Windows Virtual PC and Undo Disks

Windows Virtual PC and Undo Disks

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With Windows Virtual PC we have been “fine tuning” the user experience for undo disks.

If you are not familiar with “undo disks” this is the feature of Virtual PC that allows you to use a virtual machine, and when you are finished decide whether to keep or discard the changes that you have just made.  This is a very cool and powerful feature – but we have received user feedback that it can be confusing at times.

Specifically, with Virtual PC 2007, trying to close a virtual machine with undo disks enabled will display this dialog:

undochanges1

Which has a total of 7 possible combinations that you can select.  That is a lot of choices to make for just wanting to turn off a virtual machine.

With Windows Virtual PC we have removed the option to “commit changes” from the close dialog.  So now you can only choose to discard changes, or keep them:

undochanges2

Committing the changes in an undo disk is now done as a separate operation through the virtual machine settings on the undo disks settings page:

undochanges3

Here you can view the size of your undo disks, and you can choose to apply or discard the changes from the undo disks.  Note that you can only do this when the virtual machine is not running.

Cheers,
Ben

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  • As long as you move it around but don't remove it altogether, I'm okay with it as a power user.

  • The new undo disks are such a pain. Our developers do software testing with a bunch of Virtual PCs and having to do so many extra steps to just commit changes is such a hassle. Not to mention even after we commit the changes if the next session we just turn off the machine and discard changes, it turns off the integration features forcing you to go through all that again. Such a shame, has some other nice features, but it's just too much of a pain. So back to Virtual PC 2007 or maybe look into VMWare I guess.

  • Paul -

    Discarding undo disks should not turn off integration features.  Can you give me some more details?  I just tried this with my Windows XP Mode VM and it did not disable integration features.

    Cheers,

    Ben

  • Ben -

    Sure, no problem.  We are not using the XP Mode VM itself, but have tried both VMs with a clean install of XP and VMs that were carried over from Virtual PC 2007.  We have many VMs that we use for testing.  The same thing happens with all VMs.  After applying the undo disk changes from the settings panel the VM will start up and work normally with the integration features enabled.  If we close the Window with the "X" button and choose to turn off and discard changes, the next startup of the VM will be with integration disabled.  You are presented with the password screen (which is the saved password in integration) and once you log in you have to go back up to the menu and enable integration.  Which then flashes up the login screen again, goes through all that and integration is working again.  This happens every single time on every VM and on a couple Windows 7 test machines that we have.  To be honest we have never tried just shutting down the machine, then going to the settings screen and discarding changes there.  What a long route that would be though especially when the option to turn off and discard changes is right there when you click "close".

    Hopefully that provides some more insight, but if you're looking for more just let me know.

    Paul

  • I'm really tired of “fine tuning”. It started with Vista, now it spread here to Win VPC like a hog flu. It was working great, it was intuitive. Now it's unintuitive and requires tweaking around. So, basically the functionality you had in one window with one checkbox, you have “fine tuned” into two separate windows that you have to access separately. And the users are lucky if they can find it. I had to ask on the forum to "discover" this great feature. A true productivity improvement.

    BTW, I know you want do anything to restore it back, but at least I vented out a little.

  • And while I'm still in the mood, here's a couple of rants more:

    1. The UI is "fine tuned" so that you cannot add/remove floppy drive. Yet, the functionality is enabled via script.

    2. There's no hard reset from the UI ("fine tuning"). Yet the functionality is enabled via script.

    Ben, I read your post about how proud you are for being part of the virtualization team at Microsoft. Please try to influence the decision makers to refrain from any more "fine tunings".

    Let me finish by an old software developers' proverb. If you design your software so that idiots can use it, then only idiots will use it.

  • For the most part, I like the new virutal PC, especially launching directly into a VM off of the start menu.  However, my biggest complaint is moving the undo disk commit to inside of the settings menu.  Now, instead of being able to commit when I shut down the VM, I have to go through a 7 click process to commit it.

    start -> Virtual PC -> Manage -> choose VM -> settings -> undo disks -> apply.

    The biggest problem here is that I have to actively wait for my VM to shut down entirely, and then complete the commit process before I move on to anything else.  The old way was fire and forget.  I could let it save state and changes in the background while doing other things on my computer.

  • To add to my last post.  I could understand wanting to make it less confusing.  However, maybe you could add an option to the Close settings so that the shutdown and commit could be turned on for those that want it.

  • Can we have Bill back please. This is just the sort of mistake that old school Microsoft would _not_ have made.

  • I too have the issue of when I turn off the virtual machine and discard changes, it turns off the integration features

  • Same problem here when discarding changes.  It doesn't matter if I "turn off and discard" or discard on the settings screen.  The next time I start the VM (Windows XP), it starts with a smaller screen (640x480 or 800x600) and does not automatically log in.  After logging in, "Shutdown" is available on the Start menu, when it is normally only "Log Off".  After turning off or shutting down the non-integrated VM, it may or may not start up with integration features the next time.

  • I'm trying to use the Windows Virtual Machine on my Windows 7 machine and after opening one of my old images 3 times, and having to reload the 'integration package' I still can't figure out how to commit changes from undo disks.  I've searched the internet and finally found this site.  I have to agree with everyone below, Virtual PC 2007 was intuitive and very user friendly.  So far, I have to say I am very disappointed with the new virtualization product.  Not intuitive and very hard to work around.  I'm hoping to maybe go back to VPC 2007, or like another reader below said, look at other alternatives.  Disappointing show from Microsoft on this one.  :(

  • Hi Ben, thanks for the info on 'undo disks'.  Was there any consideration for multiple levels of undo disks?  Sort of a history snapshot, or timeline approach?

  • Everything that Paul said in 2009 is still true in 2013. I can almost understand the reluctance to put back the commit changes option, however useful it actually is.

    That discarding changes turns off integration features is, nevertheless, simply a bug. Please fix this.

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