Using and Tweaking Virtual PC

Once your Virtual PC is up and running, you may want to tweak a few of it’s settings. Let’s go over the menu options available to you.

Action Menu

This menu is fairly straight forward, and lets you initiate certain actions.

Full Screen Mode: Just what it says, shifts your OS into full screen mode.

Ctrl+Alt+Del: Sends the Ctrl+Alt+Delete sequence to the virtual OS instead of the host OS.

Pause: This places your OS into a stasis mode. This can be useful if your host system gets overloaded and you need to free up some resources. Note that it doesn’t close the window, merely suspends it.

Reset: This is the equivalent of yanking the power plug, then plugging it back in. You should only use this in extreme cases where your virtual OS is locked up.

Close: This brings up a small dialog window that asks if you wish to Save State or Turn Off. Turn Off is similar to Reset, in that it just stops whatever was going on and dumps the VPC from memory. Like Reset, you should only use this in extreme cases. Save State is very similar to the Hibernate mode in Windows, it puts the virtual OS into a suspended state.

Install or Update Virtual Machine Additions: This will install some very useful tools into your Virtual OS. These additions will make it easier to use the mouse (no more having to hit Right Alt to get your mouse out of the window). It will also allow you to share your host computers hard disks with the virtual computer. To the virtual computer they will appear as a network drive. If you use windows as a virtual OS, you’ll definitely want these additions. Be aware though that virtual additions also exist for many Linux distros.

Properties: Displays a four tabbed dialog that will give you info about your running virtual computer.

Edit Menu

Most of the items on the edit menu are pretty obvious. Copy, Paste, and Select All do just what they say. The real gem is Settings, which lets you tweak your VPC settings. I will focus on it shortly.

CD Menu

Your CD menu will vary depending on how many CD/DVD drives you have in your machine. All will start with Use Physical Drive and let you access your computers CD/DVD drive to do common tasks like load software or listen to your favorite tunes.

Also on the menu will be a Release Physical Drive for each drive you are using. When you no longer need the drive, you can click Release to free it up. There’s also an Eject CD option to pop the CD out without releasing use of the drive.

Capture ISO Image will let you take an ISO file, and treat it as if it were a real CD or DVD. This is quite useful for all those ISO images you wind up downloading from your MSDN subscription. (For those unfamiliar, an ISO is a CD or DVD disk image. You can use software such as Nero, Sonic, etc. to take the ISO and turn it into a CD full of files. )

BUG ALERT!!!! VPC has an issue with this Capture ISO Image command. There is a size limit of approximately 2 gig. If the ISO is bigger than that, VPC will fail but give you some really odd errors.

To get around this, in the host OS you can first mount the ISO like I describe in my September 13th blog post ( then, using the machine additions, share the drive.

Floppy Menu

The commands under Floppy are almost identical to those in CD. I can’t recall the last time I used a Floppy, heck my last two computers don’t even have floppies, so I suspect this isn’t a command you’ll use much. But just in case, it’s there.

Help Menu

The Help menu has three commands, Virtual PC Help brings up the help file. Virtual PC Online takes you to the Microsoft site for VPC. Finally, About Virtual PC brings up a dialog displaying the version number and other info about the virtual environment.

That wraps up the menus, now let’s talk about Settings.


Accessible from either Edit, Settings or the Settings button on the Virtual PC Console, this dialog is where the real power resides to tweak your VPC. Let’s take a look at some of the more useful options.

File Name: Lets you rename the virtual machine. Sort of useless since you can do it from the OS, but what the heck.

Memory: This can be useful, in various ways. First, you can test your application to see how it performs under various memory conditions. Second, you may discover you’ve set your VPC too low. Finally, you may shift your VPC from one host computer to another, and the new host may not have as much ram (or more!).

Hard Disk 1..3: These will let you assign a virtual hard drive to a virtual computer. When you copy an existing VPC to create a new one, you’ll want to open up the settings and point to the new VHD, otherwise you’ll wind up still accessing the old one, which more than likely isn’t what you want.

Undo Disks: When enabled, this will write all changes you make to a VPC to an undo disk. When the session is over (i.e. you turn it off or reboot) you are asked if you want to commit your changes or discard. If you commit, your changes are placed into the VHD as you normally would without undo disks.

However, if you elect to discard, then the changes are thrown away. Your VPC is reset to the same condition it was when you first started. This is quite useful if you want to test install programs, to make sure everything installed correctly but don’t care about it after that. It’s also useful for training environments.

