PCs

Sun xVM VirtualBox packs a punch and it is free

We all know that VMware Workstation rocks and is the obvious leader in the market. What if you just don't have the cash to drop for VMware Workstation or are committed to open source software? You need to take a look at Sun xVM VirtualBox.

We all know that VMware Workstation rocks and is the obvious leader in the market. What if you just don't have the cash to drop for VMware Workstation or are committed to open source software? You need to take a serious look at Sun xVM VirtualBox.

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Sun xVM VirtualBox is completely free and open-source. It will run on 32- and 64-bit platforms and supports Windows, Linux, and MAC OS X hosts. Additionally, it has great guest OS support of Windows and Linux operating systems.

According to Sun, VirtualBox is getting attention. They have had over five million downloads, and this number seems to be rising.

I downloaded VirtualBox very quickly and did not have to fill out any lengthy forms, which is a relief. Within five minutes of loading the software, I was installing a virtual machine (VM) of Windows XP with SP3. It is a simple interface, and it looks like you can get it running very quickly.

Figure A

Sun XVM VirtualBox command center 
In Figure A, you can create a new virtual machine, look at your details, create a description of your VM, and take snapshots. Snapshots let you take a picture of the OS at a specific point in time, and then you can go back to that point again whenever you choose. It is a great feature to have for development and testing. When you click New, a virtual machine wizard will appear and walk you through the creation of your VM; it is very easy. In this example, I mounted an ISO image of Windows XP and began loading, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Loading a Windows XP virtual machine in VirtualBox 
On the window below, you can enter Fullscreen Mode, Adjust Window Size, Take a Snapshot, and a host of other functions, as shown in Figure C. The menu is simple and intuitive, and did I tell you, it's free!

Figure C

Individual virtual machine commands 
On the Devices menu, shown in Figure D, you can mount CD/DVD images and install Guest Additions. This is similar to the VMware Tools in VMware Workstation.

Figure D

Managing Devices 
About 20 minutes later, I had my first VM running Windows XP SP3. I loaded the Guest Additions and had to reboot to begin using the VM (Figure E).

Figure E

Installing the VirtualBox Guest Additions 
It looks like you have to have your VM powered off to take a snapshot, but in any event, the snapshot feature worked well (Figure F). Figure F

Taking a snapshot 

Overall, if you do not want to spend money for desktop virtualization or are just looking to get your feet wet, VirtualBox is a good bet, and its features are very comparable to VMware Workstation. Click the Download button to download a free copy of VirtualBox.

21 comments
cmfchong
cmfchong

I can't install it in my Windows XP. I get an error message saying that it did not pass Windows Logo test, and just roll back the installation -- despite clicking to continue anyway button. Pls advise. Thanks. Rdgs, MF cmfchong@hotmail.com

tinyang73
tinyang73

Does VirtualBox support all of the advanced graphics features that VMware Workstation does?

richard.s
richard.s

Not wanting to disrupt or "dual-boot" my Windows PC, I've been using VirtualBox for over a year to test & run various flavours of Linux. Unlike a Windows "guest O/S," there are no awkward licensing issues with loading & running a Linux guest O/S. Most Linux "LiveCDs" load and run nicely; most automatically adapt to my PC and connect to the web through its LAN port.

t0ken
t0ken

Being a new Linux-user, I almost had a fit when I found out there's a bug that won't allow VMWare to install on Mandriva 2009. This led me to VBox, which is working GREAT for me. I had a few issues with the networking at first (probably just b/c I'm new to Linux), and I'm unable to get USB support (though there is a way to get it, I just haven't had the time to tinker with it) but other than that, everything works perfectly--besides the issue with the LPT ports that someone already brought up.

sidekick
sidekick

Overall, I like Virtualbox, but it does not seem to support LPT ports. I wanted to migrate an old 95 computer running an old app to a VM before the hardware dies, but it needs to print to an LPT printer. I'm impressed it supports OSes that old, though.

alzie
alzie

I too had problems getting USB support. I had installed VirtualBox from the ubuntu repos. Whats needed is to download VB directly from Sun. This is a more complete version that supports USB. Works very well. XP alomost seems to run better through VB than straight. Beats multi boot! We can have our cake and eat it too.

