As one of the only 'free' platforms, Microsoft's Virtual PC 2007 has an advantage in the value-for-money stakes, but it's also the most basic, and the one that refused to work with the two Linux distributions that we used to test the software suites.

Both Ubuntu 9.04 and the older 8.02 images crashed, so if you're looking to experiment with a wealth of OSes, look elsewhere.

Installing Windows 2000 was reassuringly straightforward, though, and we didn't have any problems updating the client with the Virtual PC tools to add network drives, better graphics support and smoother mouse operation. The performance was strong too, but there's no USB support.

Overall, Virtual PC 2007 is a somewhat blunt introduction to virtualisation, but one that works well enough if you're prepared to put in the time in the first place.

It's also got an obvious bent toward Microsoft's operating systems – a possible deterrent for some.

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