Networking: Under networking you can select which network card in your real, host computer to give the virtual machine access to. For example, my laptop has both wireless and wired networking, and through this option I can select which one to use (or I can select both). This mode is known as Virtual Networking.

In addition to Virtual Networking VPC also supports three other modes. Not Connected is pretty obvious, you are not allowing any network access. Local Only is used when you want to communicate with other virtual machines on the same host machine. This can be useful when you need a virtual pc to act as a client talking to a virtual server.

Finally, VPC has a mode called Shared networking (NAT). This is useful when you are using a dial up connection. Each VPC gets it’s address from a temporary, internal DHCP server. It then communicates to the internet via the host computer, which handles the network address translation. This is very similar to the way your home router talks to all of the computers on your home network.

Mouse: Once you install the machine additions, by default the mouse has pointer integration turned on. This is pretty simple, when you drag the mouse into the area of the window occupied by the VPC the mouse automatically is captured and used in the VPC. When you drag it out, it releases it.

There are a few cases where you may want to turn it off, such as when you are using a software KVM such as MaxiVista with it.

Shared Folders: Through shared folders you can access physical drives on your host computers environment. While this may seem quite convenient, you need to be careful. Opening up your host system to the virtual environment can present a security risk. If your virtual environment should get infected, that infection can spread to your host OS via the shared folders.

If you do choose to share folders (and sometimes you do need to), it will appear to your virtual OS to be a network drive. Normally this is no biggie, but be aware it can cause some trust issues with Visual Studio when attempting to open projects. I’ll post a fix for this later…

Tweak away

Hopefully now you have a good understanding of not only how to setup a Virtual Computer, but how to tweak the settings in VPC to make it do what you need. Don’t be afraid to experiment, change some settings and see what effect it has! (Just be sure to back up first!)


26 thoughts on “Using and Tweaking Virtual PC

  1. To see your local hard drives, first make sure you have the Virtual Machine Additions installed. I read on Virtual PC Guys blog they’ve released them now for various Ubuntu versions as well as OpenSuse 10.0.

    After they are installed click on Edit, Settings, click on shared folders, then the Share Folders button and pick the drives you want to share.

    Alternatively share your drives on the network, then follow the instructions for whatever OS you are running virtually to map to the network drive. Be aware this does present a security risk, I’d only suggest this if you have a password for using your shared drives, and are behind some sort of hardware firewall.

    You don’t say what OS you are running in the virtual PC, so it’s hard for me to get much more specific.


  2. i would like to use an sql server on vpc and another on the host.
    the 2 sql servers must be communicate (i must test various sync methods)
    how can i configure my host and vpc network settings for this?
    i have only 1 networkcard in my host.

  3. Hi Sleepy,

    Under your choices for network cards is an option called “Local Only”. If you set all your VPCs to this, they will all be able to see each other, but won’t be on the rest of the network which is the safest way to set things up. This works though when you want one VPC to talk to another.

    Or, you can simply set your network adapter in your VPC to your real card. VirtualPC will take care of multiple computers (your VPC and your host) talking to the real network card so you don’t have to worry about that.


  4. Ok, I’ve been playing with this for a while and reading up but for some reason I can’t get my vpc server (windows 2003) to talk to my vpc client (xp pro sp2) in an attempt to create a virtual network. From everything I’ve seen, the “local only” option for the network adapters on both vpcs seems the correct option but neither machine can seem to find (ping) the other even after I give a static ip to the client… Any advice? I’ve also been playing with the microsoft loopback adapter and nothing doing. [Note: My virtual client was able (with a different network adapter setting) to ping the host machine as well as join it’s workgroup]. My goal is to add my virtual client to a “NewDomain.local” created on the virtual 2003 server.

  5. I am unable to see my real network cards in my hosting PC. All I see is “none” and “Local Only” How do I get my NICs in my PC to show in the list? I have installed the additions.

    I am running Vista and VPC 2007.


  6. I was wonder if it is at all possible to use the physical graphic card on my VPC or share or load. I was hoping to test a program with XP but the graphic card on it is so low that I don’t know what to do anymore.

    Thanks for any help you give,

  7. I am using VPC 2007 to be able to use my XP driver for my “very” old printer. Everything is fine from VPC. But I would like to be able to “see” that printer from Vista. Any suggestions ? Thanks

  8. can somone please help me! I am trying to create my own virtual machine,but every time I want to create a new one then it does not give me the option to allocate RAM. Any help will be appreciated thanxs

  9. Robert: Don’ t worry about it. If you don’t see it during the creation process, simply bring up the Virtual PC Console. Click on the machine you want to change (but don’t launch the PC, it must be in “Not running” mode) and click on Settings. Then in the Settings for… dialog, click on Memory. Then simply change the amount of RAM your machine needs.

