If you haven’t already grabbed the new SharePoint 2010 Virtual Machine images from Microsoft’s downloads, read Barb Mosher’s Get SharePoint 2010 Up and Running with VM from Microsoft
Barb writes an excellent summary of each VM’s purpose and how you can leverage these pre-configured systems to jump start your SharePoint 2010 learning.
The two beta vm’s are available in 700MB chunks in RAR format from public MSDN and are free for evaluation and demonstration.
Windows Server 2008 R2 64bit with Hyper-V is required for this download to work. A dedicated Solid State Disk for the VMs is recommended for best performance, but I’m sure you will do fine with any 7200RPM external drive.
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