Realvdude
Realvdude

I have not tried Virtualbox yet, but if it like Virtual PC, you can the host share a printer on the network and have the guest map the LPT port to the shared printer. I have used this method in non-VM environments to get DOS apps to print to USB printers. You can even share and map on the same computer.

Gate keeper
Gate keeper

you have Vista x64 as the host operating system .. it took me a while but i found this out the hard way. you cannot use Vmware products on vista x64 (as of writing this comment) ... the problem being that MS enforces digitally signed drivers on x64 and there is no way around it for the moment for some reason Vmware does not digitally sign their driver while the folks at sun have. that is how i was introduced to virtual box .. because i was only aware of vmware offerings such as server,player ... but now im loving virtual box it does not hog as much memory & resources as vmware.

Steven Warren
Steven Warren

Have you tried printing to a file on your Host OS via shared folders? It is not the best solution but it would work.

AllanV
AllanV

Could someone please verify if Vista x64 is the only host o/s as per Gate keeper? It does say XP, of which I plan to install on, as one of the supported hosts in VirtualBox doc & on the site. Thanks.

Bob.Kerns
Bob.Kerns

I'm running VMware Workstation 6.0.3, on a Vista x64 SP1 host. Every single VMWare driver in this install is signed. And it works. Everything in your post about VMWare is incorrect. I presume something went wrong that sent you on the wrong tangent. (I try not to think about how often that's happened to me). I presume you're not crazy. (You're welcome). But I have no idea what happened to you. I'm glad you're happy with VirtualBox, but if you ever have reason to consider alternatives, be aware that VMWare DOES support Vista x64 hosts. Including with the free VMWare Server.

Steven Warren
Steven Warren

Thanks for the response. I like vbox as well. It seem snappy and the interface is intuitive.

Bob.Kerns
Bob.Kerns

... and he had his facts wrong anyway. he was saying if you have Vista x64 you couldn't use VMWare -- VirtualBox is your only choice. Or so he thought. The issue he was referring to is that on Vista x64, you need signed drivers. It's a requirement, not just a warning as in the 32-bit world. But actually, they're signed and work. I don't know why he was mistaken about that. I have no direct experience, but I'd expect no problem with VirtualBox on XP 32-bit. And I can confirm that VMWare does, as well.

Bob.Kerns
Bob.Kerns

I posted in that other thread you started, too. I don't mind if you PM me. Somehow you're up against a different problem than you think, and that's always an extremely painful situation. (Been there way too often). But I'd suggest starting with VMWare support, as they'll be a lot better equipped to help than I am. But we can compare notes on drivers, etc, since it works for me.

Gate keeper
Gate keeper

i cant really remember why i couldnt get it to work .. but the next time i do .. ill be sure to pm you if you don't mind. because i came across many sites that explicitly stated there was no way around it.

Gate keeper
Gate keeper

here is a question i posted in TR question section a while back regarding this exact problem because i could not get vmware working on vista X64 http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?forumID=101&threadID=274104 on the other hand i got nothing against vmware I've used it a lot ... but in my experience virtual box doesnt hog as much resources. oh and the other fact virtual box is open source and the vmware product in question is free thus do not require sales ;)

Tearat
Tearat

I have sent you a reply Do not take any notice of the time between this and anything else I have had other things to-do today I will repeat some of what I wrote now I did not think you were a troll or anything else I saw something I told you what I saw It was just and observation Sorry if you got the wrong idea

Bob.Kerns
Bob.Kerns

I'm not in PR, I'm not in Sales, and I have no connection to either company. I'll send my full reply via PM to avoid cluttering the forum. But I always use my real name (or my initials, rwk -- rwk@mc, rwk@mit-mc (pre DNS!). You can google me and find my postings going back to the 1970's. I work for Posit Science Corporation. Software exercises to help with the cognitive decline associated with aging. Neuroplasticity, not virtual machines.

Tearat
Tearat

You sound a lot like the PR and salesmen for two different companies Just wanted to let you know

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