Installing Windows 8.1 Preview in a VMware Player virtual machine

Windows 8.1 Preview

Microsoft has released Windows 8.1 Preview. Like other “previews”, this is prerelease software and is not intended as a normal upgrade. In fact, there are serious disadvantages to installing this preview in a regular Windows 8 PC: Upgrading to the final version of Windows 8.1 will require re-installing all settings, apps, and programs. Testing this preview is most easily done in a virtual machine.

Installing Windows 8.1 Preview  in VMware Player

VMware Player is free for personal use and can be downloaded from VMware. It allows running a separate operating system as an isolated, separate system on a PC. This article provides a detailed procedure for installing Windows 8.1 Preview as a virtual machine.

Windows 8.1 Preview can be obtained as an ISO image from the Microsoft download site. There are different version available. Choose the correct version for your PC. In the following illustrations the 64-bit English version is used.

  • If you do not already have VMware Player, download and install it on your PC.
  • Download an ISO image of Windows 8.1 Preview.
  • Make sure that you have enough resources and disk space on your PC for the virtual machine.image

Now the fun begins.

Start VMware Player and click Create a New Virtual Machine.

Windows8.1-Preview-01Since you have downloaded the ISO image, this is what you want to use as installation media.

Click Installer disc image file (iso): and browse to the location of the ISO file. See the illustration here, click it for a larger view.

There will be a warning that Windows8.1-Preview-02VMware Player could not determine the operating system in the ISO image. Don’t worry about that. Just click Next.

In the next dialog click Microsoft Windows and then select the version as Windows 8 x64 if you are installing the 64-bit version or Windows 8 for the 32-bit version. Click Next.

Windows8.1-Preview-05You will next need to pick the location of the virtual machine files. I normally install my virtual machines on a data drive other than the “C:” drive. Just be sure that you have sufficient disk space. Make a new folder for this vm. I will skip the “click Next” instructions from here on.

Enter a name for your virtual machine when prompted.

Windows8.1-Preview-06The default disk size of 60 GB is enough, but I like to provide more space. My illustration here shows 100 GB. I also like to specify Store virtual disk as a single file so I don’t have to cope with a large number of files later on.

That’s about it. Click Finish and the virtual machine will be created and you are ready to start the Windows 8.1 Preview installation.

Windows8.1-Preview-08The new virtual machine will be listed in the left pane of VMware Player. Click it and then click Play virtual machine.

Since you previously specified the ISO image, VMware Player will find that and use it to boot the new virtual machine. This is an install disk image so the normal Windows installation procedure will commence.


There are number is actions that you have to take, three reboots of the virtual machine, and maybe half an hour of time to install Windows 8.1 Preview.

imageThe most important action is to enter the Product Key for the operating system. The key is listed on the download site and you can see it in the illustration here. You will not be able to do a copy-and-paste of the key, so type it in very carefully, check that it is correct before proceeding.


When you are asked “Which type of installation do you want?” select Custom: Install Windows only (advanced).

For “Where do you want to install Windows?” accept the disk shown in the dialog.

Now go have a cup of coffee. The next steps take about ten minutes to complete (this time may be different on your PC).




You can accept the Personalize settings and Express settings. In the Microsoft account dialog enter your Microsoft email address and password. Then comes a little tricky step.

You need to verify the account. If you have stored your cell phone number in your Microsoft credentials, this is an easy step. The default is for Microsoft to sent a text message to your phone with a security code. It happens within a few seconds. Read the text message (a seven-digit number) and enter it when prompted.

Allow the use of your SkyDrive. Windows 8.1 Preview is not almost ready.




But wait! There is more!

In the illustrations above you can see the advisory strip at the bottom. You will see that on your virtual machine as well. To provide full functionality, including shared clipboard, window resizing, mouse operation, and much more, the VMware Player machine needs to install “VMware Tools” in Windows 8.1 Preview.

From the Start screen click Desktop. Then click Install Tools in the yellow bar.




A couple of seconds after your click a fleeting message will appear in the upper right of the window (see illustration). Click the blue message bar. If you miss it, follow the instructions in the yellow bar at the bottom. When you get “Choose what to do with this disc” click the program name under “Install or run program …”. Follow the prompts. Accept the default “Typical” installation. You will need to restart the virtual machine.

Now, at last, the installation is complete and you can start playing with Windows 8.1 Preview.


© 2013 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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4 Responses to Installing Windows 8.1 Preview in a VMware Player virtual machine

  1. Pingback: Windows 8.1 Preview | Geoff Coupe's Blog

  2. logos288 says:

    Thanks for your guide! Just wanted to add a little thing: For all those who got the “Cant verify product key, please check installation media” – Issue, it worked for me to just add a second cd-drive with the same iso inside. Then installation went ahead as expected. Strange – but I hope it’ll work for you too 🙂

  3. Mayank says:

    It shows me that Windows cannot read the setting from the unattend answer file.. I’d entered it …

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