Do you want to take a closer look at the Windows 10 Technical Preview, but you don't want to disrupt your current computing environment with what is essentially an incomplete and potentially unstable operating system? If, so you're in luck, because you can do so quite easily and without any fear by installing the Windows 10 Technical Preview in an Oracle VM VirtualBox virtual machine. In this article, I'll show you how.
Get the Technical Preview
To get the Windows 10 Technical Preview, which is available as an ISO file, all you need is a Microsoft Account and an internet connection. To get started, go to the Windows Technical Preview site and read through the information. When you're ready, click the Get Started button, sign in with your Microsoft Account to join the Windows Insider Program, and then follow the steps to go to the download page (Figure A). Next, download the appropriate ISO file to your hard disk.
You'll need a Microsoft Account to join the Windows Insider Program.
Traditionally, you'd have to burn the ISO to a DVD. However, with VirtualBox, you don't have to, because the program can mount an ISO and run the installation just like it was on optical media.
Fortunately, the Oracle VM VirtualBox package is provided free of charge. You just need to download it.
To get the Oracle VM VirtualBox, just go to the Download VirtualBox page and select the Windows version. Once you have it, the VirtualBox installation procedure involves following along with the Setup Wizard (Figure B). Of course, there are multiple steps, but the procedure is fairly straightforward.
There are multiple steps to installing Oracle VM VirtualBox.
Create a virtual machine
Once the installation is complete, you'll see the VirtualBox Manager screen, which means that you're ready to create your virtual machine. To begin, click the New button. When you see the first screen in the Create Virtual Machine wizard, supply a name for the system, select Microsoft Windows as the type, and oddly enough, choose Windows 8.1 (64-bit) as the version (Figure C).
You'll need to select Windows 8.1 for the Version.
At this point, the virtual machine template for Windows 8.1 most closely fits the Windows 10 Technical Preview.
As you proceed into the Create Virtual Machine wizard, you'll configure the memory and hard drive for your virtual machine (Figure D). The 64-bit version of Windows 10 requires 2 GB of memory, and VirtualBox's slider makes it easy to adjust memory. Next, you'll be prompted to create a virtual hard drive. While you can choose from multiple virtual drive file types, go with the default, a VirtualBox Disk Image (VDI). You'll then be prompted to choose either a fixed size hard drive or a dynamically allocated hard drive.
You'll want to select the 25 GB dynamically allocated hard drive.
Since this will most likely be a temporary test system, the 25 GB dynamically allocated hard drive should work just fine. When you get to that point, name the virtual hard drive with the same name that you assigned to the virtual machine, and click the Create button.
When you complete the Create Virtual Machine wizard, you're ready to install the Windows 10 Technical Preview (Figure E).
When you complete the Create Virtual Machine wizard, you're ready to install the Windows 10 Technical Preview.
Install the Windows 10 Technical Preview
As I mentioned, VirtualBox can install Windows 10 right from the ISO. To begin, double-click on the Storage panel. When the Settings dialog box appears, showing the Storage Tree, select the IDE controller, and then click the Add CD/DVD drive button. (Make sure that you select the IDE controller and not SATA controller for the CD/DVD drive.)
When the VirtualBox Question dialog box appears, prompting you to add a virtual CD/DVD disk, click the Choose disk button (Figure F).
Make sure that you select the IDE controller for the CD/DVD drive.
You'll then browse to the location on your hard disk containing the ISO file. Once you select the ISO, VirtualBox will access the contents of the ISO and begin the Windows 10 installation, which begins with the blue flag image (Figure G). (I would have thought that Microsoft would have come up with something other than the blue flag to add more distance from Windows 8.x.)
The installation will begin with the blue flag image, just like Windows 8.x
After you choose your language and click Next, click the Install now button (Figure H).
To get started, click the Install now button.
As you work through the wizard, choose the Custom: Install Windows only (advanced) and the 25 GB hard drive. The installation procedure will then begin (Figure I). As Windows Setup progresses, you'll be prompted to restart your system.
Choose the Custom Install to begin Windows Setup.
When your system restarts, Setup will get your devices ready and then prompt you to choose settings. Go with the Express Settings (Figure J).
At this stage, you'll speed things up by selecting Express settings.
Next, you'll be prompted to sign into your Microsoft Account. If your Microsoft Account is associated with a Windows 8.x system, you'll then be asked if you want to copy settings and Windows Store apps from that PC or whether you want to set this up as a new PC (Figure K). This is definitely a nice option to have.
You'll be asked if you want to copy your settings and Windows Store apps from your Windows 8.x configuration to Windows 10.
You'll receive notification that your system is being configured to use OneDrive as your cloud backup (Figure L). Notice that you're given the choice to opt out of using OneDrive if you want, even though it's not recommended.
You can opt out of using OneDrive.
From this point on, there are no more choices to make. Throughout the rest of the installation procedure, Windows Setup will keep you apprised of what's happening with short witty phrases on an ever-changing rainbow of background colors (Figure M).
The colorful information screens play throughout the rest of the installation.
Soon, you'll be prompted to restart your system one more time, and then you'll see the Windows 10 interface with its new hybrid Start Menu/Start Screen (Figure N).
When the installation is complete, you'll see the new hybrid Start Menu/Start Screen.
I performed the VirtualBox/Windows 10 installation several times as I wrote this article to test the steps. It worked flawlessly the majority of the time, but there were a couple instances where problems popped up. Of course, I attempted to figure out what went wrong and fix the problems, but in the end, I just gave up and started the process over from scratch. I encourage you to do the same should you have problems.
For example, one of those times, the installation would crap out about five minutes in and give me an erroneous error message related to virtual machine support not being enabled in the PC's Settings. Running down the error message was a wasted endeavor, and I finally came to the conclusion that the downloaded ISO must have been corrupt. I downloaded the ISO again and everything worked perfectly.
On another occasion, the installation bombed and prompted me to create a Recovery Drive. I ended up deleting the virtual machine in VirtualBox and creating a new one. When I did, everything worked perfectly.
What's your take?
Are you ready to experiment with the Windows 10 Technical Preview? If so, using an Oracle VM VirtualBox virtual machine is the quickest and safest way to go. Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.