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Friday, January 20, 2012

Running Windows in Virtual Box On A LINUX System

Virtual Box is an application that allows you to run an operating system within another operating system. Virtual box allows you to create one or more virtual machines within a Windows, LINUX, Mac, or Solaris host. With Virtual Box, you are actually running the "guest" operating system within an encapsulated environment. It behaves just as it would if it were installed natively on the hardware. The title of this blog is "Running Windows in Virtual Box On a LINUX System", but you can also run LINUX in Virtual Box on a Windows System.

Some viable uses:
You may be asking "Why do this?" Good question - and one well worth a couple paragraphs.

Running a "Virtual Machine" is an excellent way of testing new software, new releases of operating systems, or performing software quality assurance WITHOUT having to dedicate hardware to a single operating system. You get to keep whatever native environment you are comfortable with while you test or run an application in another environment. If you have a copy of Mac-OS running in a virtual machine, you can see what your web pages look like in a Mac browser without having to own an actual Mac PC.

If you have Windows software that will not work in Wine or Crossover Office, you can simply install Windows within Virtual Box on your LINUX system. The Windows operating system and software simply become as one more application running in LINUX.

A Slick Way Of Trying LINUX Without Commitment
If you would like to "install" LINUX but don't want to re-partition your computer or remove Windows just yet, why not run it within Virtual Box on your existing Windows system? If you don't like Ubuntu, for example, just delete it within Virtual Box and no harm done. You could have several virtual LINUX machines installed so you can compare distros and see how each one would run if it were running "native". Running LINUX in a virtual machine context such as this avoids the need for creating separate partitions for Windows and LINUX. If you decide to keep Windows and NOT use LINUX at all, you have NOT created any changes that can't be undone with a few simple mouse clicks. Pretty cool, huh?

My experiment
A week or so ago, I decided it would be fun to try running Windows VISTA in Virtual Box on a Mint 11 LINUX system.

Using Mint's package manager, I downloaded and installed Virtual Box. When you start virtual box from the menu, a "wizard" will guide you through the steps of selecting what operating system you want to use and how much disk space you want to allocate to that. From there, you will select the install media (DVD, CDROM, network drive, ...) on which the disk image for your selected operating system resides and then proceed to install it within Virtual Box.

The dialog screens are pretty much self-explanatory and I had VISTA installed in about 45 minutes. That is about typical for an install on my hardware, so using a virtualized environment didn't slow down the process any. Once I had VISTA installed, I started Virtual Box and selected 'VISTA' from the list of installed systems. See screen shot below.

A new window containing the Windows VISTA login screen opened on my Mint 11 LINUX desktop. See the screen shot at the top of this post.

The photo below shows the Windows VISTA desktop within a Window in Mint 11 LINUX.

Later on I might try the reverse: Installing LINUX within Virtual Box on a native Windows system.

You can learn more and/or download Virtual Box from

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