A colleague wants to test some software within a VM (Virtual Machine) environment. He wants to test it on a computer that is not hooked up to the internet. It runs Win XP SP3. Windows was pre-installed on that system by the system manufacturer, and he cannot find the original OS restore disks that the manufacturer provided.

Can anyone recommend free-of-cost VM software that works on Win XP SP3 that will accommodate the above parameters?

There is already a Q/A about general VM recommendations, please ensure that responses to this question meet the specific requirements outlined above. Thanks!

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    When you say "It runs Win XP SP3", are you referring to the host system, or the guest system? And which system has the OS pre-installed? It's unclear why you can't simply download VirtualBox and set it up with no networking, unless there's something about your question that I'm not understanding. Commented Nov 30, 2014 at 21:43
  • @GregHewgill The host system and the guest system are the same system. Therefore, both will be Win XP SP3. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 6:01
  • I think you may be confused about something, but I'm not sure what. When talking about virtual machines, the "host" and "guest" systems are necessarily different systems, they cannot be the same system. It's still unclear what you are looking for here. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 20:01
  • @GregHewgill Lol. I might be confused or using the wrong terminology. He wants to test some software without affecting anything else on the machine. The software includes some drivers, so I don't think a simple sandbox will work. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 20:41
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    VirtualBox, for example, is not a "simple sandbox". It's an entire virtual machine that has its own OS installation, own kernel, own drivers, own applications, and everything. Try it out, you might find it suits your needs. The guest installation does not affect anything on the host system. Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 20:58

1 Answer 1


Any virtual machine software (free or otherwise) such as VirtualBox will work.

Ideally, obtain a copy of the Windows install media and reinstall Windows cleanly to the virtual machine as the hardware will appear different to the current installation of Windows. Copies of the install media are usually available from your computer manufacturer or directly from Microsoft for a nominal fee. You could also borrow installation media from a trusted source such as a friend or colleague. You may also be able to purchase install media via eBay or similar although this is a less trusted source.

You can retrieve your current product key using a free utility such as one found at: http://pcsupport.about.com/od/productkeysactivation/tp/topkeyfinder.htm

During a new installation, Windows will want to connect to the Internet to validate the product key and temporarily enabling an Internet connection during the install will mean that you won't have to suffer subsequent reminders.

Microsoft may detect that Windows is being installed to different hardware necessitating a phone call to Microsoft Support. Assuming the wait in the queue isn't too long, this is usually a fairly painless experience once you explain what you want to do and they flick the appropriate switch.

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