Microsoft usually releases new Windows 11 virtual machines every month, shortly after Patch Tuesday updates. However, the company skipped December 2023, leaving those using its evaluation virtual machines hanging without a newer release. The wait is finally over, and Microsoft has a new set of fresh Windows 11 virtual machines you can use for free for 90 days.
Windows 11 Development Environment (that is the official name for Microsoft’s Windows 11-based virtual machines) version 2401 is based on Windows 11 Enterprise version 22H2 with build number 22621.3007, the latest Patch Tuesday update released on January 9, 2024. As usual, it includes all the tools and apps one will need for building Windows applications:
- Visual Studio 2022 Community Edition with UWP, .NET Desktop, Azure, and Windows App SDK for C# workloads.
- Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 with Ubuntu preinstalled.
- Windows Terminal.
- Developer Mode turned on by default.
There is still no Windows 11 version 23H2-based virtual machines, so expect them in February or March 2024.
You can use Microsoft’s free Windows 11 virtual machines for free without purchasing a license key or activation. Moreover, Microsoft will not even let you do that—the FAQ section makes it clear that Windows 11 Development Environment VMs do not support activation with a product key. If the downloaded virtual machine shows an activation error, run the built-in Windows Activation Troubleshooter or wait a few hours for the problem to resolve itself automatically.
Windows 11 Development Environment virtual machines are available in four pre-built configurations: Hyper-V Gen 2, VMWare, VirtualBox, and Parallels (for macOS). You need at least 70GB of free space on your drive (double that since you must unpack it before installing) and a minimum of 8GB of RAM.
You can download a free Windows 11 virtual machine from the official website. Version 2401 will expire on April 9, 2024.