How to Create a Virtual Machine in Windows 10

Put Microsoft's Hyper-V to work for you

How to Create a Virtual Machine in Windows 10

Running a virtual machine is a good way to use an operating system without installing it on your PC. For instance, you can test drive the latest Windows 10 Insider Preview or a new Ubuntu (Linux) distribution without any risk. Here's how to create a virtual machine in Windows 10 without installing third-party software.

Meet Hyper-V in Windows 10

Microsoft provides a built-in tool called Hyper-V to create a virtual machine on Windows 10. It’s only available on these platforms:

  • Windows 10 Enterprise (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)
  • Windows 10 Education (64-bit)

If your PC runs Windows 10 Home, you must install a third-party virtual machine client. Hyper-V is not available on this platform.

While Hyper-V is a useful tool, it may not be the ideal solution for software development. As Microsoft warns, programs and apps that require specific hardware—like a discrete graphics processor—may not work correctly in a virtual machine.

Even more, simply enabling Hyper-V may cause performance issues for “latency-sensitive, high-precision applications.”

Not just any computer can run a virtual machine, however. You’ll need to see if your PC’s processor can handle a virtual machine before moving forward.

How to Check Virtual Machine Hardware Compatibility

Here are the hardware requirements from Microsoft:

  • 64-bit Processor with Second Level Address Translation (SLAT)
  • CPU support for VM Monitor Mode Extension (VT-c on Intel CPUs)
  • Minimum of 4GB system memory

Here are the BIOS settings required to run a virtual machine:

  • Hardware Enforced Data Execution Prevention
  • Virtualization Technology (or a similar label, depending on the motherboard manufacturer)

Still not sure your Windows 10 PC can run a virtual machine using Hyper-V? Microsoft provides the means to find out. Follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the Start button and select Windows PowerShell (Admin).

    Launch PowerShell Windows 10
  2. Type "Systeminfo" in the PowerShell window and press the Enter key on your keyboard.

    Type Systeminfo in Windows PowerShell
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of the results to find the Hyper-V Requirements section. Here's how to interpret those results:

  • If you see "Yes" next to the four Hyper-V requirements: Your PC can run a virtual machine.
  • If you see "No" next to the four Hyper-V requirements: Your CPU doesn’t support virtual machines and/or you need to adjust settings in the BIOS.
  • If you see "No" next to "Virtualization Enabled in Firmware" in the results: You will need to reboot into the PC's firmware and enable this feature. The setting's label depends on your PC's motherboard and BIOS version.
  • If you see "A hypervisor has been detected. Features required for Hyper-V will not be displayed" in the results: You’re already running Hyper-V in Windows 10.

How to Enable Hyper-V in Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education

It's likely your Windows 10 PC doesn't have Hyper-V features turned on by default. If that's the case, you won't find any Hyper-V entries on the Start Menu. Follow these steps to get your virtual machine support up and running.

  1. Type "Hyper-V" in the taskbar's search field and press the Enter key on your keyboard.

  2. Select Turn Windows features on or off in the results, then select Open.

    Turn Windows features on or off
  3. On the next screen, check the box next to the Hyper-V option, then select OK.

    Enable Hyper-V in Windows 10
  4. Select Restart Now as required by Windows 10. Your PC will now reboot.

    Restart Windows 10 to Enable Hyper-V

How to Create a Virtual Machine in Windows 10 Using Hyper-V Quick Create

This is one of two methods to create a virtual machine using Windows 10's built-in tool. It's the quickest and visually easier of the two. Here you'll find options to install two Linux builds, the MSIX Packaging Tool Environment, and the Windows 10 Development Environment.

If you want to run a preview build of Windows 10, you'll need to manually download an ISO.

  1. Select the Start button, scroll down on the Start Menu, then select Windows Administrative Tools to expand it.

  2. Select Hyper-V Quick Create.

    Launch Hyper-V Quick Access Windows 10
  3. In the following Create Virtual Machine window, select one of the four listed installers, then select Create Virtual Machine. Do not move on to Step 4.

