Creating a Clean, Basic Windows XP VM in VirtualBox – Overview

A previous post offers a detailed description of the process of creating a clean Windows XP virtual machine (VM) in VirtualBox. This post summarizes the steps in that process. Readers are encouraged to consult that other post for additional detail. (A different post discusses other methods of constructing or converting Windows VMs.)

I wanted a clean VM because I planned to use it for creating portable versions of Windows programs. Materials I had seen from VMware and Cameyo emphasized that a simple machine, preferably Windows XP with Service Pack 3 (SP3) installed, would be ideal.

My first step was to go into VirtualBox > File > Preferences > General > Default Machine folder. This was the parent folder where I wanted folders containing this and other VMs to be created. With that set, I created the empty VM by using VirtualBox > Machine > New > Expert Mode (which may already be the default; not Guided Mode) > Name: WinXP x32 SP3 Basic. That caused the Type and Version fields to fill out automatically. I specified 1024MB RAM > Create a virtual hard disk now > Create > file size 20GB > VDI > Dynamically Allocated > Create. (On some systems, I might need to allocate as little as a minimum of 300MB RAM to get through the Windows XP installation. Note also that it might be possible to allocate much more RAM to a VirtualBox VM on a Linux system than on a Windows system.)

Then, with that new VM selected in VirtualBox, I clicked on Settings and went down the list of settings detailed in the other post. These were as follows: General tab: designate Snapshot folder as a subfolder under the WinXP x32 SP3 folder, and set both the Clipboard and Drag’n’Drop to Bidirectional. System tab: enable I/O APIC, allocate two CPUs, enable PAE/NX. Display tab: 128MB video RAM and enable both acceleration boxes. Network tab: enable network adapter, but choose Attached to: Not attached. Shared Folders: enable and automount a folder outside the VM that will serve as a port into the VM. Click OK to exit Settings.

Back in the main VirtualBox window, I selected this WinXP x32 SP3 Basic VM and clicked Start. When asked to Select Start-up Disk, I browsed to my Windows XP installation ISO and then clicked Start. I chose NTFS quick format and went through the Windows XP installation process. I used exactly the same username (i.e., ray, not Ray) as I would use in Linux or in other Windows installations. No administrator password.

WinXP was now installed. In the WinXP VM, I went to the VirtualBox title bar > Devices > Insert Guest Additions CD Image > install with default settings > keep clicking Continue Anyway > Reboot now. After reboot, I ran the WinXPRegEdits.reg file (contents provided in the previous post) and rebooted again. Then I changed the following items in Start > Control Panel > List view:

  • Administrative Tools > Local Security Policy > Local Policies > Security Options > right-click on Accounts: Rename Administrator Account > Properties > type desired name (in my case, ray) in place of Administrator.
  • Display > Desktop tab > Customize Desktop > uncheck Run Desktop Cleanup Wizard every 60 days. Screen Saver tab > Screen Saver: None. Settings tab > 1024 x 768.
  • Security Center > Change the way Security Center alerts me > uncheck at least Automatic Updates and Virus Protection. (No Internet connection; running in Linux; no antivirus to interfere with Cameyo.) Optionally: Manage security settings for: (turn firewall off).
  • System > Automatic Updates tab > Turn off Automatic Updates.
  • Power Options > Power Schemes tab > never turn off monitor and hard disks.

Next, I changed some items in Start > My Computer (i.e., Windows Explorer):

  • Click Folders button on toolbar.
  • Click Views icon on toolbar > Details.
  • Right-click on toolbar > Customize > No text labels, small icons.
  • View > Arrange Icons By > uncheck Show in Groups.
  • Tools > Folder Options > View tab > Display the contents of system folders; don’t Hide extensions for known file types; don’t Hide protected operating system files; Restore previous folder windows at logon; then, in that same View tab, click Apply to All Folders.

Now, a few miscellaneous items:

  • Start > right-click > Properties > Start Menu > Customize: General and Advanced tabs: revise as desired.
  • Desktop > Recycle Bin > right-click > Properties > uncheck “Display delete confirmation dialog.”

Now it was time to activate the installation. This was a bit of a struggle. Another post describes the methods I tried and what worked for me. I wondered whether it might have been wiser to activate first, just in case no activation method worked: it would make sense to avoid wasting the effort to set up and configure the WinXP installation.

At this point, I was tempted to run sfc /scannow in case there were any problems with system files. But I dimly recalled that, when I had run that command previously, it had required access to the Windows XP installation CD. I wasn’t sure how it would work with an installation ISO in lieu of CD. It looked like there could be issues. I decided not to go there.

I wanted to make sure that the system did not have any extraneous programs installed or processes running. In Start > Run > taskmgr > Processes tab, I saw that few processes were running, and none looked out of place. In the Performance tab, I saw hardly any use of system resources. In Control Panel > Add or Remove Programs, I saw only the VirtualBox Guest Additions listed. The Add/Remove Windows Components link in Add or Remove Programs did list a few components that I might arguably have researched and removed, to further simplify the system, though I was under the impression that some of those components were necessary for system stability. In Start > Run > msconfig Services tab, there might likewise have been a few Microsoft services I could have unchecked to disable. In that same location, the Hide All Microsoft Services option showed VirtualBox Guest Additions as, again, the only service.

Finally, I wanted to make a backup of this VM. I closed down the VM and VirtualBox and used a file zipping program to make a compressed copy that I could store on another drive. That completed this project. I had a clean, basic, activated WinXP VM for software virtualization.

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