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I've read a pile of suggestions both on this site and elsewhere, but they all seem to be a couple years old, or not quite my situation.

A family member has got a windows PC (with a Pentium 4 w/o hardware virtualization support) that keeps winding up infected and crudding up. As I would like to minimize family IT support time, I figured the easiest thing to do was to wipe it, put Linux on it, install XP pro (they don't want a more recent one) in a VirtualBox virtual machine, and take a snapshot. I'd set up a shared drive on the host where they could store all their stuff, so that when it inevitably gets hosed, all I have to do is roll back to the snapshot.

This leaves me with the question - which host distro would be the best choice? I'm looking for three things - ease of maintenance on my part (updates, configuration, etc.; I have a background in slackware, but have some exposure to Ubuntu), minimalism (so that the bulk of the system's resources can be devoted to the VM), and virtualization-readiness (say, so I can have the computer automatically go from power up to virtual machine power up, thereby minimizing the user exposure to the host).

Obviously, I would like it if it has all of the standard tools that will allow me to do remote maintenance, also.

I've looked at Ubuntu server JeOS, and it seems enticing, but I can't seem to find out whether it can be used on a desktop system, i.e., with a GUI, etc.

Any advice would be appreciated!

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closed as not constructive by MaQleod, Sathya Apr 23 '11 at 20:30

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2 Answers

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Personally I would use Ubuntu Server so it doesn't have a GUI, then write my own scripts to, at boot up, launch a bare X server and the VM's display application (VBoxSDL) in full screen mode, so that the user first sees the Ubuntu text boot-up then it jumps straight into the Windows Loading screen. You could also have it so that if Windows is shut down it then proceeds to close down Ubuntu.

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Do you have any more info, or resources you can point me to? Everywhere I've looked seems to only talk about using VirtualBox headless, or putting a full X install on Ubuntu server. –  Nate Apr 23 '11 at 18:43
alas this is not something I have actually done, so only theoretical. I'd install ubuntu server, then apt-get install xorg-server or something similar for the x-server (not sure of the exact package name), then it'd be a matter of writing some upstart scripts (again something I haven't attempted personally). –  Majenko Apr 23 '11 at 18:54
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I would really think before putting a XP VirtualBox session on a computer without hardware virtualization support. Without hardware-assisted virtualization, XP is going to be VERY slow.

I would recommend Windows Steady State (link). It has been discontinued by Microsoft, for XP should work fine. Steady State will allow you to keep important files and setting from being modified.

An alternative is "Deep Freeze" a commercial product that is actively being supported.

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"VERY slow" is subjective. Slow how? So slow that it takes 30 minutes to drag and drop an icon? So slow that you start MS Word in the morning before leaving for work so that you can finally use it after you're done eating dinner? Or just too slow to play the latest FPS? –  Nate Apr 23 '11 at 18:42
My laptop doesn't have hardware virtualization. I run Windows 7 in Ubuntu and it is perfectly fast enough to be useable. True, I can't play games on it, but all my office tools work perfectly fast enough. The hardware virtualization is only required for full 64-bit emulation. –  Majenko Apr 23 '11 at 18:56
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