Thursday, February 18, 2021

Installing elementary OS in a Virtual Machine

elementary OS is one of the best Linux distributions for new users. Learn on this tutorial how to install it on a Virtual Machine to test it
Pantheon - elementary's beautiful desktop

Before switching to Linux permanently, it's recommended to test it on a virtual machine so that you can feel the experience before making permanent changes on your system. On this tutorial, we will continue revisiting the best distributions for beginners in 2021 and install elementary OS on VirtualBox in Windows 10.

This process should be pretty similar to accomplish in either VirtualBox or VMWare Workstation player.

Downloading elementary OS

Head to elementary OS home page an grab the ISO. It's a little tricky to download the version for free as you have to set the price to zero. Once you set it, click on the download button:

Downloading elementary OS

For this tutorial we'll use elementary 5.1 but feel free a newer release if one is available. The file should be around 2 Gb in size so go grab a coffee while it downloads. If you need help, check their installation guide for more information.

An ISO is simply an image of the installer containing all the files needed to boot and install that distribution in your system.

Installing elementary OS

With the ISO downloaded, let's start the process. Open VirtualBox:

VirtualBox's main screen

Click New and choose the memory size (4Gb or more is recommended):

Create a Virtual Hard Disk by selecting Create a virtual hard disk now:

Choose VDI (VirtualBox's default format):

Set it to Dynamically Allocated (slower) if you don't have much disk space or Fixed Size (faster) if you do:

Specify the size. We recommend setting it to 20 Gb:

Review and Create:

After clicking Create, you should see a summary of your new VM. Click Start to start the installation.

Booting the VM

Okay, so it's now time to boot (load) our VM so we can install it in the virtual hard drive. As soon as you press Start, VirtualBox will ask you for an ISO to boot. Click on the orange folder icon > Add and specify the one you downloaded previously. Then select it and click Start again:

As soon as the ISO boots, you should see this prompt. Choose Try or install elementary OS:

Installing elementary

Once the boot completes, you're greeted with the installer. Choose your language and to install, click Install elementary to proceed with the installation:

Choosing the Keyboard

On the next screen, choose your keyboard and click Continue:

Apps and Updates

Next, specify what to install and if updates should be installed. Choose what works best for you:

Installation Type and Media

Choose what to install. For VMs, Erase disk and install elementary should be good enough since it's a new VM. Don't worry, it won't affect your real system:

Choose a Time Zone

Click Install Now > Confirm the changes. Next, select your time zone:

Setting Host, User and Password information

On the next screen enter your name, username (how you will login as), password and host (how your machine is identified):

Finishing the Installation

Once the all the settings were satisfied, the actual installation begins. Give it 10 minutes or so:

Once you see this message, click Restart Now:

First Login

Once the VM restarts, you should see this boot screen:

Taking to this beautiful login screen:

Entering your password takes you to this beautiful welcome screen:

Default Desktop

After finishing the initial welcome screen this is how your new elementary OS system should look like:

Pantheon - elementary's beautiful desktop

Next Steps

There you are! Feel free to have fun with your new elementary OS VM! We will cover some more interesting topics in the future but we recommend that you play with it in the meanwhile.


On this tutorial we learned how to install elementary OS in a VirtualBox virtual machine (VM). Installing Linux on a VM is the first step you need to explore Linux in its multiple variations. The next step is obviously, replacing your Windows or Mac. But take your time!

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