How to: Create and Use Virtual Machines

The best method you can use to run another operating system in a window on your desktop involves the use of a virtual machine. Virtual machines can help you to run software, which are suitable for other operating systems than yours.

Fortunately, there are many helpful and free virtual machines. Therefore, configuring one of your choice will not be so difficult. You will just need to use the installation media of the operating system that you want to use.

NOTE: This requirement is free, in case you intend to install Linux in a virtual machine

What is a Virtual Machine

Virtual machines are programs, which can create virtual computer systems with all their required virtual hardware devices. Then the virtual PC runs as a process in a window on your current operating system. Furthermore, you can boot an operating system installer disc in the virtual machine and the operating system will react, as if it is running on a real computer. The operating system will consider your virtual machine as a physical one. Therefore, whenever you want to experiment on an operating system, launch your virtual machine program and use the desired system in a window on your desktop.

The operating system of your virtual machine is stored inside a virtual hard drive, found in your real hard drive. You will notice that the virtual drive file is shown as your real hard drive.

Be aware that the operating system, installed in your virtual machine, will not be so fast as they would be, if they were installed in your real hardware. For instance, avoid playing ”heavy” games that require a lot of CPU power and very good graphics.

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Why you should Create a Virtual Machine

Virtual machines can be used for many serious reasons, besides having fun exploring another operating system. For example, you can learn more about an operating system, without uninstalling your current one. This is a great opportunity, in case you want to find out more about an operating system, as well as its new edition. This means that you can test the new Windows 9 version, once its preview is available, without even installing it in your real hardware.

On top of that, virtual machines allow you to use software of their installed operating systems. This feature can be very useful, especially for Linux users, who will be able to use Windows or Mac desktop applications. Windows and Mac users could also take advantage of this feature, if they want to experiment with Linux, without using a dual-boot configuration or dealing with Cygwin.

Finally, virtual machines can act like sandboxes of your system. This means that all software in your virtual machine will remain in your real system. This feature lets you to test risky programs and find out more about their functionalities. You can also test the functionality of insecure operating systems. For example, you will be able use applications that are suitable only for a specific version of an operating system.

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Virtual Machine Programs

There are many virtual machine program, between of which you can select the most suitable for your needs. Let’s see some of them:

  • VirtualBox( Windows, Linux, Mac OS X ) This program is very popular, because it is free and open-sourced. On top of that, VirtualBox does not have a premium version, so all of its features are available for you right after the installation.
  • VMware Player: ( Windows, Linux ) VMware Player is a free standard virtual machine. This programs provides you with many features, but its advanced ones require your payment, in order to use them. This means you will have to upgrade your Player to VMware’s Workstation.
  • VMware Fusion: ( Mac OS X ) This VMware program refers specifically to Mac users, who will have to buy it, so they can use one of VMware’s products, because VMware Player is not available for them.
  • Parallels Desktop: ( Mac OS X ) Mac users can take advantage of the Parallels Desktop too. Both Parallel Desktop and Fusion are more polished than the other program and they refer to Mac users, who would like to use Windows programs.

Although VirtualBox is quite handy for Windows users, Macs users may prefer to purchase Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion.

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Configure a Virtual Machine

The setup process of a virtual machine is quite simple.

  • First of all, download and install the virtual machine program that suits you.
  • Once you do it, launch the program and click on its button to create a new virtual machine. When you do this, the setup process will begin by choosing the operating system you want to install.
  • After this, the installation wizard will select the appropriate settings for the selected operating system. If you want to speed up the process, just select the default settings.
  • Finally, you will be prompted to insert the system’s installation media. For example, you should either insert an ISO file with a Windows and Linux installer, or the system’s physical CD or DVD. Then, the virtual machine will boot and install the selected operating system from that installation media.

If you want to shut down the virtual machine, you could simply close the window. In case you want to use it again, just launch the program and double-click on the virtual machine.

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Virtual machines can be very helpful, in case you decide to bring your ”geek side” on the surface by experimenting with other operating systems. In addition, they allow you to test software, which you could never use, because they are not compatible with your real operating system. Go ahead and try out those cool programs.