Have you ever needed to test out a new bit of software or a new version of an operating system but didn’t have a spare computer that you could allocate for the testing? If so, the solution is simple. Your computer can run a bit of software that will emulate a computer inside of a computer – a Virtual PC, enabling you to run Operating Systems such as Windows (Desktop and Server), Linux and other PC based systems.
You may already know about the computer in a computer software, but have never found a need to use a use for it. Or perhaps you couldn’t justify the expense of buying an extra bit of software that doesn’t have any obvious curriculum benefits.
There are a number of Virtual PC solutions that can be run from a traditional Desktop system, these include
- Microsoft Hyper-V (Windows 8 Enterprise as well as Windows Server)
- VMWare Workstation(http://www.vmware.com/)
- QEMU (http://wiki.qemu.org/Main_Page)
- VirtualBox (https://www.virtualbox.org/)
With the exception of QEMU, all of these Type 2 Hypervisors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypervisor) have pretty decent GUI’s and features which make them easy to use and understand.
I used to use VMWare Workstation extensively for all of my development and research needs but in recent days have switched to VirtualBox mainly because there is no cost. I tried Hyper-V, but it messed up my Desktop machine networking and didn’t seem overly intuitive for my needs.
Since VMWare give a free trail version you can test the market leaders along with the free VirtualBox Hypervisor so that you can make an informed decision about which product you wish to continue with.
In order to make the most out of a Type 2 hypervisor technology you will require a CPU which supports virtualization, this is usually enabled in the computer BIOS. You will also need plenty of RAM and plenty of Hard Disk space. In my case I have limited my system to 8Gb RAM and have a 256Gb SSD dedicated for building my virtual machines on – the OS lives on its own SSD. Using an SSD removes most of the frustration with installing an OS as you aren’t waiting for hard drives to catch up.