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Microsoft releases new free Windows 11 virtual machines

An image with a colorful Windows 11 logo and dimmed background

Microsoft has released a new version (2302) of its Windows 11 development environment. It is a set of Windows 11 virtual machines available for free during an evaluation period. That means 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. It also has Developer mode enabled by default.

Version 2302 is based on Windows 11 build 22621.1265 (version 22H2 Moment 1), and you can update it to the Moment 2 update right after setting up the VM (optional KB5022913).

A screenshot of Windows 11 Settings app showing the OS version

Although you can use virtual machines without activation, some features still require a license key. For example, you cannot change personalization settings. Microsoft also warns that after May 23, 2023, the desktop background will turn black, you will see a persistent activation notification, and the virtual machine will shut down every hour. Still, Microsoft will most likely release a newer version before this one expires (the last update was on January 21, 2023).

You can download the latest Windows 11 virtual machines provided by Microsoft from the official website. They require a minimum of 21GB of free space on your drive.

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