Showing posts with label Technical. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technical. Show all posts

Monday, February 8, 2021

Getting started with Linux on Virtual Machines

Learn how to get started with Virtual Machines on Linux so you can test any Linux distribution on your computer without risking to lose your files 
Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

On a previous post we reviewed the best Linux distributions for new users in 2021. We also discussed that, before switching permanently to Linux, it would be good to try out some of those distributions. Today, let's learn a little more about virtual machines (VMs) and how to install them on Windows and Macs.

About Virtual Machines

More a less 20 years ago the tech industry saw a big growth in processing power, memory, storage and a significant decrease in hardware prices. Engineers realized that their applications weren't utilizing the resources effectively so they developed tools such as Virtual machines (VMs) and hypervisors to run multiple operating systems in parallel on the same server.

Source: Resellers Panel


Among the advantages of running VMs is the fact that you can better utilize idle resources of the host (compute, network, storage, etc), isolation, sandboxing, allowing to test different operating system, etc.

Host x Guest

The physical hardware running the VM is generally referred to as the 'host' and the emulated VM is generally referred to as the 'guest'. A host can emulate several guests, each of which can emulate different operating systems and hardware platforms.


A hypervisor is computer software, firmware or hardware that provides the guest operating system with a virtual operating platform and manages their execution. Hardware virtualization started circa 2005 on the x86 architecture with Intel VT-x (code-named Vanderpool) and AMD-V (code-named Pacifica).

Full Virtualization

Multiple technologies are available for full virtualization using software, including  Parallels Workstation, Parallels Desktop for Mac, VirtualBox, Oracle VM, Hyper-V, VMware Workstation and VMware ESXi.

Hardware-assisted Virtualization

In hardware-assisted virtualization, the hardware provides architectural support that facilitates building a virtual machine monitor and allows guest OSes to be run in isolation. The most popular technologies are KVM, VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, Hyper-V, Xen, Parallels Desktop for Mac, Oracle VM Server, VirtualBox and Parallels Workstation.

Graphics Virtualization

Graphics virtualization is not part of the x86 architecture. Intel Graphics Virtualization Technology (GVT) provides graphics virtualization as part of more recent Gen graphics architectures.

Operating-system-level virtualization (Containers)

Another important thing to note is that VMs are substantially different from operating-system-level virtualization. On the latter, all instances (usually called containers) share a single kernel, though the guest operating systems can differ in user space, such as different Linux distributions with the same kernel.

We will discuss containers at length in future posts, keep tuned

Most Popular Solutions

The two most popular (and free) virtual machines applications in use today are Oracle VirtualBox and VMWare Workstation Player. Windows 10 users can also use Hyper-V and on Macs, Parallels is also very popular (albeit expensive) solution. Let's see how to get started with them.

Installing Oracle VirtualBox

Installing Oracle VirtualBox should be straightforward for both Windows and Mac users. The first thing to do is to downloaded the latest installer from VirtualBox's website and install it on your machine.  After installed, it should look like this:

Oracle VirtualBox after installed

To learn to install VirtualBox on your Windows box following a detailed tutorial, check this video.

Installing VMWare Workstation Player

VMWare Workstation Player is also a pretty popular virtualization tool and fortunately, its installation is also straight forward. Download the installer and run to install on your machine. After installed, it should look like this:

For more information on how to install VMWare Workstation Player following a detailed tutorial, check this video.

Installing Hyper-V (Windows 10 Pro only)

Those using Windows 10 Pro (or better) can also use Microsoft's in-house virtualization tool, Hyper-V. We've been testing Hyper-V and it's decent enough for the most use cases so, feel free to try it out too if you like. Installing Hyper-V on Windows is done by: 

  1. Right clicking on the Windows button and selecting Apps and Features.
  2. Selecting Programs and Features on the right under related settings.
  3. Selecting Turn Windows Features on or off.
  4. Selecting Hyper-V and clicking OK.

For more information on Hyper-V support on Windows, check this page.

Installing Parallels on Macs

Apart from VMWare Workstation Player and Oracle VirtualBox, Mac users can also create virtual machines using Parallels. Please note that Parallels is not free as the alternatives above but, since it's a popular solution, it's worth mentioning.

To learn how to install Parallels on your Mac, check this video.


On this article we learned about virtual machines and how to get started with the most popular options. We hope you are now excited to install one the virtualization tools above and start testing some of the best Linux distributions of the year.

Keep tuned, in future posts we will cover how to setup Ubuntu, Fedora, Elementary OS and Pop!_OS in virtual machines. Good luck!

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