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.

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 my WinXPRegEdits.reg file 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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