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How to Install Windows 11 in a Virtual Machine

Windows 11 running in a virtual machine
(Image credit: Future)

If you want to try Windows 11 on your PC, but don't want to risk replacing a stable version of Windows 10 with a beta operating system that could have bugs, you can use a virtual machine. Virtual machines allow you to simulate a PC but run it in a window on top of your main OS.

Below, we'll explain how to install Windows 11 in a virtual machine, step-by-step. The good news is that the VM software we recommend for this task, VMWare Workstation Player, is free. However, you will need a separate, valid Windows 10 key for the VM that you are not using on the host PC or elsewhere. If you don't have one, see our story on how to get Windows 10 for cheap, where we recommend some key merchants you can use.

You host computer should also have at least 8GB of RAM and a quad-core CPU, because the VM will need to use at least two cores and 4GB of RAM.

How to Install Windows 11 on Virtual Machine

1. Download and install VMware Workstation Player. It's a free download for non-commercial use. We also attempted this with Oracle VirtualBox and it did not work.

2. Create a Windows 10 ISO file if you don't have one already. You can do this by using the Windows Media Creation tool and choosing ISO file as the output. Make sure you select the version of Windows (Home, Pro, etc) you have a product key for.

3. Select New Virtual Machine from the Player->File menu in VMWare Workstation Player.

Select New Virtual Machine

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

4. Select the location of your Windows 10 ISO file when prompted and click Next.

Select Your Windows 10 ISO

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

5. Name your virtual machine anything you want and click Next.

Name Your Windows 11 VM

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

6. Set the Maximum disk size to at least 64GB and choose "Store virtual disk to one file." Then click Next.

Set Maximum disk size and store virtual disk as one file

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

7. Click Customize Hardware.

click Customize Hardware

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8. Increase the RAM to at least 4GB (4096MB), preferably 8GB. Click Close.

Increase the RAM

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9. Click Finish and make sure "Power on this virtual machine..." is checked.

Click Finish

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10. Press a key to boot off of the ISO, which the VM thinks is a DVD. If you're not fast enough, you can select Power->Restart from the Player menu.

Press any key

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

11. Follow the prompts to install Windows 10. Be sure to enter  your product key and Select Custom Install when prompted to choose between Custom and Upgrade.

You'll have to wait a few minutes for the install to complete, of course. Also, make sure you use a Microsoft Account. 

Install Windows

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

12. Click Install Tools and then install the VMWare graphics driver from the virtual optical drive.

Click Install Tools

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13. Join the Windows Insider Program on the virtual machine. To do that, Navigate to Settings->Update & Security->Windows Insider Program and click Get started. 

Click Get started

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

14. Select the Dev Channel and click Confirm. Follow the prompts to confirm again and restart your virtual machine.

Select the Dev Channel

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15. Click Check for Updates under Settings->Update & Security->Windows Update. 

Click Check for updates

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Windows 11 Insider Preview should start downloading and installing. It could take quite a while, depending on your download speed.

Windows 11 Installing

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

16. Reboot your PC when prompted.

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch is Tom's Hardware's editor-in-chief. When he's not playing with the latest gadgets at work or putting on VR helmets at trade shows, you'll find him rooting his phone, taking apart his PC or coding plugins. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram developed many real-world benchmarks, including our laptop battery test.
  • ezst036
    Why didn't VirtualBox work?
    Reply
  • Makaveli
    I also had to enable this or I wasn't able to install it.

    Been playing around with the OS over the weekend I do like it some stuff was abit harder to find.

    Reply
  • octavecode
    VirtualBox works fine too, just make sure to enable the EFI option
    Reply
  • 4freedomssake
    I know nothing about virtual machines, so this may seem like a trivial question: But is there an exe file for you to run in Windows 10 to try Win 11? Or do I need to choose an OS when booting?
    Reply
  • pixelpusher220
    You'd think TPM would rate at least a mention here. Can you install 11 in a VM on a machine without TPM?
    Reply
  • Math Geek
    pixelpusher220 said:
    You'd think TPM would rate at least a mention here. Can you install 11 in a VM on a machine without TPM?

    the answer is no. you still need it as windows 11 will look for it before it allows the install. i'm tinkering with it now to see if i can fake it. i have a tpm slot but do not have a module installed. gonna see if i can make a vm work anyway :)

    i am working in virtual box at the moment but may try vmware pro as i also have that i can try.
    Reply
  • pixelpusher220
    Math Geek said:
    the answer is no. you still need it as windows 11 will look for it before it allows the install. i'm tinkering with it now to see if i can fake it. i have a tpm slot but do not have a module installed. gonna see if i can make a vm work anyway :)

    i am working in virtual box at the moment but may try vmware pro as i also have that i can try.
    Thanks, figured as much.

    My point being the article is ridiculously not mentioning that tidbit. Given the hubbub over TPM recently, not mentioning it is a serious defect in the reporting
    Reply
  • Math Geek
    i turned on that AMD fTPM in my bios and it seems to work fine. installing the newest preview build now. got no missing tpm errors like i did the first time.

    so seems like that is good enough. i forget what intel calls theirs but i guessing turning that on will also be good enough though i don't have an intel system to confirm.

    edit: no issues at all installing it once i turned on that fTPM in BIOS. installed straight away in a virtualbox vm
    Reply
  • ClapTrapper
    Big shout out to the great Forum Commentors!
    I just glanced at the article and made a mental note to give Win11 a spin. Naturally I was going to use my favorite program-VirtualBox.
    I didn't realize the author of the article couldn't get it to work under VBox.
    Forum to the rescue!
    The author should read the forum and update his article.
    Reply