    However, if you have a different OS you want to use, continue on with Step 4.

  4. Select Local installation source to load an ISO file already downloaded to your PC.

    Create a Virtual Machine with Hyper-V
  5. Select Change installation source.

    Change Installation Source Hyper-V
  6. Locate and select an ISO image stored locally on your PC, then select Open.

    Select an ISO image in Hyper-V
  7. Finally, select Create Virtual Machine.

    Run Windows 10 Preview Hyper-V

How to Create a Virtual Machine in Windows 10 Using Hyper-V Manager

At first glance, this version looks old-school compared to the Quick Create version. However, this interface is the meat of your virtual machine loading and unloading. Here you're provided with advanced tools for importing a virtual machine, creating a virtual machine from scratch using a step-by-step process, and more.

You can access the simpler Quick Create tool from this interface as well.

  1. Select Start, scroll down on the Start Menu, then select Windows Administrative Tools to expand it.

  2. Select Hyper-V Manager.

    Launch Hyper-V Manager in Windows 10
  3. In the following Hyper-V Manager window, select Quick Create located under Actions on the right.

    Quick Create a Virtual Machine with Hyper-V
  4. In the following Create Virtual Machine window, select one of the four listed installers and select Create Virtual Machine. Do not move on to Step 5.

    However, if you have a different OS you want to use, continue on with Step 5.

  5. Select Local installation source.

    Create a Virtual Machine with Hyper-V
  6. Select Change installation source.

    Change Installation Source Hyper-V
  7. Locate and select an ISO image stored locally on your PC., then select Open.

    Select an ISO image in Hyper-V
  8. Finally, select Create Virtual Machine.

    Run Windows 10 Preview Hyper-V

A Virtual Machine Example: Ubuntu 19.04

Once you select the Ubuntu 19.04 option and click Create Virtual Machine, the Hyper-V client will download and install Ubuntu in a software “container” (aka virtual machine). Once completed, Hyper-V prompts you with two buttons.

  1. Click Connect to load the Virtual Machine Connection window.

    Connect Ubuntu Virtual Machine Hyper-V

    Click Edit settings to access the settings for the hardware emulation needed to run a fake PC. This include firmware, security, memory, processor, storage, and network connection. 

  2. Click the Start button in the Virtual Machine Connection window to launch your emulated operating system.

    Launch Ubuntu Virtual Machine with Hyper-V
  3. Follow the platform’s on-screen instructions as if you’re setting up a new PC. You will not need to run this setup again unless you create a new virtual machine.

    Install Virtual Ubuntu PC Hyper-V

How to Load Your Virtual Machine

Because you're not installing a second operating system directly onto your PC, there's no shortcut on the Start Menu or the desktop. There's also no option to load your virtual machine from the Hyper-V Quick Create tool. Instead, you must load and shut down your virtual machine using the Hyper-V Manager.

  1. Select the Start button, scroll down on the Start Menu, then select Windows Administrative Tools to expand it.

  2. Select Hyper-V Manager.

    Launch Hyper-V Manager in Windows 10
  3. In the following Hyper-V Manager screen, highlight your saved virtual machine listed under Virtual Machines.

  4. Select Connect located in the bottom right corner.

    Connect to Virtual Machine with Hyper-V
  5. The Virtual Machine Connection screen appears. Select the Start button to "turn on" your virtual machine.

    Launch Ubuntu Virtual Machine with Hyper-V
  6. To save the current state of your virtual machine, select the orange Save icon located on the Virtual Machine Connection toolbar.

    Save Your Virtual Machine in Hyper-V
  7. To shut down your virtual machine, select the red Shut Down icon located on the Virtual Machine Connection toolbar. This is similar to telling your PC to power down.

    Shut Down Your Virtual Machine in Hyper-V

Selecting the white Turn Off icon is similar to unplugging your desktop or depleting the battery.