Using Virtual Machines for Controls Programming

Full disclosure: I like using Virtual Machines, so I am going to be biased towards them.  They give me a lot of flexibility in terms of OS and installed software.

Virtual Machines for Controls Programming

I used to use a single OS for Controls Programming.  This was somewhat comforting because I only had to worry about my laptop and its OS.  If that was working, I was good to go. However, I eventually got tired of having so many programs start-up when I booted my laptop.

If you have Microsoft Office installed (which could be the case because it has a lot of uses besides programming – email, documents, etc.) along with a bunch of Rockwell Automation software and then try to add InTouch Wonderware, you could have some issues.  Namely, your PC could slow way down and be filled with junk that you don’t necessarily want running each time you boot.

On top of that, you might need GPProEX for your next project. Or you might need an old Modicon editing software package.  What if the software you need only runs well on Win7 (like Rockwell Automation’s Logix 5000 v26.03 for example)?  Then what do you do if your primary laptop is running Win10?  I decided to use Virtual Machines for Controls Programming.

There are lots of different flavors of Virtual Machines. I am not going to go into those here. If you don’t like the flavor I am discussing, just google virtual machines and find something you like.  I have used VMWare for a long time. It has not always been great.

In the early days, it was pretty touchy. I was on a start-up at a plant one time and did not shutdown my VM when I went to lunch. When I got back, my VM was corrupt. I had to scramble to piece together a new VM using an old image. It was a nightmare.  That doesn’t happen very often if at all anymore.

VMWare does a good job of putting your OS to sleep and protecting its virtual drive. It is very solid right now. I probably just cursed it now, but I hope I didn’t.  I am running VMWare 15.5.6 at the moment. I have a couple of Win7/Win10 blended VM’s and one pure Win10 VM. I have a WinXP VM was well.

VMWare lets you save snapshots at any time. A snapshot preserves the Virtual Machine exactly as it is for all time. You can give the snapshot a descriptive title and add more info about the snapshot in the description box as well.  I add notes about which programs are installed on the VM so that I can easily get to whichever VM I need at a certain time.

For example, I have a Virtual Machine for Controls Programming with InTouch WW v10.1 installed and another one with InTouch WW v11.1 installed. That is really important and useful because you cannot have more than one version over InTouch installed at the same time. It stinks yes, but with a Virtual Machine you can get around it.

I store all my Virtual Machine images on a second drive in my laptop.  I spent some money and made the second drive a large (4TB) SSD.  I like to do it this way because I don’t want to be limited by the size of my boot drive which is fairly small (250GB).

For Rockwell Automation products, I run the Factory Talk Activation manager on the boot drive and share it with all the VM’s.  That way I only have to have one licensed installed and bound to my laptop.  It works well, and I am very thankful Rockwell lets you do that.

Well, I hope this has been somewhat helpful to you. I know it is light on deep tech stuff, but it is more or less just my thoughts on Virtual Machines versus running everything on your host OS.  – Erik