Review: VirtualBox open source virtual machine app

VirtualBox is a free, open source virtual machine application that will have you up and running with this technology in very little time and with much fewer headaches.

Virtual Machines can save a lot of time, money, and effort for your business. They can run multiple guest operating systems on one piece of hardware, they can take snapshots of a running operating system, they can aid with security, and much more. But some of the virtual machine applications are either costly or overly complicated. With VirtualBox you get the best of both worlds. VirtualBox is a free, open source virtual machine application from Sum Microsystems that will have you up and running with this technology in very little time and with much fewer headaches.


  • Memory: 512MB of RAM
  • Hard disk: This depends upon how much space you want to dedicate to a virtual machine. VirtualBox itself takes up very little space.
  • Supported host operating systems: Linux, Windows, OS X, Solaris.
  • Supported guest operating systems: Windows 98 and later, Linux, Solaris, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, DOS, OS/2, ReactOS, SkyOS.
  • Additional information

Who's it for?

VirtualBox is for anyone that needs to employ virtual machines but needs to do so easily, quickly, and cheaply. VirtualBox will aid in testing, deploying, and many other tasks. VirtualBox bests most of its competition when it comes to ease of use, so anyone needing virtual machines, but not having the time to tackle a sharp learning curve, will benefit from VirtualBox.

What problem does it solve?

VirtualBox solves a problem many other virtual machine tools have struggled to solve - simplicity. VirtualBox makes getting a virtual machine up and running as simple as installing a standard application.

Standout features

  • Ease of use: No other virtual machine technology is as simple to use as VirtualBox.
  • Light weight: VirtualBox itself takes up little space and memory.
  • Seamless mode: Using seamless mode makes your virtual machine applications seem like they are running natively on your PC.
  • Guest Additions: Incorporate even more user-friendly features with this simple addition.

What's wrong?

There are two issues with VirtualBox. The first is that the Guest Additions must be installed separately. It seems to me this feature should be rolled in by default. The features it adds are pretty invaluable to a seamless interface. Installing Guest Additions isn't difficult (unless you are installing it for Windows 7 which has yet to gain official support - even then it isn't terribly hard.)

Another issue with VirtualBox is USB support. You can get USB support rolled in but you have to purchase the proprietary version. Only one problem - to purchase the proprietary version you have to call Sun Microsystems. You can't just download this version. This should be changed so that businesses can easily get the proprietary version.

Competitive products

Bottom line for business

If you're looking for a virtualization solution, and you need one that makes the task of setting up virtual machines easy, VirtualBox is for you. If, however, you are looking for a tool that will allow you to serve out virtual machines you will need to purchase the full version and even then you might find it more challenging than, say, VMWare Server. But for standalone virtual machine needs, you cannot beat VirtualBox for its ease of use and price.

User rating

Have you encountered VirtualBox? If so, what do you think? Rate the unit and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of the VirtualBox in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

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