have to give a name to your virtual machine.
Note: Virtual PC stores it’s data in two files, a VMC file that saves the various settings for your virtual computer, and a VHD which is your virtual hard drive.
Here you are giving name to your VMC file and the same name will be used by default for VHD file. After giving appropriate name to vitual machine click Next.
Step 3: Select your Operating System
On this screen it will ask you what operating system you’d like to install. As you can see, there’s lots of built-in support for past Microsoft OS’s (and oddly OS/2). If you are installing anything else, such as a Linux distro (short for distribution), select Other, otherwise select the OS you will be installing and click Next.
On the next display you will be asked about the amount of RAM to use.
Step 4: Adjust your RAM
By default, VPC selects Using the recommended RAM, which is a measly 128 meg. Unless you are running DOS or some older OS, I would suggest bumping this up to at least 256 meg. You may want more, depending on what you’ll be doing. For doing Visual Studio development, I’d go 512 to 1024.
Click the Adjusting the Ram option and the slider bar will appear. Use it to move the RAM up or simply type a new value in the text box and click Next.
Note: For fast installation of OS I will recommend to set high RAM value. Once the installation is completed you can adjust the RAM to appropriate value.
Step 5: Select or create your hard disk
Here you are asked about the Virtual Hard Disk, or your VHD file. For creating new virtual machine hard disks you have to select second option ‘A new virtual hard disk’. If you have an existing hard disk, created in other machines or downloaded from microsoft, you have to select first option ‘an existing virtual hard disk’ to attach the hard disk to your virtual machine.
Fore now we will select second option and click Next.
Step 6: Select your hard disk location or adjust the size
Here you are asked what you want to name the VHD file or which location you want to save the VHD file. By default, it uses the name you gave the VMC file and adds “ VHD” extenstion to it. Also, you will find option here to adjust you hard disk size. I usually just take this default and click next.
Step 7: Confirm your choices
We’re finally at the last screen in the Wizard. Here all you have to do is confirm your choices, and click finish. So what happens next?
Now it’s time to install an operating system.
Step 8: Install an operating sytem
Start the Virtual machine console, you will get a new window (shown below)
To Install OS you have 2 options
First Option: Using Physical Drive- Make sure your bootable OS cd or dvd is in your CD/DVD drive. It will automatically start the OS installation.
Second option: Using ISO image of the OS- If you have OS image stored in your local hard disk in .ISO format then you can use ‘Capture ISO Image’ option from CD menu (as shown above) and start the installation.
If all is well, your CD should start up and you will begin the process of installing whatever operating system you’ve placed in your drive. Walk through all of the steps like you normally would, formatting your hard disk, setting up partitions, etc.
Don’t be worried, you won’t mess up your real hard drive, but installing to your virtual drive (your VHD file).