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I was recently enrolled in an official Microsoft training course delivered by New Horizons. The learning platform offered labs on remote virtual machines. From my web browser, using Silverlight, I was able to create and launch a virtual instance of Windows 7 Ultimate complete with the lab material, and do work within Visual Studio.

The surprise was the Windows 7 alerts that the machine was not genuine, and that I may be running counterfeit software. The machine was only needed for a couple hours, so I'm guessing any time-based limitation for running non-genuine software would not be seen. I just really found it interesting that official Microsoft training has those kind of notifications.

It did get me thinking though. My main question, is there a fast and affordable way to build a Windows testing platform using virtual machines? Is it possible to, for example, create a virtual Windows machine image with some software on it, genuine or not, then easily copy it for testing purposes? Do non-genuine machines expire, or will the genuine authentication system only allow for X number of days usage from install before blocking access entirely, in which case copies would be useless?

I'm trying to avoid long Windows installs for testing simple things. I also don't want to I'm thinking if I wanted to test out some IIS settings, and didn't want to break a real machine. Or testing out software installers. Or alternate web browsers. Similar to New Horizons, I would only need the machine for a day at most, then could discard it.

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Technically, regardless of how long the VM will be up and running, it needs to be properly licensed. In a corporate environment, it is even more important that you adhere properly to license restrictions. Most people that I work with keep a few VM templates that we just copy when we need a fresh install for testing. New Horizons may have volume licensing and may just not bother with the activation process if the VMs will only actually exist for 24 hours or so. – MaQleod Sep 5 '12 at 23:06
@MaQleod These VM templates, is there any specific VM platform (ie. ESX, VirtualBox, etc) that does a good job with templating? – dangowans Sep 5 '12 at 23:13
I run them on an ESXi server and use vsphere to connect and manage them. From the gui I can create and configure a new VM and then export an OVF template when it is ready. I can then import it to a new VM instance at any time (Deploy OVF template). I don't have experience with VirtualBox to be able to suggest whether it is good or not for this. – MaQleod Sep 5 '12 at 23:19
You may want to look at getting a TechNet subscription if you'll be doing this sort of testing regularly. – Iszi Sep 5 '12 at 23:51
There's the Action Pack subscription you can get, under the Microsoft Partner website, which is similar to TechNet and may be better-suited to you (i.e. cheaper). – user3463 Sep 6 '12 at 4:56

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