As you may already know, I've recently been doing a bit of Sharepoint design work. As part of this, we need to be able to test the system in a number of different environments. This is more than just needing to be able to test a number of different browsers, as I'm aware that there are a lot of options out there for installing multiple browsers.
We also need to be able to test different configurations of versions of Windows, Internet Explorer, Office, and a number of other factors. While different members of my team are running slightly different versions of software on their machines, we needed a consistent way to be able to test (and retest) environments. At one point, we had confiscated a number of intern laptops from the previous year and used those to set up the environments. It was somewhat wasteful on a number of different levels and it was also somewhat inconvenient. We set up the laptops so we could remote into them from anywhere on the network, but it still wasn't the best setup.Since then, I've recently reinstalled VirtualPC to see how the product has improved. It installed easily and I quickly got started creating a new virtual machine. I decided to install the machine on my 8GB thumbdrive which turned out to be a terrible idea. While they are blazing fast for reading documents from, they are terrible for an OS. It took over an hour to install XP, so I continued doing work on my laptop in the background. Once the OS was installed, I poked around a little bit to see how it would run, but it still painfully slow. I shut down the virtual machine and moved it (the vhd) over to another external hard-drive I have. I have a sweet ultra-high-speed SSD in my laptop, but it's the ultra-pricey ($800) 64 GB SLC SSD so I didn't want to waste any of the space for a test machine. Copying the virtual hard drive over to the external hard-drive worked great and the machine now works like a champ.
Now I just need to look into getting a second internal HDD to replace my DVD-RW drive so I can more easily take the virtual machines with me on the road!