How do I use virtualization

Introduction to Hyper-V on Windows 10

  • 2 minutes to read

As a software developer, IT professional, or technology enthusiast, you often need to run multiple operating systems. Hyper-V allows you to run multiple operating systems as Windows virtual machines.

Hyper-V offers hardware virtualization in particular. This means that every virtual machine runs on virtual hardware. Hyper-V lets you create virtual disks, virtual switches, and a variety of other virtual devices that can be added to any virtual machine.

Reasons for virtualization

Virtualization enables the following:

  • Run software that requires an older version of Windows or operating systems other than Windows.

  • Experiment with other operating systems. Hyper-V makes it easy to commission and remove various operating systems.

  • Test software on multiple operating systems using multiple virtual machines. With Hyper-V, you can run them all on a single desktop or laptop computer. These VMs can be exported and then imported into another Hyper-V system, including Azure.

System requirements

Hyper-V is available in 64-bit versions of Windows 10 Professional, Enterprise, and Education. The function is not available for Home Edition.

An upgrade from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Professional is under Settings > Update and security > activation possible. Here you can visit the store and purchase an upgrade.

Most computers run Hyper-V, but each virtual machine runs an entirely separate operating system. You can usually run one or more virtual machines on a computer with 4 GB of RAM, although you will need additional resources to install additional virtual machines or to install and run resource-intensive software such as games, videos, or engineering design software.

For more information about Hyper-V system requirements and how to verify that your computer is running Hyper-V, see Hyper-V Requirements Reference.

Operating systems that can be executed in a virtual machine

Hyper-V on Windows supports many different operating systems on a virtual machine including various releases of Linux, FreeBSD, and Windows.

As a reminder, you must have a valid license for all operating systems that you use in the virtual machines.

For information about which operating systems are supported as guests in Hyper-V on Windows, see Supported Windows Guest Operating Systems and Supported Linux Guest Operating Systems.

Differences between Hyper-V on Windows and Hyper-V on Windows Server

There are some features that work differently in Hyper-V on Windows and Hyper-V on Windows Server.

Hyper-V features available only on Windows Server:

  • Live migration from one host to another
  • Hyper-V replica
  • Virtual fiber channel
  • SR-IOV network
  • Shared VHDX file

Hyper-V features only available on Windows 10:

  • Quick build and VM catalog
  • Standard network (NAT switch)

The storage management model is different for Hyper-V on Windows. Hyper-V memory on a server is managed with the assumption that only the virtual machines are running on the server. In Hyper-V on Windows, memory is managed with the expectation that most client computers will run both host software and virtual machines.


Programs that depend on specific hardware also do not work properly in a virtual machine. For example, games or applications that require GPU processing may not work well. In addition, applications that require high-precision event timers in the range of less than 10 ms (latency-sensitive apps, such as live music mixing) can run into problems when running on a virtual machine.

In addition, Hyper-V-enabled applications with high demands on latency and precision can also run into problems on the host. This is because, for applications capable of virtualization, the host operating system runs just like the guest operating systems above the Hyper-V virtualization layer. In contrast to guest operating systems, the host operating system has direct access to all hardware. This means that applications with special hardware requirements can also be run in the host operating system without any problems.

Next Step

Install Hyper-V on Windows 10