The easy way to run operating systems without messing up your systemGNU/Linux can be scary to a new user. After all, what if you mess up? What if you end up corrupting your hard drive so badly that you need to format it to get rid of GNU/Linux? The solution is to use virtualization technology. A virtual machine creates a virtual hard drive as well as a virtual computer, so you can install and run it from within another operating system. If you want to get rid of the virtualized (also known as the guest) operating system, just delete the virtual hard disk from the real (host) computer's hard drive.
First, choose which virtualization tool to use. Right now, there are four big ones: Parallels, VMWare, QEMU, and VirtualBox. Parallels is commercial at US$49.99 for Windows and GNU/Linux. For me, that is way too expensive. That leaves us with VMWare, QEMU, and VirtualBox. VMWare has two freeware versions. One (called a player) runs pre-built operating systems (known as appliances). The other one (called a server) will make machines, but isn't as fast as the professional version. The problem with QEMU is that it is completely command-line (there are GUIs made for it, but they never worked for me). Therefore, it is extremely complicated to create a new virtual machine with it. Besides, it just can't do some basic things that the others can (like pause a virtual machine, for example). That leaves us with VirtualBox.
VirtualBox is free software. It is cross-platform (runs on Windows and GNU/Linux, with an Intel Mac version in beta). It runs Windows, OS/2, GNU/Linux, BSD, Netware, Solaris, and L4 guests. And on certain guests, you can install VirtualBox Guest Additions, which lets you share files and more between the guest and the host. The next version, coming soon, will include support for running the pre-built VMWare appliances . It simply works.Read more...