The Perfect Sandbox: Win8 + Hyper-V

If you are an IT professional, you need some place to go and try software. Ideally, you want to do that without totally messing up your workstation. Wouldn’t it be great if you could install software in an isolated, controllable environment without blowing up your workstation?

You can do this by enabling Hyper-V on Windows 8.x Pro, installing virtual machines, and using “checkpoints” to revert back to a clean state, after you are done testing your software.

If you have Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8.1 Pro, then you can go into Control Panel and “Turn Windows features on or off”:

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then, put a check next to Hyper-V to install/enable it:

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After a reboot, you now have the ability to create virtual machines on your computer. In my case, I just re-set up a new one, so I thought I’d write down what I do. Using my MSDN subscription from BizSpark, I downloaded the .iso file for Windows 8.1 with Update. The ISO file is basically a DVD/CD image. You can “mount” it to a virtual drive letter in Hyper-V. So, your virtual machine will see a “D:” drive for example, but the contents of that drive will really just be the .iso file.

One of the ways to do that by the way is in the virtual machine settings:

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So, I installed Windows 8.1, then immediately went into Windows Update and completely patched it. I went into the activation screen and activated it with a licenses key from MSDN.

That means I now have a fresh copy of Windows 8.1 on a virtual machine in Hyper-V, which has been activated and fully-patched. Now is a great time to take a snapshot/checkpoint:

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And then give it a name:

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What does this mean? This means that whatever I do on this system, I can completely discard it and go back to this point in time. Kind of like a backup, but far easier.

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For example: I wanted to check out all of the new ASP.NET vNext craziness which involved installing VS2014 CTP, which is pre-beta software. So, I can install it on this VM – play with it. When I’m done, I can right click on “Activated and Patched.” and choose “Apply” to revert back to this state:

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and you get a confirmation:

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It will then revert the hard drive back to how it was when you took the checkpoint. The VM will look exactly as it does right now and there is no sign anywhere that VS2014 CTP was every installed!

Now, the virtual machine is ready to test some other software and you have a nice, clean place to do it because you can just keep reverting back to this Activated and Clean state for the VM!

So for me, this is a perfect sandbox.

Posted in Computers and Internet, Development Tools, General, Infrastructure, Organization will set you free, Professional Development, Uncategorized

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