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Forget dual-booting! Virtualization 101

post #1 of 95
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So let's say you want to try out this Linux thing people keep talking about but you don't want to commit to anything and you certainly don't want to risk losing all your important stuff trying to set up a dual boot system. Or maybe you want to run XP, Vista, Windows 7, Server 2003 and Server 2008 all at the same time because you're completely weird (like the rest of us).

I was completely shocked the other day when a very established user on the OCN forum said the other day that he'd never heard of virtualization, despite there being a setting for it right there in your BIOS. Virtualization is simply setting aside some of the resources of your computer (CPU, RAM, hard drive etc.) and running another operating system on them as if it were a complete physical machine. The virtualized OS is called the guest and the OS that's actually running directly on your bare metal is called the host.

Among other things you can do is run Linux inside a window on your Windows installation so you can try it out without disturbing your extreme gaming setup or repartitioning your disk or any of that lunacy. I use it on the rare occasions I have to run Windows on my native Linux setup. But you could run just about anything you want in the virtual machine. Some people have even run Mac OS X in a virtual machine, but I don't know anything about that....

Before you get started you should make some changes in your BIOS. For Intel desktops you should disable C1E and EIST (SpeedStep), for AMD you should disable Cool'n'Quiet. (Exception: if you're using a laptop leave these enabled in the BIOS and disable them from within your OS when you plan to run virtual machines. This will help save your battery life. Re-enable them when you're finished running your virtual machine.)

You should enable Virtualization (sometimes called "Vanderpool" in old BIOSes) and Execute Disable Bit if you disabled them due to some bad advice while overclocking. You won't be able to run 64-bit guest OSes without these, and 32-bit guests could run slow. Virtualization also puts increased stress on your CPU, so you may find your "stable" OC isn't so stable after all. Consider backing it down slightly if this happens to you.

Now there are several programs which allow you to run virtual machines, like VMware, KVM, and some others. Linux has the most virtualization choices available so if you aren't a gamer you should consider using a Linux host and running Windows in a virtual machine. If you're starting out with virtualization I recommend VirtualBox. It runs on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux hosts so everyone can use it the same way. And unlike VMware it's free. I'll use VirtualBox to illustrate in the rest of this post.

You have to have a 64-bit CPU and host OS to run a 64-bit guest OS. Otherwise you can only run 32-bit guests. This is true regardless of which virtualization software you use. Download the "AMD64" version of VirtualBox if you have a 64-bit CPU and host OS, otherwise download the "i386" or "x86" version.

After you install VirtualBox and start it up you'll get the VirtualBox window like this. Only you won't have any virtual machines listed. So click on New and we'll create one. It's a cute little wizard and I hope I don't have to explain "Back" and "Next" to you.



Choose a name for your new virtual machine and choose what type of OS it is (e.g. Red Hat, Ubuntu, Xandros, Windows Vista, etc.). If you don't see it listed, pick whatever seems closest.



Then choose how much RAM you want the virtual machine to get. Aren't you glad you upgraded to 8GB?



Next you'll set up a virtual hard drive image. Click New and you'll get a second wizard to set up a virtual hard drive.



Choose Dynamically expanding image, and choose how much space you want the virtual drive to use. I made an 8GB hard drive in this example. That's plenty enough to try out Ubuntu though if you're going to seriously use it you might want more space. Good thing 1TB+ drives are cheap now.



Then you'll go back to the first wizard and finish it. Your new virtual machine will be in the listing as "Powered off."

Before we start it, if you have a Nehalem CPU (Core i5/i7, etc) there's one tweak we can make for better performance. Click Settings, and enable Nested Paging as shown below. This won't do anything on older CPUs which don't support nested paging.

If you want to give the virtual machine more than one CPU core, you can change that here as well.



Now I hope you already downloaded the installation media. Don't bother burning it, we'll just tell VirtualBox to use the ISO image directly. Just go ahead and click Start and VirtualBox will ask you to provide the installation media from a CD/DVD or an ISO image (or even a floppy disk if you're old-school enough to have one of those).



Then your OS will start installing and pretty soon you'll have a fully virtualized operating system running right within your existing OS. Once the installation is complete be sure to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions (it's on the Devices menu while the OS is running). This will improve the performance of the guest OS.



This should be enough to get you started with running virtual machines. Be sure to check out the VirtualBox Help menu and the user manual for lots more information, including setting up the Shared Folders feature to move files between your virtual machine and your host OS which you're sure to need sooner or later.

And yes, if you have enough RAM and overclocked your CPU far enough, you really can run XP, Vista, Windows 7, Server 2003 and Server 2008 all at the same time on the same box. Enjoy!
LL
LL
LL
Edited by error10 - 11/14/10 at 9:11am
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post #2 of 95
Something new I had no idea about, rep+ and a great read!
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post #3 of 95
Thread Starter 
I figure running virtual machines is a more interesting way to stress your CPU than Prime95...
LL
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Edited by error10 - 11/27/09 at 4:50pm
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post #4 of 95
Nice guide but i keep getting the same error:

post #5 of 95
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Quote:
Originally Posted by F3t1sh View Post
Nice guide but i keep getting the same error:
Did you try the 2.0.0 version?
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post #6 of 95
Quote:
Originally Posted by error10 View Post
Did you try the 2.0.0 version?
Yeah, same error...
post #7 of 95
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by F3t1sh View Post
Yeah, same error...
I dunno, it's Windows. Maybe take the install log over to the VirtualBox forums where the real experts hang out. Or post it here, I don't care, but I probably can't answer it. I use Linux, where stuff either works, or at least tries to tell you why it doesn't
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post #8 of 95
I was using this on Windows to try out various Linux builds and attempting to do the Ubuntu/Windows merge in reverse mode with wubi....still in the works lol.
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post #9 of 95
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sfdxsm View Post
I was using this on Windows to try out various Linux builds and attempting to do the Ubuntu/Windows merge in reverse mode with wubi....still in the works lol.
I don't trust wubi yet. And anyway it's a dual-boot setup which means rebooting, and virtualization gets you away from having to reboot.
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post #10 of 95
What's wrong with VMWare/PC2007?
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