From my own experience and hearing the experience of others, the Windows 8 preview editions, including the release preview have a tendency to cause file system issues with other hard drives in the PC when switching between Windows 8 and an earlier OS. For example, when I was trying the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, nearly every second time I rebooted back into Windows 7, it ran chkdsk on several of my hard disks and in one case lost a handful of files I recently added to one drive.
While this issue can be avoided by disconnecting all hard disks except the HDD containing Windows 8 or running Windows 8 on a separate PC, not many people have a second computer lying around powerful enough to run Windows 8 and who wants to go about disconnecting all their HDDs each time they want to boot into Windows 8?
Well, one workaround is to install Windows 8 in a virtual PC and in this guide we will be using VirtualBox. From my experience at the moment, VirtualBox is unstable with guest additions in Windows 8 and the Metro Apps are sluggish without the guest additions. But then again, a sluggish Metro doesn’t really matter if we’re trying to avoid Metro, right?
Before we begin, make sure you have the latest version of VirtualBox installed. The latest version can be downloaded from here and installation or upgrading to the latest version is about as straight forward as installing a web browser.
You will also need to have the Windows 8 ISO handy along with its product key, currently available to download here. A Windows 8 installation with Power8 will result in a 9GB virtual hard disk and this will grow over time as Windows updates and other software is installed, so I suggest placing it on a volume with 40GB or more free space to allow for the virtual hard disk volume to grow over time.
Now for setting up VirtualBox for the Windows 8 installation:
[li]Launch Oracle VM VirtualBox, click the ‘New’ toolbar icon, then click ‘Next’.[/li][li]Give it a name, such as “Windows 8 with Power8”[/li][li]For the OS type drop-downs, choose “Microsoft Windows” and your Windows 8 edition for the Version, then click ‘Next’.[/li][li]Choose the amount of RAM to give it. I suggest at least 2048MB. If you have a large amount of RAM (e.g. 8GB+), I suggest giving it 4096MB.[/li][li]Ensure “Start-up Disk” and “Create a new hard disk” are ticked and click ‘Next’.[/li][li]Choose a preferred file type (“VDI” is fine) and click ‘Next’.[/li][li]Select “Dynamically allocated” and click ‘Next’.[/li][li]Click the folder icon and choose a location for the Virtual Hard disk. If you have plenty of spare capacity on an SSD (40GB+ free), I strongly suggest placing it on an SSD for performance.[/li][li]Choose a desired size for the virtual hard disk. Note that this dynamically expands, it will generally not grow much larger than the amount of space used. I suggest choosing 40GB. A clean Windows 8 Release Preview installation will result in the virtual hard files growing to about 8.5GB. Then click ‘Next’, ‘Create’ and ‘Create’ again.[/li][li]Click on the new virtual machine in the list and click the ‘Settings’ toolbar icon.[/li][li]Go into ‘System’ on the left’ and into the ‘Processor’ tab. If your PC supports hardware virtualization, I suggest increasing the number of processors to match the number of cores your PC has, e.g. 4 for a quad-core PC for better performance. [/li][li]Go into ‘Display’ on the left and increaes the Video Memory slider to 256MB.[/li][li]Go into ‘Storage’ on the left and click the ‘Empty’ CD option under “IDE Controller”, then click the CD icon at the far right to choose the Windows 8 ISO for this. The ‘Live CD/DVD’ can remain unchecked.[/li][li]If the virtual hard disk is located on an SSD, click the virtual hard disk under “SATA Controller” and tick ‘Solid-state drive’ on the right.[/li][li]Optional: Click ‘Shared Folders’ at the bottom and add one or more folders to share with Windows 8.[/li][li]Click ‘OK’ and then click the ‘Start’ icon in the toolbar.[/li][li]Go through the Windows 8 installation as you would on a PC (similar to installing Windows 7). At the screen requesting a Windows Live e-mail address, choose to use a local account, as the Windows Live account is mainly required for Metro and its apps. The overall installation time is roughly 5 to 8 minutes for a modern PC and SSD or 15 to 20 minutes with a HDD, based on my timings in VirtualBox.[/li][li]At the Metro Start screen, click the ‘Desktop’ tile (first left column)[/li][li]Right-click the desktop and select ‘Screen resolution’[/li][li]Change the resolution to ‘1280 x 1024’ or your own preference and click ‘OK’. Note that widescreen resolutions are only available with the guest additions.[/li][/ol]
Now for the Power8 installation:
[li]Launch the web browser in the virutal PC and head here to downloaded the latest release of power8.[/li][li]If a “Windows protected your PC” message appears, click ‘More info’ and then click ‘Run anyway’.[/li][li]Follow the steps - ‘Next’, ‘Next’ and ‘Install’, then ‘Yes’ to the UAC and finally ‘Finish’.[/li][li]To have Power8 automatically start, right-click its start button (bottom-left) and click “Auto Start”. You can also tick “Block Metro features” if you would like to avoid accidentally bringing up Metro (e.g. when heading for the start button.)[/li][li]To get into the ‘All Programs’, go into the start menu and click on ‘Start Menu’ at the top of the Power8 start menu, then click ‘Programs’ and browse as you would with Windows 7 or earlier:[/li][/ol]
If you would like to use VirtualBox shared folders or go full screen with most monitors, the Guest additions need to be installed. From my experience, Windows 8’s Internet Explorer does not work properly with Guest additions, so I strongly suggest installing an alternative browser before installing Guest additions.
[li]Go into the “Devices” menu above the virtual machine’s window and select “Install Guest Additions”, then click the ballon that appears at the upper-right.[/li][li]Click “Run VBoxWindowsAdditions.exe” and click ‘Yes’ to the UAC prompt.[/li][li]Click ‘Next’, ‘Next’, ‘Install’, then ‘Install’ to each Windows Security warning and finally ‘Finish’ to reboot.[/li][/ol]
If Windows 8 is too unstable with the VirtualBox Guest additions, they can be uninstalled again by going into Start -> Control panel -> Programs and Features, then running the uninstaller. If you don’t have the Power8 installed yet, move the mouse to the bottom-left corner of the screen until ‘Start’ appears, then right-click here and click ‘Programs and features’, then run the guest additions uninstaller.