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Microsoft is offering free Windows 11 VMs for testing until the end of May


Microsoft is now offering a free Windows 11 virtual machine to try out for a limited time. The VMs are then available free of charge for around two and a half months and can no longer be activated afterward.

The whole thing was announced in the Windows Dev Center and is primarily available as a Windows 11 development environment. There are some limitations to be aware of. Otherwise, virtual machines can be used normally. Also, developer mode is enabled by default.

Microsoft has released a new version (2302) of its Windows 11 development environment. It’s a set of Windows 11 virtual machines available for free during the trial period until May 23, 2023.

Windows 11 development environment

You can download a ready-to-use VM from the official Microsoft website and use it without activation until May 23, 2023. The Windows 11 development environment is available for VMWare (Workstation Pro and Player), Hyper-V Gen2, VirtualBox, and Parallels. It includes the Windows 11 Enterprise SKU, Visual Studio 2022 Community Edition, Windows Subsystem for Linux 2, Ubuntu, and Windows Terminal.

Version 2302 is based on Windows 11 Build 22621.1265 (Version 22H2 aka Moment 1 update) and can be updated to the Moment 2 update right after setting up the VM (optionally with KB5022913). If you want to try out a virtual machine with Windows 11, you need at least 21 GB of free storage space. However, a valid license key is required for some Windows functions. This includes the personalized settings that you cannot change with the free VM.

Black desktop background after the expiry

Microsoft also warns that after May 23, 2023, the desktop background will turn black, a constant activation notification will appear, and the virtual machine will shut down every hour. The group had done something similar in previous years and occasionally extended the test period.

Mark Goodman

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