    Stephane: Best I can suggest is to go to the manufacturer website for your printer, and see if they have updated drivers for Vista. If so, simply follow their directions to download and install. Odds are though if it is a “very” old printer as you describe, the won’t in order to migrate you to a new printer.

    Adam: You’re out of luck. VPC emulates one type of graphics card, and it’s an old one. If you need to test, I would suggest setting up your machine to dual boot rather than use VPC. VPC is good for testing software, but not hardware.

  10. Two things.
    1. There is no VPC Additions icon in the Toolbar. Efforts to install Additions from the disk have not been successful.
    2. The only icon on the right side of the Toolbar is the volume control.
    I’m a novice at Virtual PC 7 and PCs in general. Any help will certainly be appreciated.

  11. Has anyone tried to install VPC 7 running Leopard? I can’t get it to add the additions and the Toolbar is missing stuff on the right side.

  12. Hello 🙂

    I installed VPC 2007 and running on Windows XP Home edition.
    Everything works fine with it except one thing.
    I am playing an online game, and i wanted to be able to run
    2 avas on it thus i installed vpc. Because the game wont allow to run 2 instances of the game. Now, i nstalled the game, tried to log in but it seems they have set it up so you cannot run it on Vpc… I get this msg ” Can not Running inside Virtual PC!!”
    Is there anything i could do to make this work?

  13. Hi everyone
    I’ve installed windows server 2003 in VPC and my host OS is Windows XP Home edition. I can’t ping from xp to server 2003. the xp firewall is off, and also mcafee antivirus firewall and other features of mcafee are off. But still I got this problem ?? Can anyone help me to resolve this problem. T

  14. I have installed virtual Pc 2004, but the Problem is that I am not able to connect or Ping my Real Pc with the Virtual Pc. I want to connect the virtual Pc to my real for practicing Networking. Can anybody help to solve my problem and tell me how to connect the virtual pc to the real one in which it is installed.

  15. Hi, every body. i’m newbie to VPC. i’ve installed VPC 2007 and guest OS is backtrack 2 (linux) the problem that my mouse cannot integration with the host. i use notebook IBM. any body can help me please

  16. without network vpc cannot ping with host. istill this problem. if you findany answer for this. please mail me

  17. ardhy, VPC and Linux have some issues as VPC doesn’t correctly (from linux’s point of view) emulate the PS/2 mouse driver. In order to get around this add a kernel boot parameter using grub of i8042.noloop
    This will allow you to use your mouse in VPC.

  18. Firstly I’d like to say how much I appreciate the amount of work you put into your site. It is very informative and very helpful, and the tutorial on ‘Installing Ubuntu on VPC’ got me sorted very nicely.
    I have been trying to set up a virtual network scenario where I have a virtual server 2003, and I want to add some XP clients by using RIS. I have (I think) installed RIS correctly on the server, on a seperate partition, with the XP Professional Installation files, DNS, DHCP and AD. The problem is, when the virtual XP clients boot, they don’t see the DHCP server, so I can’t progress any further with the installation.
    I was wondering if you may have any suggestions, or if there is a tutorial available on this.

    Many thanks in advance.

  19. my host os is windows XP service Pack 3, hav installed virtual pc 2007, but when i try to load vista black edition, durin installing, when expanding files, after 70%, it showed the blue screen of death… nd my host os also got corrupt.. had t reinstall everythin again…
    system specs..
    2 gb ram, 250 gb harddisk, amd athlon 64 x2 Dual core processor 4600+, Nvidia Geforce 7050 PV.

  20. I’m having a problem using my mouse in full screen mode with virtual default the mouse has pointer integration turned on. This is pretty simple, when you drag the mouse into the area of the window occupied by the VPC the mouse automatically is captured and used in the VPC. When you drag it out, it releases it. well with mine when it is captured it goes to full screen but i have no control what so ever with my mouse i can tab my way around with back track 3 using VPC . if anyone has a solution i would greatly thank the help and will do what i can to fix it..

    1. Never mind i fixed that mouse issue btw just put this little line of code in at the edit menu vesa i8042.noloop psmouse.proto=imps clock=pit vga=771 this will let the mouse work in vpc and will also change the screen resolution..well there it is i hope it works for ya like it worked for me.

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