There are many circumstances where you wish to run Windows applications on Linux. Microsoft Windows has been a dominant operating system (OS) for more than a decade, and there are quite a lot of applications developed in the Windows ecosystem. It's not surprising that some Windows applications that you wish to run, but are missing on Linux platforms.
There are several open-source or commercial software tools, such as Wine, PlayOnLinux or CrossOver, which allow you to run Windows applications on Linux platforms. However, these tools are not very reliable solutions as they are based on "reverse-engineering" Windows APIs. Users can still encounter various application-specific compatibility issues with them.
A more reliable approach to running native Windows applications on Linux platform is to use a Windows virtual machine (VM). One problem of this approach is that we need to purchase a Windows license to install Windows OS on a VM.
The good news is that Microsoft recently made a set of Windows VMs publicly available for free! Microsoft decided to offer free Windows VMs to support development and testing for different versions of Internet Explorer.
In this tutorial, I will describe how to install and run Microsoft Windows on Linux, by using free Windows VMs.
The first step is to install Oracle VirtualBox on your Linux system. If you already installed VirtualBox, make sure to upgrade VirtualBox to the latest version (4.2.16 or higher).
Next, go to http://www.modern.ie/en-us/virtualization-tools#downloads to download a Windows VM. Choose "Linux" as testing OS, and "VirtualBox" as virtualization platform. Then, select one of available Windows VMs to download. Currently Microsoft offers the following Windows VMs for downloads.
- Windows XP Professional SP3 + IE 6 or 8
- Windows Vista + IE 7
- Windows 7 + IE 8, 9, 10 or 11
- Windows 8 + IE 11
- Windows 8.1 Preview + IE 11
In this tutorial, I download a VM with "Windows XP + IE 8".
The downloaded Windows VM is packed inside a self-extracting RAR archive. To unpack Windows VM from the archive, run this:
It will generate an OVA file for Windows VM.
Now launch VirtualBox, and choose "Import Appliance" from its GUI menu. Go ahead and import the OVA file in VirtualBox.
By default, the imported Windows VM has its network adapter not attached to any network. So, open up network settings of the WinXP VM, and make the network adapter attached to bridged network.
Finally, power on the Windows VM. You will see the familiar-looking Windows booting procedure.
The Windows VM has a set of basic Windows utilities installed, as well as VirtualBox Guest Additions for Windows.
Here are several important pieces of information about free Windows VMs. As you can see, the free Windows VMs are for evaluation purposes, and are not supposed to be used for any production system.
- You may use the free Windows VM for testing purposes only, but not for commercial purposes.
- You can use the free Windows VM only for 90 days after it is installed. After 90 days, the Windows VM will stop running, and you will not be able to access data used in the VM.
- Windows 8.1 Preview version expires on 1/15/2014.
- Login information for Windows Vista, 7 and 8 VMs: IEUser, Passw0rd!
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