Free programs to virtualize operating systems

PC virtual machines Virtualization is always an interesting and challenging topic for those who work in IT. Even though the topic is part of the conversation among specialized technicians, engineers and consultants working in IT environments today anyone can virtualize an operating system on their computerwithout encountering major technical difficulties.

Virtualization is also used to lower hardware costs so that multiple virtual servers can be installed on a single machine, sharing the latter’s resources (which must be powerful enough to support the virtual machines created). In simple words, virtualization allows you to install multiple operating systems on a single computerso that they can work and remain simultaneously and separatelyas if they were different computers.

Let’s see together best programs that you can use on Windows to virtualize other operating systems.

Article Index

  • What is virtualization
  • Hardware requirements for virtualization
  • Best programs for virtualizing operating systems
  • Other virtualization programs

What is virtualization

Virtualization, both in business and home use, can also be used for use separate environments for each software application so that one program cannot interfere with the other. This is very useful for checking the operation of a program on different types of computers or for test an unknown program before launching it on the production machine (if it hides a virus or threat it can be easily controlled without compromising the work).

Virtualization can also be used as a tool for testing different operating systems such as Linux or the next version of Windows, so as to try new features or study new systems without necessarily having to install in dual-boot with a real partition.

When we talk about virtualization of operating systems, we must be careful to identify l’hosti.e. the main computer where the management program is installed and which provides all the hardware to be shared, and the guesti.e. the operating system that runs within the virtualization program.

The virtual machine is enclosed in a file which can be of different types depending on the program used to create it: VMDK (VMWare), VHD (Microsoft), VDI (Sun) and HDD (Parallel). In another post we showed you how create the VHD file for your PCso you can test it in another virtualized location.

Hardware requirements for virtualization

At home we will need to make sure we have the following hardware requirements before starting any virtual machine:

  • Octa-core or better CPU with Hyper-V support, nested paging, and para-virtualization
  • At least 16GB RAM
  • Dedicated SSD of at least 200 GB (without operating system or files inside)
  • Dedicated video card with at least 1 GB of video memory

If we meet the following requirements, we can easily start a virtual machine with any operating system or, if the chosen system is light enough, even 2 virtual machines at the same time. Do we not fit into the characteristics shown? We can try to install a virtual machine anyway, but we can easily run into slowdowns and problems related to lack of resources.

On average we will have to give, to each virtual machine, the following “virtualized” resources:

  • CPU: at least 2 cores (of those available)
  • RAM: at least 4 GB
  • Virtual hard disk: at least 60 GB
  • Video card: active 3D acceleration and 512 MB of virtualized video memory

Some modern virtualized systems (like OS

We avoid using mechanical disks to host virtual machine files: they are usually so slow as to render modern operating systems (which perform a large number of reads and writes during startup and execution) almost unusable; we always focus on SSDs, perhaps dedicating a small 200 GB drive just for virtual machines, without bothering the SSD on which we installed the host operating system.

In the business sector, numerous servers are set up to share resources, so the latter are always available and the virtual machines run as if they were “real”; in fact, in many companies we only find a keyboard, mouse and monitor for each workstation, given that all systems are virtualized on a central server with high performance (virtual workstations).

Best programs for virtualizing operating systems

The best programs for virtualizing operating systems on Windows can be used, for home and non-commercial use, for free and without limits. If we have a company and want to virtualize workstations, we will have to rely on the paid versions to be able to obtain all the necessary tools.


Hyper-V One of the quickest and fastest methods with which to create a virtual machine is Hyper-V, a program already integrated into Windows 11 and Windows 10.

It can be used both in the home and in the corporate environment, given that it can manage all the virtual machines created on a server equipped with Windows.

Virtualization is extremely high-performance, especially with hardware capable of supporting the specific Hyper-V instructions present on modern processors. To be able to create a virtual machine with Hyper-V, we recommend reading our guide on how create a virtual machine in Window 10 and 8.1 with Hyper-V.

VMware Workstation Player

VM Player Another valid program with which we can create virtual machines on Windows is VMware Workstation Playerfree version of the best-known VMware Workstation.

The program is designed to be simple to use even for less experienced users, it offers automatic configuration based on the chosen operating system, can automatically download the files necessary to complete the creation of the machine and allows you to switch to full screen, exchange files by simply dragging them and sharing clipboards between the host and guest.

Another of its strong points is the sleep mode, which allows you to turn off the virtual machine in a few seconds and restart it from where we left it, so you can immediately be productive. This program can only be used for free at home, so if we have a company it is better to focus on the paid version (much more powerful and complete).

To create virtual machines with this program, we invite you to read our guide on how to use VMware Player to create virtual machines.


Virtualbox Another very useful program for virtualizing operating systems is Oracle VirtualBox.

With this free program we will be able to virtualize any operating system and obtain advanced features such as: saving snapshots for every moment of the operating system (so that we can restore the system after an experiment or a failed update), access to advanced 3D acceleration, the possibility of move files between host and guest by simply dragging them, bidirectional clipboard, advanced virtualization of the network card (so as to make the machine look like any computer on the LAN) and management of any type of virtual hard disk, with the possibility of choosing whether to take up all the space immediately or use dynamic allocation.

Most of the features can be obtained by installing the Guest Additions to the virtualized system. Virtualization is very good and fast, especially with Windows and GNU/Linux systems. If we are looking for a guide on how to create a virtual machine on VirtualBox, we invite you to read our guide to VirtualBox to create, start and manage virtual machines on PC.

Other virtualization programs

The ones we have shown you above are the best programs for virtualizing operating systems that we can try for free at home. If we want to evaluate other virtualization solutionsthe best alternatives are:

  • VMWare Workstation Prowhich is the paid version of VMware Workstation Player with many additional features and the ability to manage a virtual machine server in real time.
  • VMWare Fusion is the Mac version of VMware Workstation, with which you can create any type of virtual machine on OS
  • Parallels Desktop is another non-free Mac program that allows you to manage multiple virtual machines at the same time, even on the new Apple processors.
  • QEMU is a popular virtualization solution with which you can also virtualize Android.

We choose the best one based on the virtual machine we want to create.


All these suggestions are valid if we use Windows 11 or Windows 10 as host. If we use Mac the situation becomes more complicated, given that i new Apple M processors they are profoundly different than those used on Windows machines. In this scenario the only effective method to virtualize a system involves the use of Parallelsalready mentioned in the list seen earlier.

Other types of virtualizations that we can exploit allow, for example, to install virtual private networks, virtual CDs e virtual printers.

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