How-To Geek

What You Said: Do You Use Virtual Machines?


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

Comments (9)

  1. GMJones

    didnt know i could save my guest os settings to another machine. wondering if that requires a reinstall in the virtual machine?

  2. Matthew

    I triple-boot Windows 7, Windows XP and Ubuntu. I have webOS and Android x86 in a virtual machine. I used to have XP in a virtual machine, but the performance loss was very noticeable, so I decided to triple-boot.

  3. Anonymous

    Sometimes, booting “for real” is what it takes to get the job done – but only sometimes. However, you would be surprised how often a VM can/will help. Using virtual machines is definitely a time saver when the host OS and it’s resources are up to the challenge. So anyone worth his/her metal should at least be dealing with VM’s.

    I also hear Windows 8 is heading in the direction of using VM’s integrated into the actual host. So you “geeks” better get used to the idea…

  4. Nafisa

    I am using ubuntu 11.04 as Host and Windows XP as guest under virtualbox. Virtualbox is superb. The only problem i am facing is I am not able to share my HP Laserjet 1018 between the host and the guest. I use this setup just because I cannot run a couple of applications under ubuntu as they are windows based and there are not equivalents which provide cross platform compatibility under ubuntu.

  5. Vinayak

    The only reason that i use virtual machines is to try out new os’es without burning them to a disk.

  6. Saptashwa

    I dual-boot with Mac OS X Snow Leopard & Windows 7. Have Leopard on VMWare in Windows 7 for those quirky moments. Have Ubuntu & Kubuntu on VirtualBox. Planning to install Fedora as well.

  7. Idhayan

    My host OS is Ubuntu 11.04. I hv installed virtualbox and guest OSs are XP and ubuntu 10.0 for some networking practice.

    Whenever i try to boot both the guest OSs simultaneously, one OS is getting aborted.
    How to run both guest OSs simultaneously? Or recommend any other virtualisation software for running 2 OSs simultaneously.

    Thank u.

  8. Ron

    @ Nafisa. Have you looked at WINE? It will allow you to run Windows applications in Linux. Google WINE and find their website. You will need to download the correct version for your Linux OS and Windows version (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, etc., Windows 7, XP, etc.) The working group for WINE has an excellent website andplenty of information that explains how it works. It seems that there was something about WINE in an article here on HTG unless I amm in error. Good luck.

  9. Mo

    Tried Parallels and VMWare Fusion, disliked both. I prefer bootcamp.

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