Installing Linux in a Virtual Machine

Overview

A great way to learn the Linux operating system is to install it in a virtual machine. A virtual machine is a virtual computer that runs simultaneously and in parallel with the computer that is hosting it. In other words, you can run a Linux computer in a window on your Windows or OSX computer. Computer virtualization is a very important topic right now and many networks are going virtual. Networks are converting their servers and even their host computer infrastructure to virtual machines. A great way to begin learning about virtualization is run a virtual machine from your desktop. To do this you will need to install a virtualization software program to your computer, I recommend VMware and Virtualbox.

Virtualize or Partition?

Today, one of the main advantages I have found in using virtualization is speed, ease of access, and the ability to multi-task. In the old days, I used to spend a lot of time creating hard drive partitions to create dual boot computers, so I could boot to either Windows or Linux. The problem with a dual boot computer is that I would end up booting to one machine only, and never really take advantage of the other operating system. In other words, in a dual boot system you can only run one system at a time, and I would invariably just favor one over the other. By contrast, with a virtual machine, I can run another operating system virtually without having to shut down my current system. I have found this to be very handy, much like running multiple programs on my desktop. This allows me greater productivity and easy access. So which virtualization software platform should you use?

VMwareVMware has a huge selection of enterprise level professional products for deploying virtual machines across an entire network, and they also have free products as well. I recommend trying the free VMware Player to run virtual machines right from your desktop. In order to download and install the VMware player you will need to create a free user account with VMware. Once you have VMware player installed you can create and run virtual machines of almost any type of operating system available. Once you have created your first virtual machine you will be prompted to install VMware tools which will give you additional functionality.

Virtualbox – Oracle’s Virtualbox is another great virtualization software platform. It is free to download and is available for Windows, OS X, Linux, and Solaris. Once you have Virtualbox installed you can also create and run virtual machines of almost any type of operating system available. When you run Virtualbox you will be prompted to download and install the Virtualbox Extension Pack which will give you additional functionality.

Video Tutorial

In this tutorial, from within Windows 7, I install Linux Mint 14.1 in a VMware virtual machine

In this video, I create a custom VMware virtual machine and then install Ubuntu 11.10 

In this video, I create a custom Virtualbox virtual machine and then install Ubuntu 11.10

Author: Dan

Dan teaches computer networking and security classes at Central Oregon Community College.

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