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Microsoft releases new free Windows 11 virtual machines with March 2024 updates

A Windows 11 logo with a gradient background

Microsoft has finally updated its free virtual machine, also known as the "Windows Development Environment" (WDE). Version 2403 was supposed to come out in March, but Microsoft delayed the release for unknown reasons. You can download the latest Windows 11 virtual machines from the official website. As usual, they are available in four prebuilt variants for different virtualization software: VMware, Parallels (macOS), Hyper-V Gen 2, and VirtualBox.

Windows Development Environment version 2403 is built upon Windows 11 build 22621.3296, the March 2024 Patch Tuesday update. WDE 2403 does not include the Moment 5 features (the update is still an optional release, which should become a mandatory one later this month), but you can easily update it with KB5035942.

Each virtual machine requires about 70GB of free disk space and 8GB of memory. You can use them for free until June 19, 2024. They do not support activation with license keys, so you will have to update to a newer version once the current one expires. Expired virtual machines will turn their desktop backgrounds black, start sending you activation notifications, and shut down every hour. In addition, Microsoft's official Windows 11 virtual machines are not available in ARM variants.

Windows Development Environment version 2403 includes the following:

  • Windows 11 Enterprise (Evaluation)

  • Visual Studio 2022 Community Edition with UWP, .NET Desktop, Azure, and Windows App SDK for C# workloads enabled

  • Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 enabled with Ubuntu installed

  • Windows Terminal installed

  • Developer mode enabled

If you plan to use Microsoft's virtual machines on VirtualBox, note that it has some rendering "quirks:"

Yes, we have noticed that there are some rendering quirks when using VirtualBox to run these developer images. The Start menu may also look different than expected. We are currently investigating this behavior. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and understanding.

More information about Windows Development Environment virtual machines is available on the official website.

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