Thursday, December 09, 2010

Another Windows Virtual PC Gotcha

Microsoft Virtual PC, for Windows Vista and earlier, automatically writes changes from the undo disk (VUD file) to the main drive (VHD file) when you shut a virtual machine (VM) down. So, when you’re setting up a VM or otherwise want to make permanent the changes you made while using it, you just shut it down and tell it to save the changes. When you do something where you don’t want the changes saved, such as doing a test install, you shut it down and tell it to discard the changes. Very straightforward.

Windows Virtual PC, for Windows 7, doesn’t automatically write changes from the VUD to the VHD. When you shut a VM down and don’t tell it to discard changes, it continues to build up changes you make over various sessions to the VUD file. When you want to write the changes to the VHD, you have to specifically edit the settings for the VM, choose the Undo Disks page, and click Apply.

Until I realized this, I couldn’t understand why a VM I had set up kept reverting to an earlier state. I started the VM, made some changes I wanted permanent, then shut it down, thinking that the changes would be written to the VHD (although I did notice that the shutdown process was a LOT faster than I was expecting). I then fired it up again, did a test install, and shut it down, discarding changes. When I started it back up again, it was at the original state, without the changes I thought I’d made permanent. I also noticed that the datetime stamp on the VHD file hadn’t changed.

After a couple of rounds of this, I started poking around to see what I had to do to write changes to the VHD. That’s when I discovered the Apply button in the Undo Disks pages of the Settings dialog. Hopefully my pointing this out will save someone else some time.

Updating Integration Components in a Windows Virtual PC VM

I’ve been using Microsoft Virtual PC for several years. It’s great for testing installs, installing applications you don’t want polluting your host system, and lots of other things. I recently bought a new laptop with Windows 7, so I installed the latest version of Virtual PC, renamed to Windows Virtual PC.

When starting some of my existing virtual machines (VMs), I was prompted to upgrade the integration components. Integration components make it easier to work with a VM because they allow access to resources of the host system including (new to the Windows 7 version) USB devices. In Windows XP VMs, it’s easy: choose Yes when asked and follow the prompts. In Windows Vista and Windows 7 VMs, however, it’s a little tricky:

  • Choose Yes when asked to update.
  • In the dialog that appears allowing you to either run Setup.exe or open a folder, choose Open folder.
  • In the Windows Explorer folder that appears, right-click Setup.exe and choose Run as Administrator.
  • Follow the prompts until you get a dialog telling you that certain files are in use. Note the process ID for each one.


  • Click Ctrl+Alt+Del in the VM menu and choose Start Task Manager and select the Processes page.
  • If you don’t see a PID column, select the Select Columns function from the View menu, turn on PID, and click OK.
  • Click the PID column to sort on process ID.
  • Click the Show processes from all users button.
  • Select each of the process IDs for the files in use and click End Process.
  • Carry on with the rest of the installation process (it’ll require a couple of restarts for your VM).

One thing I don’t like about Windows Virtual PC is that it doesn’t support dragging and dropping files from your host system to the VM window and vice versa. Instead, with integration enabled, you have to open Windows Explorer, navigate to the appropriate drive on your host system, and copy files to and from that way. Not a huge problem but more work than with the older Virtual PC.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Microsoft Office 2010 Gotcha

I have a nice new shiny toy: an Asus G73JW laptop with an Intel i7-740QM quad core processor, Windows 7 Pro (64-bit), 17.3” LED display, 8 GB of RAM, a 80 GB solid state primary drive, and a 500 GB secondary drive. Of course, the bad thing about getting a new system is the time it takes to get it set up just so, but I have a checklist I work from to make the setup straightforward. Things were going great until today. Emailing from Stonefield Query using MAPI (which means it goes through Outlook) and reading Excel spreadsheets using the Excel ODBC driver no longer work.

Rick Schummer blogged about issues with a client who upgraded to Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010. My issues aren’t the same, but are related: I foolishly chose to install the 64-bit version of Office rather than the 32-bit version, and now my 32-bit apps no longer work with it. I guess this falls into the DOH! category. Hopefully if you’re setting up a new system or upgrading an existing one, you’ll be a little smarter than me.