How-To Geek

The Best Articles for Learning How to Virtualize Operating Systems


Have you always wanted to try Linux but don’t have a spare machine or don’t care to dual boot your main computer? Well, thanks to virtualization technology, you can easily install one operating system inside another on one machine.

The following articles show you how to use some of the more popular virtualization software programs to run Linux in Windows and Windows in Linux and how to run XP mode in Windows 7. We also show you how to create and use virtual hard drives in Windows, and even how to run mobile operating systems on your PC.

VMware Workstation/Player

VMware Workstation is a popular and powerful program for creating virtual machines for running one operating system inside another. VMware Player is a free program that allows you to create and run virtual machines. However, if you want to the ability to create multiple snapshots and clones of your virtual machines, you need to purchase VMware Workstation. The following articles show you how to use VMware Workstation/Player to run Linux in Windows and Windows in Linux, run XP Mode in Windows 7, and even how to run Windows 95 in a virtual machine.


If you don’t want to pay for VMware Workstation, but you want some more features than VMware Player offers, VirtualBox is a good option. It is a free program from Oracle that allows you to create multiple virtual machines running different operating systems. It has a good set of features and can run on computers running Windows, Linux, OS X, and Solaris. One major difference is that VMware Workstation allows you to drag and drop files to copy them between the host machine and the guest OS. As of the writing of this article, VirtualBox only allows you to copy and paste text, not files, between the host and the guest.

The following articles show you how to run Windows 8 in a VirtualBox virtual machine, how to run XP Mode using VirtualBox, how to use VirtualBox to run Linux on your Windows PC, and even how to backup and move VirtualBox virtual machines.


Microsoft Windows Virtual PC

Virtual PC is Microsoft’s virtualization software. It is also free, like VirtualBox. However, it is mostly aimed at running XP Mode in Windows 7 and only runs on Windows 7 computers. The following articles show you how to run XP Mode using Virtual PC without requiring hardware virtualization, how to install Windows 7 inside a virtual machine using Virtual PC, and how to use Virtual PC to run Internet Explorer 7, 8, and 9 on the same computer.

If you want a version of Virtual PC that will run on older versions of Windows, such as Vista, XP, and Server 2003, you can download Virtual PC 2007.


Microsoft’s Hyper-V is the successor to Virtual PC. It can be installed in Windows Server 2008 as a role, or you can install the standalone product as a limited-feature Windows Server 2008 operating system on its own. Hyper-V will be bundled with Windows 8 when it’s released.

The following article shows you how to create a virtual machine in Hyper-V in Windows Server 2008.


Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) Files

One of the more useful features of Windows 7 is the ability to create an extra hard drive you can use to store and encrypt files. These hard drives are called Virtual Hard Disks (VHDs) and the following articles show you how to create them, easily mount and unmount them, resize them, and even how to turn your main operating system into a virtual machine using VHDs.

Mobile Device Operating Systems Emulators

In addition to virtualizing operating systems like Windows and Linux, you can also experiment with operating systems from mobile devices. The following articles show you how to run Android, BlackBerry, and webOS on your PC.

Thanks to virtualization, you can easily run multiple operating systems without having to spend a lot of money on multiple computers or having to reboot your computer every time you want to switch systems. You can even have multiple operating systems running at once, as long as you have the hard disk space and available memory.

Lori Kaufman is a writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.

  • Published 02/11/12

Comments (8)

  1. TheFu

    Those are desktop virtualization tools. Generally, these aren’t stable enough for server virt needs – months of uptime.

    Server virtualization includes:
    * KVM
    * QEMU
    * Xen
    * OpenVZ
    * LXC
    * UML
    * BSD-Jails
    * VMware ESX
    * VMware ESXi
    * whatever Microsoft has

    They each of good uses. If you are a Linux guy that wants to run 1 Windows VM, KVM is probably the best choice these days. You can run both KVM/QEMU VMs and LXC (containers) on the same hardware simultaneously. Now that is cool. LXC has pretty low overhead when compared to the HVM options. Both KVM and LXC are part of the Linux kernel development, so you don’t have to worry about some 3rd party patching the kernel.

    The ESX(i) options are extremely stable, but you’re delving into the commercial world and commercial software cost models. ESX(i) is pretty specific about the hardware it likes too. Out of 4 machines here, only 1 would boot with the ESXi install disk. They target “server” hardware, which makes perfect sense.

    Virtualization is cool.

  2. Virtman

    Proxmox ( is a great virtualization os. Its quick and easy to install and a snap to install an os, either from a physical cd or ISO. Their wiki even shows how to convert from a physical server to virtual.

  3. Philip Sydell

    I understand that Acronis has the ability to make and use a virtual machine. Can you elaborate on that?

  4. jeorgekabbi

    you forgot parallels software as a desktop virtualization software , it have got high performance.

  5. Cambo

    The distinction should be made that Hyper-V is NOT a Type 2 Hypervisor. It is infact a Type 1, and not really a “successor” to Virtual PC. It was an entirely different product.

    Virtualbox, VMWare Player/Workstation and Parallels are Type 2 and run on top of a Desktop OS. Hyper-V runs on the bare-metal and not designed for home use.

  6. Martinho Neves

    Philip Sydell, acronis mounts the file, doesn’t allow to use it as a Virtual Machine

  7. Dean

    Hi its my first time trying out a virtual machine i used virtualbox and was wondering why is the virtual machine running slow?

  8. Barbarosa

    I use VirtualBox and have no problems with speed.
    The VB website has extensive and well-populated forums. I bet you’ll get a good response there.

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