VirtualBox guide to create, start and manage virtual machines with other operating systems on PC
A virtual computer is absolutely independent from the real PC, it has its own network connection, its own drivers and is also isolated, so you can easily test programs without affecting the actual PC. In this guide we will show you how to install Virtualbox and how to add a virtual machineso you can use older versions of Windows (especially Windows 7), use Linux, try Mac, or try new versions of Windows.
READ ALSO: Virtual PCs and system emulation: Linux Windows and Mac on the same computer
1) Download VirtualBox
VirtualBox is a free program available for Windows and other platforms. If we want to try it on Windows we need to download the version Windows hostsaccompanied by his Extension Pack, useful for accessing some additional features also on the virtual machine. This Pack is present on the same page where we download the Virtualbox installer, as VirtualBox X.X.X Oracle VM VirtualBox Extension Pack.
Once we have downloaded everything we need, we start installing VirtualBox and then the Extension Pack to obtain a free and powerful virtualization system. We remind you that to use it you must: processor hardware virtualization is activeas seen in the guide above how to enable virtualization in UEFI or BIOS.
Download trial operating system (Linux)
We can use any operating system to try VirtualBox in image format (ISO), but for convenience we can download the ISO image of a GNU/Linux distribution, a free operating system that requires no license to run; we can download the most famous distribution as proof, i.e Ubuntu.
Let’s download the latest version available and get ready to create a virtual machine for this operating system. On the VirtualBox website we find the page that lists the supported operating systems.
To learn more we can also read our guide on how download Linux Live CD Disks per Virtualbox.
2) Configure the virtual machine
Now that we have everything we need, it only takes a few minutes to create a working virtual machine ready for use. The procedure described concerns the installation of Ubuntu, but it is also completely similar when we install other operating systems (like Windows for example).
We open the VirtualBox application and click in the top left on New to create a new virtual machine. A window will open where you can enter the name of the new virtual machine, select the folder where to save the machine files, select the ISO file downloaded for the occasion and finally choose the type of operating system (as well as the version).
By pressing on Avanti we will access the unsupervised installation screen: we will immediately have to choose the username, the password and tick if we want to use the Guest Additions (highly recommended), then press on Avantichoose the amount of RAM and CPU cores to reserve for the new system, press on again Avantichoose the amount of virtual disk to assign, click on Avanti come on Fine to start the actual installation, without having to previously access the classic installation from the disk (VirtualBox will take care of everything).
The procedure has been simplified as much as possible compared to the past, to allow everyone to immediately create a virtual machine without having to configure a thousand parameters; if we want to proceed with the classic installation of any operating system we tick the item Skip unsupervised installation in the first screen that appears after pressing the button New.
Folder access, clipboard sharing and drag and drop files
If we have already installed the Guest Additions using the simplified procedure we do not have to do anything further, since the system will already be ready to use the advanced features of VirtualBox; on the other hand, if we have done the classic installation, we will have to increase the level of integration between the virtual machine and the real machine by starting it and clicking at the top of the VirtualBox window on Devices -> Insert the Guest Additions CD image.
The virtual disk will start automatically and, depending on the system in use, will install additional system files; at the end we restart the virtual machine to make the changes take effect.
With the Guest Additions installed in the virtual system we can share notes between the real and virtual system, drag files or folders and share notes by pressing on the top Devices and using voices Shared notes e Drag and drop.
If instead we want to access some folders of the real PC also inside the virtual machine (but being careful since the two systems will communicate, therefore viruses and malware can pass between each other) just click on the menu at the top Devices -> Shared Folders; we click on the folder-shaped icon and more at the top right to add folders to display in the virtual machine. Now the folders will be visible in the system as network resources.
3) Create snapshots for system testing
Do we want to do some dangerous tests on the virtual machine? In this case it is convenient to save the state of the machine while it is still functioning via snapshots, which are excellent for restoring the operating system to a previous point without having to reinstall everything.
To be able to create snapshots we turn off the virtual machine and click on Machine Tools -> Snapshots. To create a snapshot we click Crea and let’s choose a name. Now the system can be tested without problems: if it no longer starts or crashes, simply return to this screen, select one of the snapshots taken and click Restore.
Let’s remember that each snapshot doubles the space occupied by the virtual machinebecause it is equal to the space occupied by the operating system in the virtual disk.
4) Useful tips for VirtualBox
We don’t know where VirtualBox saves virtual machine files and disks? Do we want to change the path where it saves the cars? We can change the VirtualBox save path by opening the program and clicking File -> Preferences.
We choose the best route by voice Default machines folder. For convenience, we recommend using a separate partition on the hard disk or a new disk, so as to always have the necessary space to create new virtual machines (which can become very large).
We recommend allocate at least 500 GB as space to host all virtual machinesperhaps using a secondary SSD disk installed on the PC where we use virtual machines.
On Windows operating systems, after installing the Guest Additions we can enable hardware acceleration, so as to increase graphics performance. To do this, select the Windows virtual machine and click on at the top Settings e in Screen let’s activate the voice Enable 3D accelerationbringing the amount of video memory to the maximum again (which will rise to 256 MB).
Finally, here is the list of recommended settings to make all the main operating systems run well on VirtualBox:
- Windows: at least 8 GB of allocated RAM, at least two assigned cores, at least 80 GB of virtual disk.
- MacOS: at least 8 GB of allocated RAM, at least two assigned cores, at least 60 GB of virtual disk.
- Linux: at least 2 GB of allocated RAM and at least 30 GB of virtual disk.
Such high requirements for virtual machines make it clear that, to make the best use of any machine without completely slowing down the PC, it is highly recommended basically use a very powerful computer with at least 16 GB of RAM, a real octa-core processor (not 4 physical and 4 virtual cores) and an SSD or M.2 of at least 1 TB.
To create a powerful computer for virtual machines we can read our guide to best hardware components to make yourself the most powerful PC ever.
VirtualBox can become a faithful companion for those who write a lot on blogs, want to immediately try all operating systems, for those who want to test Linux or need to use old programs that only run on Windows 7 or previous versions of Windows.
To learn more, we invite you to read our guides on how to install and try Windows 11 on Virtualbox come on how to use Windows 10 on PC with Windows 11 (and vice versa).