Windows 8 Release Preview on VMware Player

Now that the Windows 8 Release Preview is out, here is a quick overview of upgrading from the Consumer Preview in a VMware Player virtual machine. First a warning: This process will result in a new installation, all programs that you installed in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview will have to be re-installed in the Release Preview version. Your data, documents, pictures, etc., can be easily recovered from the “Windows.old” folder.


The upgrade process is uncomplicated. Here are the steps:

  • Download the ISO image of Windows 8 RP from the Microsoft download site. Choose either the 32-bit or 64-bit version as appropriate for your computer (and the virtual machine that you wish to upgrade).
  • imageCopy the product key from the ISO download site.
  • Start your VMware Player and the Windows 8 Consumer Preview virtual machine.
  • “Load” the ISO image into the virtual machine CD/DVD device. (For details see instructions farther down.)
  • In the VM open the CD/DVD and double-click setup.exe.
  • imageGo through the installation procedure, you will need the product key and to make a number of selections. Note the “Choose what to keep” screen. There is only one option: Nothing.
  • After rebooting and stepping through the initial settings, Windows 8 Release Preview will be up but in a small default size window and without the VMware Tools.
  • Reinstall the VMware Tools. (for instructions see below.)
  • Resize the virtual machine window – just drag the borders like any other window.
  • Reinstall any applications that you had in the prior machine and wish to use.
  • Recover your documents, pictures, music, etc. from the Windows.old folder.
  • Note that your Internet Explorer settings, SkyDrive, contacts, mail messages are there.


There are differences, this version is more finished, some things work or work better. For example, the desktop version of Internet Explorer 10 already has the Flash driver installed, the Metro version does not. But you want to discover these details for yourself.image Just one little cutie: The “link select” pointer, the little hand, has been reshaped. See the illustration here. The new version is on the right.

This version of Windows still retains the Aero features – enjoy them while you can, the final version supposedly will drop them.

Some detailed instructions:

Loading the ISO imageimage

  • In the virtual machine top menu click Virtual Machine, then click Virtual Machine Settings.
  • In the imageHardware tab, click CD/DVD.
  • Click Use ISO image file and browse to the newly downloaded Windows 8 Release Preview ISO image.
  • Click OK.
  • In the virtual machine go to the desktop and click the Windows Explorer icon in the taskbar. Open the CD/DVD drive.image
  • Double click setup.exe.

The installation will now start. You will need the product key and you will need to make a number of choices.

Installation will be quite fast, about 15 to 20 minutes (if you stop like I did to capture screen images along the way).

Reinstall VMware Toolsimage

  • Go to your virtual machine desktop.
  • In the virtual machine top menu click Virtual Machine, then click Reinstall VMware Tools.
  • Be ready to click on the message in the upper rightimage area of the desktop. It takes a few seconds before it appears.
  • In the next dialog click Run setup.exe.
  • Follow the requests during the installation.

The VMware Tools will be installed, a reboot is necessary.

Once installed, the normal VMware Player features of freely moving the mouse pointer in and out of the virtual machine, having a shared clipboard and being able resize the window, are all again available.

Recovering your data

During installation of Windows 8 Release Preview the prior data and other files will be set aside in a folder called “Windows.old”. The data files are easily restored to the new machine. For programs, it is easier to reinstall those from their installation media – you will, of course, have to bring it into the machine. You can use copy-and-paste the install files, or use USB or CD/DVD access for this.

Here is how to recover your data files:image

  • Click the Windows Explorer icon in the taskbar. Go to Computer > Local Disk (C:) > Windows.old > Users > YourName

In the illustration I have shown the folder opened in the navigation bar just to make the illustration easier to understand.

All you prior folders with their contents are available.

  • Open the Desktop folder, select all contents (Ctrl+A). Move the pointer to one of the items, press and hold down the left mouse button and drag the contents to a free area on the desktop.
  • Open another copy of Windows Explorer (Shift+WE icon in taskbar). Open the folder whose contents you wish to restore.
  • Sect all items in the equivalent Windows.old folder and drag them to the new folder. The illustration below shows my My Pictures folder being restored.
  • Do this for My Documents, My Music, and other folders.
  • You do not need to do this for the Favorites folder – that was taken care of in the installation.

Enjoy exploring Windows 8 Release Preview.

Just a small note: This post was written in Windows Live Writer downloaded to my new Windows 8 Release Preview virtual machine. Images were transferred from the host machine on the clipboard as was the HTML code for the “boilerplate” below. Everything is working like a charm!


© 2012 Ludwig Keck


About Ludwig

Lending a helping hand where I can. . . My motto: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
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