What You Said: Do You Use Virtual Machines?

By Jason Fitzpatrick on August 19th, 2011

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Earlier this week we asked you to sound off with your Virtual Machine adventures, tips, and tricks. Now we’re back to highlight what you said in this week’s recap.

Virtual Machines are popular tool among How-To Geek readers, many of you use them at work and at home for everything from software testing to quick OS switching. Mudslinger Ning highlights one of the best reasons for a home user to virtualize:

Main OS: Linux Mint
Virtual system: Virtualbox (however I have VMware handy for a machine I plan to use as a server)

VM’s frequently used:
– Windows XP (for a few legacy applications that I still like to use – the OS is intergrated to access the same files as my main linus OS home folders)
– a second Windows XP or similiar setup with isolated connections so that I can test some questionable things or salvage data from a few friend’s computers by running the required apps on their backed up data.
– Turnkey linux variants (for local offline testing of wordpress and similiar website hosting setups)
– Random Linux Distros for experimentation and exploring new setups.

Main reasons why:
– Limited resources to experiment with (only one decent computer)
– I would rather screw up experimental settings on a VM that I can reverse the damages on, thus saving time and effort rebuilding borked configurations.
– and I want to embrace new things but still be able to use my trusty old tools.

It’s impossible to over-emphasize the value of “thus saving time and effort rebuilding borked configurations”. The feeling you get when you’ve screwed something up in a VM and can just click a save point to instantly set things back is priceless.

HTG reader RAM highlights a rather novel use of Virtual Machines:

Absolutely! when I get a new laptop at work, the first thing I do is install VMWare workstation on it. I clean up unused files and programs on the old machine, and create a virtual machine of it. Since the hard drive size has usually doubled or better, i can install the VM of the old laptop on the new laptop, allowing me to access those ‘once a week’ or ‘once a quarter’ applications. I install applications that I use daily directly on the new machine. The best part – when i find i’m not using the VM of the old laptop frequently, it can be moved to a USB or eSata drive for long term storage, freeing up additional space.

Virtualizing an old installation to keep it around (without having to keep around the original computer or HDD) is quite clever.

BLT-MN shares a different twist on RAM’s “come back to it later” technique:

I’m an Industrial Controls Engineer, and I create a VM for each major project, with just the software I need to complete the job. That way, I can come back to it in the future, even with a different PC, and jump right in with the same software versions, etc. Big time saver.

It’s also a great way to set up a nicely personalized work-space within a restrictive IT environment.

If the project was in depth and high-value enough this seems like a worthwhile time investment.

For those of you interested in virtualization but not sure where to start, make sure to check out some of our previous guides on the topic such as How To Create a Virtual Machine in Windows 7 Using Virtual PC, HTG Explains: What is a Virtual Machine Hypervisor?, How To Turn a Physical Computer Into A Virtual Machine with Disk2vhd, and How To Run Ubuntu in Windows 7 with VMware Player.

While you’re at it, hit up the comments on the original Ask the Readers post for more tips and tricks.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/19/11
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