Virtualization

How to install Windows 10 on a virtual machine using VirtualBox

A virtual machine is the best way to try Windows 10 Insider preview or to run a second OS without modifying your current installation — Here's how.

Install Windows 10 on VirtualBox

VirtualBox is an open source software that allows you to create a virtual machine to run a second (or multiple) OS alongside your current installation without having to change anything, which can come in handy in many scenarios.

For example, a virtual machine is the safest way to test upcoming versions of Windows 10 (e.g., Fall Creators Update) available through the Windows Insider Program.

If you haven’t still made up your mind about Windows 10, and you’re still running an older version, such as Windows 8.1 or Windows 7, you can use VirtualBox to create a virtual machine and take Windows 10 for a spin.

It’s also a good way to run older applications, if they’re not compatible with the version of the OS that you’re running. And you’re not limited to Windows, you can also run Linux, and while it’s not supported, it’s also possible to run macOS alongside Windows 10.

As you can see there are a lot of scenarios where a virtual machine can be useful, and anyone can do it. You only need an ISO file of the OS you want to install. In the case of Windows 10, you’ll also need a product key to activate the OS. Though, if you’re just testing, you can try without activating it. Finally, you’ll need at least 30GB of storage space and at least 2GB of memory.

In this guide, you’ll learn the steps to create a virtual machine and to install Windows 10 using Oracle’s free VirtualBox.

How to install Windows 10 using VirtualBox

This guide will layout the steps to install a pre-release version of Windows 10 using an Insider Preview build, but you can use the steps to install any version of Windows.

If you’re trying to install a pre-release version of Windows 10, you first need to join the Windows Insider Program and then use the steps in this guide to download the ISO file

Important: VirtualBox only supports 32-bit version of any supported OS, as such make sure to download only the 32-bit version of Windows 10.

To install Windows 10 a virtual machine, do the following:

  1. Download VirtualBox from this Oracle website. (Under “VirtualBox binary,” click the Windows hosts link to download the installer.)

    Download VirtualBox
    Download VirtualBox
  2. Double-click the installer and complete the installation of VirtualBox. (This is your typical next, next, next installation and accept all the default options.)

  3. Open VirtualBox.

  4. Click the New button to create a virtual machine.

  5. Type a name for your virtual machine, such as “Windows Insider Preview”.

  6. On “Type,” select the Microsoft Windows option.

  7. On “Version,” select the Windows 10 (32-bit) option.

  8. Click Next.

    Create new virtual machine for Windows 10
    Create new virtual machine for Windows 10
  9. Select at least 2GB of memory. (4GB is recommended.)

  10. Click Next.

    VirtualBox new vm RAM settings
    VirtualBox new vm RAM settings
  11. Select the Create a virtual hard disk now option.

  12. Click Create.

    VirtualBox vm hard disk setup
    VirtualBox vm hard disk setup
  13. Using the default VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image) option, click Next.

    Virtual machine hard disk settings
    Virtual machine hard disk settings
  14. Using the default Dynamically allocated option, click Next.

    Virtual machine hard disk dynamically allocated
    Virtual machine hard disk dynamically allocated
  15. Set the hard disk size of at least 30GB.

  16. If you want to save the virtual machine on a different location other than the default, remember to specify the path in the file location field.

  17. Click Create.

    Virtual machine file location and side
    Virtual machine file location and side
  18. On the top-left, click the Settings button.

  19. Click on Storage.

  20. Under “Controller: SATA,” Select the disk icon, which should probably read “Empty”.

  21. On the right side, under “Attributes,” click the disk icon, select Choose Virtual Optical Disk File, and open the ISO file for Windows 10.

  22. Click OK.

    VirtualBox Windows 10 virtual machine settings
    VirtualBox Windows 10 virtual machine settings
  23. On the top-left, click the Start button to power on the virtual machine.

  24. On the “Windows Setup,” click Next.

    Windows 10 setup
    Windows 10 setup
  25. Click the Install now button.

    Windows 10 Install Now
    Windows 10 Install Now
  26. Type your Windows 10 product key.

  27. Click Next.

    Windows 10 product key during installation
    Windows 10 product key during installation
  28. Accept the licensing agreement and click Next.

  29. Click the Custom: Install Windows only (advanced) option.

    Windows 10 clean install option
    Windows 10 clean install option
  30. Select Drive 0 Unallocated Space and click Next to begin the installation of Windows 10.

    Windows 10 installation hard disk
    Windows 10 installation hard disk

Once you completed the steps, Windows 10 will install on your newly created virtual machine.

After the installation completes, you’ll need to go through the out-of-box experience (OOBE) guided by Cortana to finish personalizing your installation.

When you finish setting up Windows 10, you’ll need to install VirtualBox Guest Additions, which is a set of drivers to optimize the user experience.

On VirtualBox, click on Devices, select Insert Guest Additions CD image, and from “This PC” on File Explorer, double-click the drive with VirtualBox Guest Additions, and follow the on-screen directions.

If you come across an error or if you have any questions about Windows 10 and VirtualBox, remember to ask in the PUREinfoTech forums.

Insert Guest Additions CD image for VirtualBox
Insert Guest Additions CD image for VirtualBox
VirtualBox Guest Additions setup
VirtualBox Guest Additions setup

After rebooting your virtual machine to complete the setup, go to Settings > Update & security > Windows Insider Program, and make sure to switch the ring level from Slow to Fast to get the latest update. (Sometimes, it can take up to 24 hours or more to be able to download the latest Insider build of Windows 10.)

Windows Insider Program settings
Windows Insider Program settings

If you’re not installing a Windows 10 Insider preview build, you don’t need to use the last steps mentioned above, but you want to go to Settings > Update & security > Windows Update, and make sure to check and install the latest updates available.