I've never used a virtual machine, but I'd to start..

What's the easiest setup in terms of software and operating system? What's free? Any tips for someone completely new to the virtual machine scene?

  • 1
    Well, first off, which operating system do you use or are most comfortable with?
    – iglvzx
    Jan 23 '12 at 4:25
  • @iglvzx, Unfortunately, only windows. I would also like to test on Windows. Jan 23 '12 at 4:39
  • possible duplicate of My First Virtual Machine Jan 23 '12 at 8:33

Well, Oracle VirtualBox has a free version that runs Windows, Linux etc. and free for non-commercial use. It's pretty easy to start with, too.

UPDATE 2014: Unfortunately, one core developer on VirtualBox team decided to screw up compatibility and basic functionality in favor of trying to secure guest OS from the malware on the host (which is outright impossible), and since version 4.3.14 it's unusable (works very slow, causes blue screens on host machine or does not run at all)

Either use VirtualBox 4.3.12 or use Hyper-V which comes free with Windows 8 (you have to enable it in Windows Features box).

  • Awesome, do you mean the program is free, or using Windows on it is free. Are there any free versions of Windows? Jan 23 '12 at 4:40
  • 2
    The program is free. You can install any trial version of Windows as long as you're learning, but then you'll probably have to buy another windows license.
    – wizzard0
    Jan 23 '12 at 4:42
  • What's the best OS to use in this case? I see a lot of people mentioning windows server 2008. Is there a reason? Jan 24 '12 at 19:53
  • I think the easiest setup is to use Windows 7 on host machine and Windows XP on the virtual (guest) machine. Server 2008 is nice, very tweakable system, but costs a lot and somewhat awkward to use if you never used it before.
    – wizzard0
    Jan 25 '12 at 8:09

I personally really like VirtualBox, especially since I can install it directly from the Ubuntu repositories. but whichever one you choose will probably come down to which you need. If you plan on migrating instances to Amazon's EC2 for example, Xen would be your favorite. There's also VMWare player, which is free, and an upgraded version that isn't.

Play around with several, and get the feel for them. (But not at the same time on the same host; I'm sure they don't play well together, because they all access the low-level stuff of the host.)

  • Vm inside a vm to test them out without installing them to the same machine? Lol Jan 23 '12 at 8:03
  • I bet its possible, but it really wouldn't be a good idea---VMs aren't that good yet.
    – jpaugh
    Jan 23 '12 at 9:11
  • it is possible, and it isn't good. :-)
    – Sirex
    Jan 23 '12 at 11:04
  • I usually keep around 3-5 virtual machines (to test software on different OSes) running on my desktop - but it has 6 cores and 32 gb of RAM :) But they compete for hard disk like crazy, even RAID0 does not help much...
    – wizzard0
    Jan 23 '12 at 12:08

If you are using Windows 7, you can also use VirtualPC for free. If you currently have Windows 7 Pro or higher, you can also downlpad a licensed copy of Windows XP from Microsoft as well

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