Set Up a Windows Development VM

Steps for setting up a Windows development VM the way PKGW likes. We’re running it on Linux and VirtualBox.


About 80 GiB of free disk space is needed for installation and setup. Fun times. One the machine is going, only about half of that is needed.

  1. The key is that nowadays Microsoft makes Windows VM images available freely from this website. Download the VirtualBox appliance package.
  2. Unzip the Zip file. Delete the Zip file.
  3. Open VirtualBox and do “Import Appliance”. I bump up the memory to 8192 and the number of processors to 2.
  4. Delete the .ova file. Its contents will have been unpacked into separate VirtualBox files stored in VBox’s default location (for me: /a/vms/vbox).
  5. Boot up your shiny new VM. The default screen is not very helpful, but if you press the Esc key, you should get a prompt to log in as the user IEUser. The universal password is Passw0rd!.

Set up the software environment🔗

This is the most annoying part.

  1. In the “Type here to search” box, type in “update”, and click the “Check for updates” choice when it eventually appears. Let Windows install its OS updates, and reboot if/when needed. Check for more updates — some can only be installed after earlier updates have been applied. Repeat until the VM is fully up-to-date.
  2. Set timezone (right-click taskbar clock).
  3. In the “Power & Sleep” section of the Windows settings tool, set the screen to never turn off, either on battery or when plugged in. (In the VM, it seems that sometimes it's not possible to awaken the screen again if it turns off this way.)
  4. Install Firefox:
  5. Install LastPass:
  6. Install Notepad++, Note that Atom is a large install and can seriously hamper your ability to fit everything you need in the 40 GiB drive allocated to the VM.
  7. Install Git Bash.
    1. Download and install it from — note that it is just referred to as “Git”, not “Git Bash”.
    2. Default options are generally OK, but you’ll probably want to select Notepad++ as your text editor.
    3. Start Git Bash via the “Type here to search” box.
    4. Right-click the icon of the running program and choose to pin it to your taskbar.
    5. In the bash window, run:
      git config --global "Your Name"
      git config --global your@email
      git config --global "branch -a"
      git config --global commit
      git config --global alias.s status
  8. Install miniconda: (Miniforge doesn’t have Windows yet.)
    1. Download and start installer
    2. Choose to "Add Miniconda3 to my $PATH" despite the discouragement.
    3. With the above, should be able to use conda within Git Bash.
    4. conda config --add channels conda-forge
    5. conda update --all
    6. If planning to do conda conbuilds, install conda-build
  9. Now, the big one: Visual Studio.
    1. Search for “visual studio install older version” and find the result that seems most on-point.
    2. Select to download Visual Studio 2017. You’ll need to sign in to a Microsoft account to do so.
    3. Find, download, and launch “Visual Studio Community 2017 (version 15.9)”.
    4. Install just the "Desktop Development with C++" workload.
    5. Start the install. It will take a long time.
    6. When the install is complete, reboot the VM. Sometimes this is necessary to apply updates pulled in by Visual Studio; failing to reboot can break the VM’s dev tools stack!
    7. Check for updates again and install/reboot as needed.
    8. Start Visual Studio; skip signing into Microsoft account.
    9. Pin it to your taskbar.
    10. Go to Tools → Extensions and Updates and start installing the available Visual Studio updates. These may be large downloads that require that you exit Visual Studio.
  10. Other setup you may wish to perform:
    • Install personal SSH keys ­ you will need some way to transfer files between your host machine and the VM. On my machine, the IP address of the host machine as seen from the VM is, and I can scp between the two once I start up the SSH server on the host machine.