August 23, 2017 at 8:45 AM
When one Operating System isn’t enough at home, what do you do? Welcome to the world of virtual machines. What is a virtual machine you ask? Well the simple way to put it is a virtual machine (or VM) is when you run a software version of a computer from within your main computer's operating system. Today we’re going to be looking at why you would run one and also some of the best Virtual machine applications that are available for the end user.
Why would I need to do this?
One of the most common reasons that someone would be running a VM on a home PC is if their current computer had a new operating system and maybe they had the need to run an old legacy application or favourite game that no longer has support for a modern version of the OS. With a virtual machine, you have the ability to install the older OS and sometimes configure the specifications like RAM or processor power that will be required. The virtual environment runs like an application in its own window much like using Word or Google Chrome with the ability to stretch the size of the window, minimise to the dock or even run at full screen like you’re on a different computer.
Some other reasons you could be running a virtual machine are:
- Protection – Software development or malicious software testing without affecting your main PC
- Wanting to run Windows/Linux on an Apple Computer
- Data recovery – Running a hard drive out of a dead computer to recover information
- Testing new or beta released OS’s that are coming out
- Networking – Testing server’s configurations or client setups without the need for multiple physical computers
What is required?
If you’re planning to run some virtual machines, there are a few things to keep in mind. VM’s can be resource hungry on the computer that it’s running on. You will need to make sure that the host computer has plenty of RAM installed, storage and processor power to be able to hand both the local OS and the VM’s that are open. There will need to be a good balance to make sure that your computer's OS carries on running smoothly while resources have been allocated to run the VM. Configuration can allow you to specify how much RAM to borrow from the system so you don’t want push it too far or you’re going to have a bad time.
Let’s say you’re running Windows 10 that has a recommendation of 8GB of required RAM and you needed to run Windows 7 in a VM. You would need to look at doubling the RAM in the PC to 16GB as you could allocate either 4GB or 8GB to the VM environment so that both systems run smoothly at the same time.
Some software and operating systems require licensing so you need to be aware that if you have a single user license for some software running already on a PC, then running that also in the VM is no different from trying to install this on another computer elsewhere. You may be required to purchase additional copies/licenses for some software to enable it to work in the VM.
Virtual Machine Application
There are a few applications out there to choose from but here are some of the common ones being used today
VirtualBox - Multiple Platforms (Free)
Not only VirtualBox is a powerful Virtual machine application loaded with terrific features, it’s also completely free and available to anyone to download. This software requires little more than a recent Intel or AMD processor, while boasting seamless integration and switching capabilities.
The software functions nearly identically regardless of the host platform, and even offers 3d virtualisation, multi-screen resolutions and hardware support. This may not be the quickest or most industrious when compared to similar offerings but then again, you get what you pay for.
QEMU – Linux (Free)
The open-source QEMU, short for “Quick EMUlator” is ideal for the Linux power user who wants a customisable VM. Through a process involving dynamic binary translation, QEMU can emulate an array of hardware and software types, while skirting host administrative privileges to run guest OS.
The software executes the guest code directly on the host machine, thus attaining near-native performance. This is great for creating pocket-sized VMs that conveniently fit on a portable flash drive. You’ll need to be comfortable with the command prompt to get this up and running but the open source nature of the project makes it one of the most regularly updated choices out there.
VMware - Multiple Platforms (Free - $250USD)
VMware has been in the game since ’98 so they know a thing or two these days. There are three differing pieces of software: VMware Workstation ($250USD), VMware Fusion ($80) and VMware Workstation Player (Free)
The Workstation package is ideal for professional users who desire a powerhouse virtual machine capable of simultaneously running applications on multiple guest operating systems. Fusion is a simpler application designed for home users who want to run something like Windows on their Mac computers. VMware Workstation Player is free for personal use and caters to those looking to run VMs on Windows or Linux that have already been created by another system
VMware may not be the easiest software to use but the installation is quick, integrations between OS is seamless and the guest software runs near native speeds. This remains the most stable and reliable option out there
Parallels Desktop – Mac Only ($80USD)
When it comes to the delivering the Windows experience to a Mac user, Parallels Desktop is, well, unparalleled. The latest version works seamless with the Mac OS and gives the ability of running Windows environment alongside macOS or simulating a Windows application launching natively on the Apple platform via coherence mode. Parallels can also emulate Linux and Solaris operating systems, but the tightest integrations remain when coupled with Windows.
The software features a simple setup wizard for beginners and moreover, it supports Retina displays and advanced 3d graphics. Unfortunately, you’ll have to look elsewhere for more advanced tools and customization, but for most Mac users, Parallels is probably the best options.
If you ever have any queries about any application you are looking to install, or concerns about setting up your own Virtual Machine, please don’t hesitate to contact our helpful team on the service desk who will assist you with any of your queries.
Created by - Shay Matheson