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Virtual PCs: Complete Guide
With virtual machines, we can create a real PC inside the PC with another operating system and its programs, with a different IP, and so on. Everything is virtualized: that virtual operating system works thinking it resides on a real physical PC and will have its drivers, its RAM memory, its virtual disk reader, and its virtual network card.
Let’s find out together what are the real advantages of system virtualization and what are the main programs that we can use to virtualize operating systems.
Advantages and disadvantages of virtualization
I benefits of virtualization are evident: with a new and performing computer (i.e. with at least 16 GB of RAM and a processor with at least 8 cores) it is possible to have, on a PC with Windows 10, other Windows operating systems (for example Windows 7) or other systems (like Linux and Mac OS) and use them at the same time as separate computers.
Why use virtualization? Today we can virtualize operating systems to try out a new system, out of curiosity, for study but also for work needs. One of the most interesting benefits of virtualization is the possibility of carrying out tests on suspicious programs or suspected viruses: by opening the virtual machine we can verify that an email does not contain viruses or that a program does not destroy the operating system or programs. If the virtual operating system starts a virus, it cannot infect the real system because the hardware is virtualized and does not communicate in any way with the real machine (even at the operating system level they are distinct and separate).
Obviously, it’s not all roses and flowers, since there are some disadvantages: first of all that the virtualized system always shows a decrease in performance (even if by now the performances increase considerably with the advancement of technology, we will not be able to use the virtualized systems to play modern 3D games and the RAM consumption of the real computer is high since it is the basis for all the virtual RAM of the machines we are going to activate.
How many virtual machines can we open at the same time?
In most cases, we will open one virtual machine at a time and it will be fast enough to perfectly emulate the characteristics of the system. But if we wanted to start multiple virtual machines together? It all depends on the hardware resources of the real PC, the one that forms the basis for all virtual machines: the more RAM and more CPU cores there are, the more virtual machines you can start together. Below we have collected the configurations you need to have to open two or more virtual machines:
- 2 Virtual machines: at least 16GB of RAM and a pure octa-core CPU
- 3 Virtual machines: at least 32 GB of RAM and a 16-core virtual CPU (octa-core with HT)
- 4 Virtual machines: at least 64GB of RAM and a pure 16-core CPU
Obviously, we assume that we will assign 8GB of RAM and 2 cores for each virtual machine we create, so as to obtain God’s virtualized operating systems as fast as if they were real PCs! If we have a CPU with 16 cores (virtual or physical) we can push ourselves to assign even 4 cores for virtual machines, but we avoid exaggerating otherwise the basic system will crash or proceed slowly.
PC configuration for virtualization
We don’t have a PC suitable for virtualization and want to create one for work or study? To proceed, simply configure a very powerful PC yourself, with the best components available on the market. Below we can find a configuration for a fixed computer capable of supporting up to 4 virtual machines without slowing down:
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 9 3950X 16 core (32 thread), 72 MB di cache, 4,7 GHz
- RAM: Corsair Vengeance RGB PRO 64 GB (4×16 GB) DDR4 3200MHz
- Motherboard: ASUS ROG STRIX B550-E GAMING
- Internal memory: Sabrent SSD Internal 2TB Rocket NVMe PCIe M.2
- Case: Corsair 110Q Case Mid-Tower Silenzioso ATX
- Alimentatore: EVGA 600 W2, 80+ WHITE 600W
The cost of this configuration is high but it is the only way to be able to work with a large number of virtual machines as if they were simple PC programs, without feeling any kind of slowdown when running virtualized operating systems.
If we are looking for other powerful PCs we can read our guides Most Powerful PC Ever – Better Hardware Parts Today e Building a perfect PC to buy on Amazon.
Best virtualization programs
To start with virtualization you need to use the right programs, so you can immediately give life to virtual workstations and start testing other operating systems or alternative programs. The best virtualization program is VirtualBox, available for free from the official website.
With it, it is possible to virtualize any modern operating system (Windows, Mac, and Linux) by choosing the hardware to emulate each time and whether to allow bidirectional access to commands, notes, and files (we can also move files or programs from the machine real to virtual and vice versa). To learn more, we refer you to reading our guide VirtualBox Guide to create, start, and manage virtual machines on PC.
As a free alternative to VirtualBox, we can also use VMware Workstation Player, downloadable from the official website.
This program is the trial version of a very famous commercial software and therefore has few features, but it allows you to perfectly emulate Windows systems with a few simple mouse clicks, without having to configure anything.
Don’t miss our guides too: Open the VirtualBox Virtual Machine programs e How to install Mac OS on Virtualbox (on Windows PC).
Virtualization can be very useful in the workplace, if we work for a blog or an IT site or if we need to try programs and software on multiple systems: it allows you to have one or more operating systems running simultaneously on the PC, without having to install other systems on the real disk and without having to buy new computers for testing.
We also remember that on Windows PC and Mac it is possible to have also virtualized the android system virtualized thanks to programs such as BlueStack that allows you to install games and apps on a PC.
To learn about other alternatives to the programs reported above, we can read our articles The best programs for virtualization e Virtualbox alternatives to installing virtual machines.