Microsoft does and doesn't require VMs to meet hardware requirements for Windows 11

Either way, it's bad news for VirtualBox – it's stopped working


Microsoft emitted a fresh build of Windows 11 last night, and piled on the woe for some customers hoping that virtual machines might be their way out of the hardware compatibility hole.

Despite Microsoft's efforts to distract users by showing off its updates to the Photos app – now rolling out to users in the Windows Insider Dev Channel – the alarming warning that "this build includes a change that aligns the enforcement of the Windows 11 system requirements on Virtual Machines (VMs) to be the same as it is for physical PCs" was the main news for many testers.

Microsoft also said Hyper-V VMs of Windows 11 need to be Generation 2 VMs, and virtual machines running on virtualization and emulation products from other vendors, such as VMware and Oracle, "will continue to work as long as the hardware requirements are met."

That conflicts with Microsoft's minimum hardware requirements document for the operating system, which at the time of writing states [PDF]: "Windows 11 does not apply the hardware-compliance check for virtualized instances either during setup or upgrade."

It continues, "if the virtualized environment is provisioned such that it does not meet the minimum requirements, this will have an impact to aspects of the user experience when running the OS in the virtualized environment."

As it turns out, "an impact" now means "won't work." Even though Microsoft's own set of requirements clearly states the hardware check isn't done in the VM world, new Insider Preview builds are failing on hypervisors that don't meet the minimum spec.

And that includes Oracle's VirtualBox, which for one thing doesn't provide the TPM chipset that Windows 11 looks for. As noted in the VirtualBox forums, Windows 11 Dev Channel build 22458 rejects Oracle's hypervisor with the error: "This PC doesn't meet the minimum system requirements." Until VirtualBox manages to meet the hardware requirements that Microsoft said it wouldn't check, it can't run the OS.

As some have noted, the wording from Redmond makes it clear VirtualBox won't work without directly spelling it out:

The Register asked Microsoft to comment on this, and we'll let you know if it gets back to us. Hypervisors and emulators that satisfy Redmond's requirements, such as Parallels and Qemu, should continue to work with Windows 11. It's understood Beta and Dev Channel Insider builds of Windows 11 going forward will enforce hardware requirements on virtual machines, and most likely in the final release.

In the meantime, as well as the whizzy new Photos app, with improvements to editing and viewing, the Dev Channel build (version 22458) was more notable for its known issues, including bug checks for Surface Pro X users and a mystery DRIVER_PNP_WATCHDOG error when attempting to update to a recent build.

The mega-corp also released build 22000.194 to its Beta Channel as well as commercial PCs in the Release Preview Channel. Along with updates to apps that few users have asked for, Microsoft warned of continuing issues with the new Start Menu and Taskbar and an ongoing bug check issue for Surface Pro X devices.

Plenty of time to fix and test stuff though. After all, it's not as if the release of Windows 11 is a month away, right? No – it's actually less than three weeks away. ®

Editor's note: This article was revised to include details of Windows 11 and specific hypervisors.

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