Microsoft released the first version of Hyper-V in 2008 under a different name, Windows Server Virtualization. The first version was only compatible with Windows Server 2008, but it has since been released on many successive versions of Windows Server. You can also use it on some versions of Windows operating systems for laptops and desktops.
Hyper-V is a hypervisor that allows users to create virtual machines (opens in a new tab) on Windows-based x86-64 systems. There are separate versions for typical operating systems (Windows 8, 10, etc.), Hyper-V, and the Windows Server operating system, Hyper-V Server.
Unfortunately, Microsoft stopped releasing new versions of Hyper-V Server in 2019, encouraging users to switch to Azure Stack HCI to host virtualized workloads. But, it is contractually bound to support the latest version until 2029.
Microsoft Hyper-V: plans and prices
Hyper-V is free to download, and you can use it without limits on CPUs, RAM, or primary storage. However, the management layer incurs additional costs. This layer, the Microsoft System Center, lets you use Hyper-V from a graphical user interface. It’s not cheap, with licensing costs starting at $1,323 per year.
It is not mandatory to pay for System Center, just more convenient. If you don’t get the license, you can use Hyper-V for free, but only use it through a command-line interface.
Microsoft Hyper-V: Features
Hyper-V is a hypervisor that lets you create and run virtual machines (VMs). A virtual machine is software that emulates the functionality of a separate computer. Having multiple virtual machines is like having multiple computers drawing their resources from a single hardware system.
There are many use cases for virtual machines. For example, if you want to run software that is no longer available for the current version of your operating system, you can install the old operating system on a virtual machine and run it. You can also use a virtual machine to simulate how malware can affect a PC.
There are two types of hypervisors; Type 1, which has direct hardware access, and Type-2, which relies on a host operating system. As a type 1 hypervisor, Hyper-V offers sharp performance because it has direct access to hardware to perform functions instead of going through an additional OS layer. It also avoids the security vulnerabilities that come with an operating system.
Hyper-V lets you create virtual machines running many operating systems, including different versions of Windows, Linux, and FreeBSD.
There is a separate Hyper-V for Windows and Hyper-V for Windows Server. The former is available on 64-bit versions of Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education – it’s not compatible with the Home edition. Windows Server is a separate operating system for managing servers, not desktops or laptops.
The main difference between Hyper-V on Windows and Hyper-V on Windows Server is in their memory management model. On a server, Hyper-V memory works with the assumption that only virtual machines are running on the server. Hyper-V on Windows manages memory by assuming that most client machines are running other host software in addition to virtual machines.
Generally, Hyper-V allows you to run one or more virtual machines on a computer with 4 GB of RAM. But you’ll need way more than 4GB of RAM if you want to run intense software like games and video editing tools on your virtual machines.
Notable components of Hyper-V include;
A virtual machine that you install using Hyper-V uses the same components as a physical computer, including processor, storage, memory, and networking. The difference is that multiple virtual machines will derive all of these capabilities from a single piece of hardware.
You can configure memory, processor, storage, and network functions just like with a regular computer.
Each guest operating system that Hyper-V lets you create has a custom set of services and drivers, called integration servicesthat facilitate the use of the operating system in a virtual machine.
Examples of these integration services include the Heartbeat servicewhich indicates whether a virtual machine is working properly or not; Time synchronization service, which synchronizes a virtual machine’s clock with the host system’s clock; and the Data exchange servicewhich allows the virtual machine and its host to exchange metadata.
Hyper-V has a feature that creates copies of virtual machines that you can store in another location. Therefore, if your virtual machine is corrupted, you can always restore it from the copy.
You can easily migrate virtual machines from one device to another. Hyper-V supports live migration, which allows you to move running virtual machines from one Hyper-V host to another without incurring downtime. You can also migrate virtual machine storage from one location to another without any compatibility issues.
You can connect to a Hyper-V virtual machine from another host and use it without issue. Hyper-V provides console access, which means you can see what’s going on in a virtual machine even if its operating system hasn’t been booted.
Microsoft Hyper-V: interface and use
If you’re using the free version of Hyper-V, you’ll need to use it through a command-line interface, which involves using codes to perform functions. You would need to memorize the codes which can be difficult for a non-technical user. To make things easier, you can pay for Microsoft System Center, which gives you a graphical management console, but the price is steep.
Microsoft Hyper-V: support
Microsoft provides customer support via email, live chat, and phone. Its website also has extensive documentation for all of Hyper-V’s features, which is a good resource for learning more about the software and how to troubleshoot any issues you might encounter.
Microsoft Hyper-V: the competition
ESXi, a VMware product, is the best alternative to Hyper-V that we recommend. It is reliable, scalable and offers more options to configure your virtual machine compared to Hyper-V.
Microsoft Hyper-V: Final Verdict
Windows OS users are already familiar with Microsoft products, so Hyper-V is an ideal choice for them. It allows users to take advantage of Windows operating system features better than most other virtualization software. The main downside is having to shell out a hefty sum for a management console.
We featured the best remote desktop software.