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Hyper V: Virtualization with on-board functions - this is how it works

Peter-Uwe Lechner

Many do not know: With Hyper-V, Windows 10 brings a powerful virtualization platform with it free of charge, which ekes out a shadowy existence alongside Virtualbox and VMware Workstation Pro or Player.

EnlargeVirtualization - Hyper-V in Windows
© iStockphoto.com/Sergey Nivens

As with the competition, with Hyper-V you run a guest system as a virtual machine (VM) in a windowed mode - always in an isolated environment. Changes within a Hyper-V virtual machine therefore do not affect Windows 10 as the host system. This is particularly useful for test environments. You can therefore safely experiment with software in the virtual PC and pursue your financial transactions in isolation. In contrast to Virtualbox and the VMware programs, Microsoft's Hyper-V is mainly designed for Windows operating systems as a guest, but you can also use a number of Linux distributions.

What distinguishes Hyper-V from Virtualbox and Vmware

In principle, Hyper-V can handle the same functions as the virtualization tools Virtualbox, VMware Workstation Pro and VMware Player. Each Hyper-V virtual machine runs in isolation and therefore cannot crash the entire system (the hypervisor) in the event of a crash. Snapshots can be used to save the current status in the virtual environment and to reset the system to a previous status at a later point in time. Hyper-V uses the VHDX format for virtual hard disks, which you can easily create with a size of more than 2 TB.

The technology behind Hyper-V is based on the virtualization functions of the x64 processors from Intel and AMD. Therefore - and this is where Hyper-V differs from Virtualbox and Vmware - a corresponding 64-bit processor and a 64-bit version of Windows 10 are absolutely necessary for Hyper-V.

Hyper-V is also demanding when it comes to RAM. At least 4 GB of RAM are required to activate the virtualization environment. However, the dynamic memory management is one of the highlights of Hyper-V: VMs are only allocated as much RAM as the guest currently needs.

The memory allocation is only limited by the maximum size set by the user. Another limitation: Hyper-V is only available in Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise, but not in Windows 10 Home. Users of the Windows Home Edition use Virtualbox, for example.

To check the system requirements, open the Settings app with the Windows-I key combination and go to “System -› Info ”. Alternatively, click with the right mouse button on the start button and then on the context menu entry "System". The relevant information on the operating system can be found under "Windows specifications".

If Hyper-V cannot be activated in Windows 10 despite the hardware and system requirements being sufficiently met on your host computer, the virtualization function of the processor may be deactivated in the BIOS. This is switched off by default in some PC systems. However, Hyper-V requires support from the hardware virtualization functions Intel VT or AMD-V of the respective processor.

To check, restart the PC and call up the BIOS using the key function displayed on the screen. Then look for the appropriate entry for Intel VT or AMD-V in the BIOS menu. It can usually be found under a menu item such as "Advanced CPU Features". Activate the virtualization function, save the settings and restart the computer. However, support may be lacking on older processor or motherboard models.

The best virtual pc:Virtualbox vs. Vmware vs. Hyper-V

Install Hyper-V and adjust the preferences

EnlargeBefore you can use the virtualization functions of Hyper-V under Windows 10, the corresponding components must be selected and installed. That is done within a few minutes.

While Hyper-V is a fundamental part of Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise, it is not installed automatically. You must first activate the components required for this. To do this, enter "Activate or deactivate Windows features" in the search input field next to the start menu. A new window will appear listing which components of Windows 10 are already installed and which can still be installed. Look for "Hyper-V" in the list and put a check mark in front of it. The two sub-items "Hyper-V platform" and "Hyper-V management tools" including the corresponding components are automatically adopted. Confirm the change with a click on "OK". After a short waiting period, Windows will ask you to restart your computer. Hyper-V will be set up during the restart.

Then define the settings for the virtual network card. This allows you to control how the virtual PCs in Hyper-V are allowed to access the network and thus the Internet connection. To do this, start the Hyper-V Manager from the app list in the start menu. The operator guidance with the window divided into three columns looks unusual. First click on the Windows name of your computer on the left. It is usually the only entry under Hyper-V Manager. Then click on “Manager for virtual switches” in the “Actions” column on the far right. Another window will now open in which you can set the virtual network card. Select the setting "External" so that your virtual PCs can communicate without restriction. Confirm with “Create virtual switch”, enter a name and complete the process with “OK”. The network connection is now briefly interrupted.

Control network access in Hyper-V

When configuring network access in Hyper-V through a virtual switch, there are three settings:

Internal: With this setting, the virtual PC does not have access to the Internet. On the real PC (host PC), only communication between all started virtual computers and the connection to the host PC is permitted. The virtual machines cannot communicate with the external network in "Internal" mode, but together with the host computer they form their own network.

External: The virtual PC behaves like a real computer in the local network with its own IP address. He has direct access to the network and thus also to the Internet. Communication between the host PC and the virtual machine is also possible. Please note: In the Hyper-V Manager, you can only ever create one external network per available network card, but then assign several virtual PCs to this network.

Private: This setting allows communication between the individual virtual machines on the host PC with Hyper-V. However, communication with the host computer itself is not possible in this network mode. This setting is particularly useful for software developers in order to safely try out several virtual systems in the network.

Variant 1: Create a virtual PC with the Hyper-V Manager

EnlargeA wizard will help you create a new virtual machine in Hyper-V Manager. It guides you through all the necessary steps and the selection of the appropriate settings.

A new virtual machine is set up in the right column by clicking on "New" and "Virtual computer". A wizard will start to guide you through the setup. You can skip the information window at the beginning with "Next". In the next window, enter a name for the virtual PC, e.g. Windows 10 experiment PC. If you activate the check mark in front of "Save virtual computer in a different location", you can set the drive and folder in which the data of the virtual PC are saved. Click on “Next” and accept the default “Generation 1” with “Next”. Then you specify how much memory should be available for the virtual machine. For most versions of Windows, 2048 MB is a good starting point. Hyper-V then automatically controls the allocation of the actual memory during operation as required. Also activate the option "Use dynamic memory for this virtual machine". This means that virtual PCs that do not use all of their allocated main memory share the remaining memory with each other.

On the next page of the wizard, select the network that you created for the virtual PCs. With "Next" you can set up the virtual hard disk. Here you activate the option "Create virtual hard disk" and specify the name for the drive, the path on the hard disk or SSD and the size for the virtual drive.

EnlargeWith the Hyper-V quick creation function, new virtual machines based on Windows 10 Enterprise and Ubuntu Linux can be created quickly and easily. A few clicks of the mouse are sufficient.