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.


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.