Ever want to run Windows XP/Vista on a Mac? Ever want to try out Linux on your PC without having to remove or uninstall Windows? If so, Virtualization is your answer. Virtualization is becoming a more popular and easier way to install multiple operating systems on one computer without compromising speed or having to deal with complicated installs. In most cases, a simple Virtual Disk Image (VDI) file is created and acts as a partition on your computer’s hard drive. The fear of creating or deleting a partition that could wipe your hard drive is simply no longer a fear. All of the virtualization packages discussed here offer networking capabilities and file sharing between the host OS and guest OS.
The benefits of virtualization are numerous. I have a ton of old software for Windows 98, XP, and even DOS that sits in a big tub in my closet. Though most of these programs are obsolete, some are still useful and many are fun to revisit. From a server administrator’s perspective, virtualization allows for less physical machines, increasing the functionality of one computer.
It’s important to remember that even though virtualization gives you the ability to run multiple operating systems, you still need to have the actual install CD/DVD and legal license to take advantage of its benefits.
There are some virtualization software packages that provide excellent quality and user support, but because I’m a cheapo, I opt for the freeware and Open Source alternatives. The virtualization software I’m most familiar with and have used for several months is VirtualBox. VirtualBox is an Open Source virtualization package whose parent company, Innotek, was recently purchased by Sun Microsystems. VirtualBox has been easy to work with and easy to install, yet it remains in beta. From a Mac user’s perspective, I have enjoyed the ability of running Window and Linux from OS X. I would strongly recommend VirtualBox to anyone wanting an Open Source alternative to virtualization.
I stumbled onto QEMU, specifically the Mac port called Q, and installed it on my PowerPC 800mhz G4 iBook. I was looking for a virtualization package that would work with the PowerPC architecture and run Windows or Linux. I was looking for ways of making my iBook more practical and useful. It was a novel idea and command line versions of Linux worked pretty well, but the iBook couldn’t handle rendering another GUI. The setup and installation of Q was beyond easy– a task my grandma could handle. There is a great repository of different operating systems to install that are pre-configured. All you have to do is download them. I haven’t tried it on my Intel MacBook but imagine the speed would be dramatically improved.
Virtualization that cost:
I had the benefit of playing around with VMWare and Parallels when they were in beta release. I found that both of these packages were smooth, easy to install, and provided excellent speed. If you’re serious about virtualization and have the extra money then I’d recommend investigating one of these programs in-depth.
What virtualization options do you use to be more mobile?