I have Windows 7 on my laptop, and I also teach, demo and use SQL Server 2005 and SQL server 2008. Should I install this “native” on my outside operating system or use the Virtual PC (VPC) software that comes with Windows 7? Well, there are arguments for each.

It’s far simpler to start up SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) or Business Information Development Studio (BIDS) without having to do anything else on my system. Point: outside operating system. And I can install the developer edition of SQL Server 2005 and 2008 with no trouble on Windows 7. Point: outside operating system.

Using a VPC images lets me install a server-level operating system, SQL Server 2000, 2005 and 2008. That lets me more closely replicate my true production environment. I can also install other things I want on the image and not “pollute” my outside operating system. I can copy the VPC file elsewhere, set recovery points to try something and then “roll it back” to a previous state (very helpful with service packs!) and I can upgrade the VPC to Hyper-V. Point(s): VPC.

So here’s what I do: I have all of the client tools on my PC, along with an Instance of SQL Server Express. But for the most part I use a VPC, for all of the reasons above. It’s the best of both worlds.