Installing VirtualBox virtual machine
Virtual machine software allows you to run multiple operating systems on the same piece of hardware. Instead of multibooting which only allows one OS to run at once, the VM runs a guest OS on a host system and even allows multiple operating systems to run at once and interact with each other. So you could have a host operating system, say Windows 7, running Linux Mint and Windows XP in their own windows.
Oracle's VirtualBox (formerly Sun microsystems) is freely available to run on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and Solaris systems and supports numerous guest operating systems. I have used other virtualisation software over the years, such as VMWare and Microsoft Virtual PC (now Windows Virtual PC) but find current iterations of VirtualBox extremely flexible to use.
Grab the linstaller from the VirtualBox.org website. Once up and running, everything happens from the Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager. From here we can configure and install each VM operating system..
Creating a new Virtual machine
You will require the install discs for each operating system used, although VirtualBox can install from disk images too (including .iso, .ima). You will also need space on your hard disk and a portion of RAM to allocate to the new operating system VM.
In VirtualBox Manager, click on the New button and type in a name for the new VM. At this point VirtualBox will attempt to second-guess the Type and Version of your OS. but these can be modified in the fields below the name. You also get a colourful matching icon for your troubles.
Hitting Next brings up the memory size option with a recommended preset. This depends on how much system RAM is installed and how much you can afford to give to the VM. As usual more is better but note that you may want to run more than one VM at once and each will take from the host operating system's RAM capacity. Like most settings, the RAM allocation can be adjusted later after the VM is created.
Next comes the hard drive creation. Although the guest operating system will believe it is installing on a physical computer motherboard, the VM emulates all the hardware - pulling off a brilliant job at tricking the guest OS. The virtual hard drive is actually a file which VirtualBox creates to function like a real hard disk. For a fresh install, select Create a virtual hard drive now..
The Next button brings up the hard drive type. The features of each type depends on several factors, but usually the default VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image) is the one to go for.
Hitting Next brings up the choice between a dynamic or fixed disk. This is an important decision and a matter of personal choice; a dynamic disk can grow if more space is needed in the VM but can make it slower to run. However, note that a fixed disk cannot later be resized in the VirtualBox Manager. The hard disk file will be created to the specified size.
On the Next screen make a note of where the VM files will be created and stored, by clicking on the little folder icon to the right. The default location is C:\Users\%username%\VirtualBox VMs\ on a Windows 7 host. I usually select the same name and this will become the subdirectory name where the VM files are kept.
The hard disk size depends on recommended install size for that operating system but again, will use hard disk space on the host system. Remember if you chose fixed disk previously, this size cannot easily be changed, so allow for programs and updates and other bloatworthy activities.
Finally, click Create and you're presented with a brand new virtual machine icon on the keft side of the VirtualBox Manager screen.
Next: Configuring a VirtualBox virtual machine.
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