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30 Hardware and Windows Tips in 30 Days Tip 16: Painless Software Testing the Virtual Way

Looking for a safe way to experiment with a release candidate or new application? Virtualize it! Here's how to get started.

Testing software, from operating system betas and release candidates, to applications, is always a crapshoot - and if you're not lucky, you might roll boxcars and lose everything. You can protect your operational systems by testing on a dedicated test system, but it's still no fun to watch even a test system roll over and play dead because of a software flaw.

Right now, for example, you can download Windows Vista SP1 RC and Windows XP SP3 RC. These release candidates (final versions are due in 2008) work pretty well, but you might not want to chance messing up a production machine with what is still an experimental product.

Go Virtual, and Protect Yourself - Free

Virtualization, which enables you to run an operating system or an application in a virtual machine that is isolated from the host, is no longer an expensive proposition. Both VMWare, the king of virtualization, and Microsoft offer free virtualization products: VMWare offers VMWare Server, and Microsoft Offers Virtual Server 2005 R2 and Virtual PC 2007.

Just Add An Operating System, and Go!

Virtualization gives you a secure 'container' for an operating system, but you need to provide the OS yourself. If you're considering Windows Vista, Microsoft makes it easy by providing a 30-day trial of Windows Vista Enterprise in virtual machine (VHD) format, ready to run on Virtual PC or Virtual Server. You can also grab a 30-day trial of Vista Enterprise and Office 2007 Professional in Virtual PC/Virtual Server-ready format.

Virtualization's Not Just for Work - It's Also for Play!

Virtualization is also a great way to introduce yourself (or your kids) to the joys of retro gaming. Learn more by reading "Back to the Future with Virtual PC 2007," and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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