Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Virtual machines and you

One of the hot topics in the IT industry is virtualization. Basically what this is, is software that creates an environment — on an existing PC — into which you can install (and run) another operating system [OS]; in short, running a PC on top of your PC.. which gives you two PCs. This “on top of” machine is called a “virtual machine“.

Tip of the day: Get more out of your PC by using a virtual environment. I must take a moment to state that it is the power of the newer generations of PCs that allow us to take advantage of machine virtualization. VM “shares” resources (CPU, RAM) with the existing install… so if you’re barely clunking along as it is, forget about VMs and click here to read my article(s) on when it’s time for a new machine.

How can this benefit you? One of the main advantages is when you are thinking about a dual-boot install, or would like to do away with an existing dual-boot set up — say, for security reasons. Instead of partitioning your hard drive, and using FAT32 to run (boot to) either Windows 98 or XP, format your drive in NTFS, install XP, and run 98 inside the virtual environment. (I am using Windows 98 as an example. You may want to run a Linux distro, and learn about Open Source. The fact is you can run any OS that you have a license for… except Vista.)
If you do this, and create a shared folder for the VM on XP, you will be able to switch back and forth between the two and share files with both OS’s.

Another advantage of using a VM is, it loads much like “mounting” a disk image. You can make multiple ‘snapshots’ of your VM, and load the one of your choosing. This is an absolutely fantastic method for dealing with security issues. I know several geeks who run an XP VM on their XP machine– they use the VM version for their daily surfing and usage, and as a “sandbox” for testing downloaded programs and patches/Updates. At the end of the day, they just close the VM, and when they open it again (unless they take a ‘snapshot’ and Save those changes to the VM) their pristine VM loads: no browsing history, no spyware, no trace of yesterday’s activity… just a brand-new XP machine.
By keeping a copy of the VM snapshot in another location, they always have a full system backup on hand. (And all my readers know about the importance of recovery backups!)

These are just two uses and applications for virtual machines (VMs). You may be able to think of others. You are not just limited to one VM, either — but each VM (unless it is an Open Source OS, like Linux) does require a valid Product Key/license. This is not a way to cheat.

Today’s free link(s): The most popular virtual machine software is put out by VMware. The free offerings are VMware Server (don’t worry about the use of the word “server”) and VMware Player (which is a web browsing sandbox). Not only is this a flexible (highly compatible with your particular hardware) program, but VMware offers several pre-configured Open Source ‘snapshots’, called “appliances”, that you can download and run without going through an OS install process.

Microsoft also offers free virtual machine software, that some people argue works better with Microsoft OS’s. From website: “Virtual PC 2007 is a powerful software virtualization solution that allows you to run multiple PC-based operating systems simultaneously on one workstation.”

Either way you decide, you are not making fundamental changes to your hard drive or currently installed operating system. This is just a program, like Excel or Word is a program. Simply uninstall it if you find you don’t like or need it.. but I doubt very much that you ever will– it’s just too useful and safe.

Copyright 2007 © Tech Paul, All Rights Reserved.

Share this post :

September 8, 2007 - Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, file system, hardware, how to, PC, tech, Virtual Machine, Windows, XP

No comments yet.

Post your Comment/Question

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: