Nothing in life is free. And certainly not Windows Vista or Windows XP. Well, that's not entirely true. Both variants of the Windows platform can be accessed as free downloads directly from Microsoft, with the adjacent shortcomings, but more than worth a try. Free in this context means users will be able to get their hands on time-bombed versions of Windows Vista Enterprise and Windows XP Service Pack 2. Microsoft's generosity with the Vista and XP was catalyzed by the company's need to supply testing resources for developers, customers and partners involving its latest operating system but also Vista's predecessor.
Judging strictly by the high level of accessibility, the most comprehensive assets for testing Windows Vista can be found online. Such testing scenarios however come hand in hand with a broadband Internet connection in order to replicate a user experience as close to the original product as possible. For some time now Microsoft is offering the Windows Vista Test Drive website. The online resource streamlines to testing process to the maximum, as it scraps details such as managing downloads and installs. Getting and deploying Windows Vista can be somewhat of a hassle simply because of the sheer size of the operating system.
Downloads will require time and consume precious resources, and the Windows Vista Test Drive is a compelling alternative. The website offers users the chance to try out Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Enterprise, mentioning that the access to the Enterprise edition is limited in accordance to your location. In addition to exploring the operating system via the browser in the testing environment users will also be able to perform guided exercises and watch videos for Vista.
Yet another online solution is also powered by Microsoft Virtual Labs, just as Windows Vista Test Drive. An extensive collection of 25 free virtual labs focused on Windows Vista is offered by the Redmond Company. Once again there is no download or install associated with test driving the operating system. Users will receive just a downloadable manual and 90 minutes of time for each Vista training module.
But what if I'm an Old Fashion "Gimme Gimme Gimme" Kind of Guy?
If you don't mind the download and a tad amount of "virtual" effort than Microsoft has just the thing, or should I say thongs for you. The company is offering two versions of the Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Image, Microsoft Office 2007 Professional VHD and Microsoft Windows Vista 30-Day Eval VHD. Essentially all files are pre-configured virtual hard disks designed to integrate with virtualization software. The best suited tool for the job in this sense comes from Microsoft and is of course free, Virtual PC 2007.
Deployment is also optimized through the introduction of virtualization. All you will have to do is download the files, expand the virtual hard disks and then point Virtual PC 2007 to the virtual machine images. In order to do so, make sure to create a new virtual machine in Virtual PC 2007, select the configuration in accordance with the operating system you want to run, but give Vista a little extra RAM, 1024 MB would be just about right and do not create a new hard disk, instead load the .vhd file that you have expanded from the initial download. Next just press start.