Microsoft's new free Windows 11 virtual machines are now available for download


Those wanting to start developing apps for Windows 11 without updating or switching can download Microsoft's official virtual machines called "Windows 11 Development Environment" or WDE. The latest release, version 2305, is now available on Microsoft's website, providing access to the most recent Windows 11 update and developer tools. If you are not a developer, Microsoft's virtual machines are a great way to discover Windows 11 and its capabilities for free.

The Windows 11 Development Environment consists of four prebuilt virtual machines for different virtualization software. You can download the necessary version, import it into VMWare, Hyper-V, VirtualBox, or Parallels, and run it almost with a single click.

In addition to providing access to the Windows 11 Enterprise SKU (build 22621.1702 or May 2023 Patch Tuesday), WDE comes with the following dev-focused components and apps:

  • 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

Note that downloading one of Microsoft's Windows 11 virtual machines requires at least 24GB of free space on your disk.

You can use the VM without activation or purchasing a Windows key (keys from Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10 will work if they match the SKU) until August 9, 2023. Once the evaluation period expires, the OS will turn the desktop background black, start nagging you with a persisting activation notification, and shut down itself every hour. However, Microsoft releases WDE updates monthly, extending the expiry date (version 2304 was out on April 28, 2023).

The Windows 11 Development Environment version 2305 is valid until August 9, 2023. After that date, activate the OS with a genuine key or update to a newer WDE version. You can download Microsoft's official Windows 11 virtual machines from the Windows Developer Center.