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Currently, I dual-boot Ubuntu and Windows XP (each is installed on its own partition). I prefer Ubuntu, but there are a few programs I need Windows for. I'm not a Linux guru.

I dislike rebooting whenever I need to do something in Windows. I've heard of virtual machines, but I don't know much about them. Can someone give me simple answers to these questions?

1) Is this a good fit for using a VM? 2) Would the Windows programs still have access to USB ports, the video card, etc? 3) How would I set it up? (I'm most comfortable with using the GUI to install software, and definitely prefer using package management if possible.) Does it take advanced skills, or is it pretty simple?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Excellent guide at Lifehacker- The Beginner's Guide to Creating Virtual Machines with VirtualBox. Goes through the stages, has lots of links to other resources. Should cover what you need.

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+1 Vbox is fine, allows access to USB ports, Windows guests can run in seamless mode, etc. –  Molly7244 Dec 15 '09 at 5:11

A virtual machine will give you a pretty good experience. What you won't get is any 3D acceleration from the OS within the virtual machine. Some software, like, VMWare support it experimentally, however, it's not really usable.

You have two options for a decent experience, VMWare or VirtualBox. VMWare is commercial software so you'll have to pay for it. It's well supported, fast, and will allow you to boot your existing windows partition within the virtual machine (quite a few caveats with this but it's not a horrible mess like it used to be). VirtualBox is open source and developed by SUN. It'll probably be able to be installed right from your package manager. It doesn't support running your existing windows partition nearly as well as VMWare and everything to get that working properly is a bit hackish. Other than that distinction both are pretty decent. I'd go with VirtualBox if you do not need to use your existing install and don't mind reinstalling windows into the virtual machine and migrating your data.

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VMWare Player is free, and can now create VMs. VirtualBox has open-source & closed-source versions. The open-source version doesn't support USB, and is what is usually in the repos. The closed-source version can be freely downloaded from their website. I recommend VBox for new users, since it's guest additions are slightly easier to install than VMWare's. –  Joe Internet Dec 15 '09 at 10:03

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