Try Out a New Operating System the Easy Way with VirtualBox

By Akemi Iwaya on July 1st, 2009

Frustrated with seeing all the new wonderful looking Windows 7 and Linux systems and having no easy way to try them? Now you can enjoy all the new operating system goodness in a virtual environment with VirtualBox. VirtualBox works on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris.

Note: The version of VirtualBox shown in this article is 3.0.0.49051 Beta 2 running on Vista SP2.

Installation

The installation runs the same as for other software, but with the third window you will find that you can choose what features you would like to install. It is recommended to go with the default setup and let all of the features install.

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The drop down menu for changing install options in action.

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The remainder of the install is straightforward and when you have finished, it is time to take a good look at VirtualBox.

Startup for the Beta Version

If you are using the new beta version, you will see the following two windows when you start VirtualBox.

Note: The first window will display every time you start the beta version.

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Registration is not required to use the software, but this window may pop up every so often when starting the beta version if you do not create an account. Simply click “Cancel” to close the window.

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The Main Window

Whether you are using the latest stable release or the beta version, this is where all the fun and virtual goodness starts. For our example, there are two operating systems that have been added and are ready to go. From here you can start one of the installed operating systems, add a new one, or discard a current one.

On the right side of the window, you will be able to see details and stats for each operating system.

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The File Menu. This is the menu you will need to access the settings for your virtual operating systems and program preferences.

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The Machine Menu…

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And the Help Menu…

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Virtual Media Manager and Preferences

Here you can see basic information about the allotted space (virtual size) and actual size for each of your virtual hard disks. The small size for the Moon Linux O.S. is due to it being run as a “live CD”. You may also perform basic functions such as creating, adding, removing, or releasing individual virtual hard disks.

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Here you can view the actual size of the iso images that are associated with each virtual hard disk.

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You can access these settings by going to the File Menu and selecting “Preferences”. Here you can change the home folders for your virtual Hard Disks (vdi files) and Machines (snapshots, logs, and xml data files).

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This is where you can change the keyboard key that “releases” you from the virtual operating system windows that you have open (i.e to shut down the virtual operating system or do things in your actual operating system). Notice that you can also disable the keyboard auto capture feature for when your virtual operating system starts up.

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Choose how often you want VirtualBox to check for the newest updates.

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Run VirtualBox in the language of your choice. The new Beta Version has 27 languages to choose from (very nice!).

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Network Settings…

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The Virtual Operating System Window

Time to get one of those virtual operating systems up and running! Click on and select the system you want to use and click “Start” (for our example, Moon Linux has been chosen).

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Here is what the window will look like while starting the virtual operating system (here Moon Linux is being restored from a saved version).

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And there it is! A whole different operating system running on your computer.  Notice that with this particular operating system running as a “live CD” version, the meter shows zero hard drive space available.

To start using your new virtual operating system, click your mouse anywhere in the window area and it captures your mouse.  Unless you have disabled it, your keyboard is already captured by the time the window finishes opening up.

Note: Internet connections work through the existing connection that your host operating system has.

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A quick look at the menus that are available on the virtual operating system window…

The Machine Menu. If you need to take a system snapshot of your virtual operating system or shut it down, this is where you will need to do it.

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Here you can adjust the settings for flash/USB drives, shared folders, and CD/DVD-ROM drives.

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And the Help Menu…

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Shutting Down your Virtual Operating System

When you are finished using the virtual operating system you have open, go to the Machine Menu and select “Close”. As you can see, you will have three choices.

If you have made changes with a “live CD” system, you can save those changes for the next time you open it by selecting “Save the machine state” (very lovely feature!).

If you do not care about saving any of the changes that you may have made, simply select “Power off the machine”. The next time you start that particular virtual operating system it will start back at a “fresh install” level of operation.

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Conclusion

Here is a screenshot showing the Windows 7 Release Candidate and Moon Linux 2.0 running at the same time inside of Windows Vista. It can be so much fun to work with such a variety of systems at the same time!

Note: Depending on the particular operating system you are using, maximum window size will vary. Here the Moon Linux system will only go as large as 800 x 600 pixels while the Windows 7 system will go much larger.

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Whether you are curious about a new version/distribution of Linux or just wanting to try out the latest version of Windows, VirtualBox can provide an easy and convenient way to take a good look without having to install over your current system.

Links

Download VirtualBox (version 5.0.14)

See the Operating Systems that run in VirtualBox

Akemi Iwaya is a devoted Mozilla Firefox user who enjoys working with multiple browsers and occasionally dabbling with Linux. She also loves reading fantasy and sci-fi stories as well as playing "old school" role-playing games. You can visit her on Twitter and .

  • Published 07/1/09
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