Posey's Tips & Tricks

Windows 10 Hyper-V Is (Probably) Not Going Away

There's a rumor that Microsoft is planning to replace Hyper-V with an alternative feature called simply "Virtual Machines." Brien breaks down just how little sense that would make.

For many people, Hyper-V is one of the more useful Windows 10 features. In my case, for example, I rarely use Windows 10 features such as Miracast or the Game Bar, but I use Hyper-V almost every day.

But what if Hyper-V were to disappear from Windows 10 next year?

Before anyone panics or starts looking for an alternative virtualization platform, let me just say that nobody at Microsoft has mentioned anything about Hyper-V being removed from Windows 10 (at least, not that I have heard about). Even so, I have been reading some speculative posts on various Windows boards lately hinting that Microsoft may be experimenting with a Hyper-V alternative.

Keep in mind that this is a rumor, and that there has not been any sort of official confirmation or denial of it. Even so, I think that this rumor is worth discussing because if it turns out to be true, it will mark a significant change for Windows desktops.

So what is this Hyper-V alternative? Again, nobody outside of Microsoft knows for sure, but I will tell you what I have heard.

As you are no doubt aware, Microsoft has been delivering feature updates for Windows 10 roughly about twice a year since the operating system's release. These feature updates have given us things like the Mixed Reality portal, Windows Ink and the Bash shell. Not surprisingly, Microsoft is already hard at work on another such release that is due out next spring. Right now, this release is known internally as "19H1" because it is expected in the first half of 2019.

Supposedly, an early 19H1 build was released in which Hyper-V had been replaced by a feature that was simply called "Virtual Machines." I have also heard people say that the Virtual Machines feature is not yet functional and does not appear to do anything. This has led to speculation that Windows 10 will not need Hyper-V, because Hyper-V is being replaced by OS-level native virtualization.

So are the rumors true? Is Hyper-V being replaced? We should find out for sure in the next few months. My guess is that Hyper-V is not going away. In fact, I think that Microsoft is going to add Hyper-V to Windows 10 editions that do not currently include it (such as Windows 10 Home).

The rumors of Hyper-V's impending replacement center around some leaked screen captures of the Virtual Machines feature, and it is impossible to know for sure whether those screen captures are authentic. For the sake of this discussion, however, let's assume that the leaked screen captures are real and that early 19H1 builds lack an option to deploy Hyper-V, but do include an option to enable a feature called Virtual Machines.

I think there are several plausible explanations for the screen captures, but here's my theory: I think that Virtual Machines is just a placeholder.

I have been working with and writing about Microsoft products for decades. In that time, I have learned just how seriously Microsoft's marketing and legal departments take branding. My guess is that there is some internal indecision about whether to call the feature "Hyper-V" or "Microsoft Hyper-V." Someone probably opted to use the "Virtual Machines" text as a temporary placeholder. If they had listed the feature as Hyper-V, then there would be a greater risk of the feature slipping through the review process bearing a name that may not match whatever Microsoft ultimately decides to call it.

But what about the idea that Windows 10 could natively support virtualization without Hyper-V? After all, the OS already includes native support for virtual hard drives without Hyper-V. I have given this idea a lot of thought and, personally, I just don't see it happening. There are two main reasons for this.

First, Microsoft released Hyper-V with Windows Server 2008. At that time, VMware already had a huge head start. Microsoft had a lot of catching up to do, and has invested untold amounts of money into building brand recognition for Hyper-V. I doubt that it would undo all of its marketing efforts by removing the Hyper-V name from Windows 10. The only way that I could see Microsoft doing that would be if it wanted to place a greater emphasis on Hyper-V for the enterprise, and was trying to keep Hyper-V from becoming known as a desktop hypervisor.

The other reason why I don't think that Hyper-V will be replaced is because the Virtual Machines feature would have the same requirements as Hyper-V. Think about it. According to the screen captures, Virtual Machines has to be enabled in the same way as Hyper-V. Like Hyper-V, it would still require a hypervisor and a management tool for creating virtual machines.

The idea of Microsoft adding native virtualization support to Windows 10 through Virtual Machines just doesn't hold water, because Windows 10 already has native virtualization support.

To make a long story short, I doubt that there is anything to the Virtual Machines rumors. If Hyper-V really is being replaced by Virtual Machines, however, then I think that the decision will be based purely on marketing, and that the Virtual Machines feature will essentially be Hyper-V in disguise (perhaps with a new management interface).

After all, why would Microsoft create a brand-new hypervisor from scratch when it already has a hypervisor that works really well?

About the Author

Brien Posey is a 16-time Microsoft MVP with decades of IT experience. As a freelance writer, Posey has written thousands of articles and contributed to several dozen books on a wide variety of IT topics. Prior to going freelance, Posey was a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the country's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox. In addition to his continued work in IT, Posey has spent the last several years actively training as a commercial scientist-astronaut candidate in preparation to fly on a mission to study polar mesospheric clouds from space. You can follow his spaceflight training on his Web site.

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