Hyper-V is a virtual machine feature built into Windows. It was originally part of Windows Server 2008, but made the leap the to desktop with Windows 8. Hyper-V allows you to create virtual machines without any additional software.
This feature isn’t available on Windows 7, and it requires the Professional or Enterprise editions of Windows 8 or 8.1. It also requires a CPU with hardware virtualization support like Intel VT or AMD-V, features found in most modern CPUs.
Hyper-V isn’t installed by default on Windows 8 Professional and Enterprise systems, so you’ll have to install it before you can use it. Thankfully, you don’t need a Windows disc to install it — you just need to click a few checkboxes.
Tap the Windows key, type “Windows features” to perform a search, and then click the “Turn Windows features on or off” shortcut. Check the Hyper-V checkbox in the list and click OK to install it. Restart your computer when prompted.
Open Hyper-V Manager
To actually use Hyper-V, you’ll need to launch the Hyper-V Manager application. You’ll find it in your list of installed programs, and you can also launch it by searching for Hyper-V.
The Hyper-V Manager application refers to a “virtualization server,” which gives away its heritage as a tool for servers. It can be used to run virtual machines on your own computer — in that case, your local computer functions as a local virtualization server.
Set Up Networking
Click the name of your local computer in Hyper-V Manager to find the options for your current computer.
You’ll probably want to give the virtual machine access to the Internet and local network, so you’ll need to create a virtual switch. Click the Virtual Switch Manager link first.
Select External in the list to give virtual machines access to the external network, and click Create Virtual Switch.
Give the virtual switch a name afterward and click OK. The default options should be fine here, although you should ensure the External network connection is correct. Be sure to select the network adapter that’s actually connected to the Internet, whether it’s Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet.
Create a Virtual Machine
Click New > Virtual Machine in the Actions pane to create a new virtual machine.
The New Virtual Machine Wizard window will appear. Use the options to name your virtual machine and configure its basic hardware. This should all be fairly self-explanatory if you’ve ever used another virtual machine program before. When you reach the Configure Networking pane, you’ll need to select the virtual switch you configured earlier — if you didn’t configure one, the only option you’ll see here is “Not Connected,” which means your virtual machine won’t be connected to the network unless you add a network adapter to its virtual hardware later.
If you have an ISO file containing your guest operating system’s installation files, you can select it at the end of the process. Hyper-V will insert the ISO file into the virtual machine’s virtual disc drive so you can boot it afterwards and immediately start installing your guest operating system of choice.
Boot the Virtual Machine
Your new virtual machine will appear in the Hyper-V Manager list. Select it and “Start” it — click Start in the sidebar, click Action > Start, or right-click it and select Start. The virtual machine will boot up.
Next, right-click the virtual machine and click Connect to connect to it. Your virtual machine will then open in a window on your desktop — if you don’t connect to it, it just runs in the background with no visible interface. Again, it’s easy to see how this management interface was designed for servers.
After you connect, you’ll see a standard virtual machine window with options you can use to control the virtual machine. It should look familiar if you’ve ever used VirtualBox or VMware Player. Go through the normal installation process to install the guest operating system in the virtual machine.
When you’re done installing the operating system, click Action > Insert Integration Services Setup Disk. Open the Windows file manager and install the integration services from the virtual disc. This is Hyper-V’s counterpart to VirtualBox Guest Additions and VMware Tools
When you’re done with the virtual machine, make sure you’ve shut it down or turned it off in the Hyper-V Manager window — just closing the window won’t actually close the virtual machine, so it will stay running in the background. The virtual machine’s state should be “Off” if you don’t want it running.
Each virtual machine has a settings window you can use to configure its virtual hardware and other settings. Right-click a virtual machine and select Settings to adjust these options. Many of these settings can only be modified while the virtual machine is turned off.
This tool was created by Microsoft, but that doesn’t mean it only works with Windows. Hyper-V can also be used to run Linux-based virtual machines. We were able to run Ubuntu 14.04 with Hyper-V on Windows 8.1 — no special configuration required.
Hyper-V has other useful features, too. For example, checkpoints work like snapshots in VirtualBox or VMware. You can create a checkpoint and then revert your guest operating system’s state to that state later. It’s a useful feature for experimenting with software or tweaks that may cause problems in your guest operating system.