I wanted to be able to try out the new Windows 8 Developer Preview that was released last week and the new recently released Visual Studio 11 for developing Metro apps for Windows 8. I have a Mac running Lion, so I set upon a journey to install these two wild untamed beasts on Lion, somehow. I first tried Parallels 7. After installing the Parallels tools (utilities and drivers that make the OS interact better with the disk and display on the host system, namely my Mac) it insisted on starting Windows 8 up in Coherence mode, even when I told it not to. Starting Windows in Coherence mode under Parallels allows the OS to integrate parts of it’s UI into the Mac’s UI. This doesn’t work well with Windows 8, probably because support for this needs to be built into Parallels, which probably isn’t in there right now. I tried installing it under Parallels 7 as Windows 7 x64, and then again as Other OS. Neither seemed to be happy.
I gave up on Parallels and went to VMware Fusion. I didn’t use version 3, instead I figured that if any version might work, it probably would be the latest, so I updated my 3.0 version to the latest 4.0.1 version. Then I proceeded to download the huge 4GB disk image for Window 8 from Microsoft’s download site and then install. I chose to install it as a Windows 7 64bit OS under Fusion 4.0. This seems to work fine. Installation sailed along just fine, and it seemed a little faster than Windows 7 installations on my Mac before. I chose to use a VM configuration of 2 processor cores ( I have a total of 8 on my Mac ) and 2GB of RAM (I have a total of 8 and the maximum that VMware Fusion recommends is 4GB). Instead of using the default expanding disk that VMware Fusion sets up for the OS, like all my other VM OS installations, I chose to preallocate a fixed size hard drive. In the case of Windows 8, I wanted to simulate a tablet size of 32GB. So I went with a 32GB fixed size preallocated hard drive.
After the install of Windows 8, the new metro UI started up and I began acquainting myself with this new baby. The first thing I found was the backdoor to the old Windows 7 desktop in the Desktop tile on the front page of Metro. Then under the desktop, I installed the VMware tools. I crossed my fingers because doing the same thing under Parallels 7 caused Windows 8 to do weird things. Fortunately, the install finished successfully and after the OS restarted, Metro started up just fine in a window and now I was able to configure it in the 1920 x 1080 HD resolution I wanted. It looks real nice in this aspect ratio and resolution.
After the task of installing the OS was past me, now it was time to replace the puny Express edition of Visual Studio that comes with the developer preview of Windows 8 with the Visual Studio 11 Ultimate Developer’s Preview. I downloaded and installed it from the promo page on MSDN. The install went very slowly despite my DSL connection. Initially the installation failed at about 80% because something under Windows 8 (probably the download process that’s part of the Visual Studio 11 installer) killed my internet connection! I guess that’s why this is still a preview and not a released OS. Or it might be one of the problems of running Windows 8 under VMware? I’ll never know. I restarted the VM and it restarted just fine. I restarted the download and install of Visual Studio 11 Ultimate Preview Edition and this time it finished successfully without killing the internet connection.
Great! Now I have Windows 8 and Visual Studio 11 and can begin learning how to build tablet apps for this wild new entry into the mobile-oriented world. I hope my little article here inspires others out there to try installing Windows 8 under VMware on their Macs.
One problem that I did notice is that when I try to shut it down (can’t find how to shut down in the actual OS) using the Shut Down command from VMware Fusion 4, Windows 8 begins to shut down and tells you it’s shutting down, but after a while it just hangs. So I have to restart the VM and then it’s fine again. I guess this is one of the hazards of trying to run it in a VM on a Mac? Anyway, it works perfectly fine to just suspend it and never shut it down, which is more like the daily experience would be with the OS on a tablet, for instance. I’m still happy despite this anomaly.