Use cases of running Windows and Linux at the same machine
There are several times that a requirement comes up when a Linux user needs to access a Windows operating system or vice versa. Many times, old software may need to be operated that will not run properly on a Windows 7. There are occasions when you wish to use Wine, which is a free software application that aims to allow computer programs written for Microsoft Windows to run on Unix-like operating systems. If Wine does not operate properly, the only recourse is to use Windows.
Apart from this, software developers may have to develop software that has to operate on multiple operating systems. Earlier, they would need access to several computers each running the different operating systems. Not any more, this can now be done on the same machine, running all the required operating systems at the same time.
This is made possible by running special software called a virtual machine. The operating system under which this application runs is called the “Host” operating system and the operating systems that you will be running subsequently under this virtual machine will each be called the “Guest” operating systems.
Free Virtual Machine Software – VirtualBox
One of the virtual machines that has gained popularity, is easy to use and also free to use, is the VirtualBox. Other similar virtual machines are Parallels, VMWare and Microsoft Virtual PC. Among all of these, VirtualBox has the widest use, since this is the only software of its kind that works on most of the platforms, Linux, Windows, Mac or others.
The operation of VirtualBox is simplicity itself. The software works the same irrespective of the Host platform. A virtual disk has to be created, one for each Guest OS, and this will reside as a file in the real hard disk under the Host OS. How much memory is to be used can be defined while setting up. Other resources, such as optical drives, USB, net connection, that need to be shared can also be defined.
The guest operating system that has to be installed in the VirtualBox can be taken from an installation CD or an ISO image on the hard disk. A point to note, proprietary OS such as Windows will ask for the installation keys during the installation, much the same way as in a normal installation.
After the setup is over, configuration of the new OS can be done in the same way. A 32-bit Host OS can install only a 32-bit Guest OS, but a 64-bit Host could install a 64-bit Guest provided the CPU allows it. This will have to be confirmed by checking out the specifications of the CPU currently in use on the motherboard.
To operate both OS at the same time, the Host has to be run first and then the VirtualBox application. If you have multiple Guest OS installed, then you can select now. Usually, a large amount of RAM is needed to run multiple OS at the same time.
Using VirtualBox in the seamless mode makes it nearly impossible to tell that a Guest OS is currently running. Guest Additions are other additions that enhance the functionality of the Guest OS to bring its operations as close as possible to its independent operation.
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