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I have old PIV 1.8ghz, 512MB memory, 40GB HDD, computer with Debian squeeze on it. I currently work on it by connecting to it over SSH. I'm interested in testing/learning/trying out/playing with some things on Linux so I would like to set up a virtual machine on this box for this purpose so in case I mess up something pretty bad I won't need to reinstall whole OS ( PC currently doesn't have any monitor either).

Since PC is 32 bit I'm not able to use KVM to which I'm used to. Can I get some recommendation for a technology that would suit my purpose?

P.S. I know that memory is somewhat low, but I intend to use only 1 VM so I hope it will be enough.

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migrated from serverfault.com Dec 24 '11 at 11:58

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2  
You could use a simple chroot. –  Zoredache Dec 20 '11 at 16:56

4 Answers 4

up vote 1 down vote accepted

You can probably run XEN on that machine and run para-virtualized guest OSes. In fact, Debian includes XEN 4.01 in its stable release.

Context: I run XEN on my Asus 1012B. I didn't know it was a 64 bit box, so I put in the 32 bit version of CentOS 5 and later on configured it as a XEN host. Turns out to be useful in testing 32-bit packages, but long term, not a terribly optimal configuration as XEN host. ;)

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Even if the Processor is 64-bit, you may be better off running 32-bit on low-RAM boxes, because a 64-bit OS usually allocates larger blocks for equivalent data structures (int, double, float, string, etc.) –  gWaldo Dec 24 '11 at 15:36

Since that machine is so old, the only option that I can really recommend is virtualbox. I would install a Linux or BSD distro without a gui, install a gui-less virtualbox, and manipulate it entirely through the terminal.

Honestly, your machine is underpowered for anything useful, though. You would be better off using any other non-netbook computer with multiple cores, unless you're already maxing out the memory, even if it's your primary machine.

The VirtualBox command line management tools reference page is here: http://www.virtualbox.org/manual/ch08.html

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Underpowered for anything useful? Not impressed. –  Tim Dec 20 '11 at 16:31
    
I suppose that it depends on what "useful" means to the individual. Personally, I think he'll spend more time trying to trim his bare-metal install down to the bare minimum (a useful exercise in it's own right) than his stated goal of playing with virtualization. –  gWaldo Dec 20 '11 at 16:58
    
The power of a commodore64 was sufficient to landing on the the moon. –  Giovanni Toraldo Dec 24 '11 at 12:44
    
The OP didn't state that that was his goal, and I have yet to see a Commodore64 host a virtualized instance of a modern OS, so I fail to see the relevance. –  gWaldo Dec 24 '11 at 15:32

You can also try some light-weight virtualisation technologies like OpenVZ, VServer, or LXC.

They might be a better fit for a resource constrained machine than more main-stream PV or HVM options such as Xen/KVM.

Debian has them available as well.

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Virtualbox, VMWare (Server was free haven't checked recently), KVM's Grandfather QEmu. I have run Virtualbox on some really old and busted hosts, like P3 and anywhere as little as 256-512 MB RAM.

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1  
VMware Server is still free, however it has reached end of support in June 2010. –  xeon Dec 20 '11 at 16:17
    
@xeon Nooooooo! /endvader –  Tim Dec 20 '11 at 16:30

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