The purpose of this article is to introduce the average PC user to VirtualBox. Terminology may be simplified to make it easier to understand for the non-Geek.
This article contains 3 sections and covers installing VirtualBox Hosts and Guests under Windows and openSUSE.
VirtualBox is virtualization software that runs under most modern operating systems. What this means in layman’s terms is that you set up an environment that pretends to be an actual computer, this is a “virtual machine” ( VM for short). With that virtual machine you can run another operating system in a window just like you would run another program. For instance, if you are using Windows 7 you could run Ubuntu in a window at the same time (see screenshots below for examples). To be clear, only the machine (computer) is virtual, you are actually running this other operating system.
The advantages of using virtual machines are many. For the home user these would include trying out new operating systems and the ability to run programs from different operating systems.
You can run many Windows games under Linux, or use Microsoft Office. You could try the latest Windows 7 SP beta, test new programs, tweaks, and configurations. You can try the latest Linux distros in an environment that is more realistic than a Live CD.
My favorite way to use VirtualBox is to run Windows under Linux. More specifically, I run Windows XP and 7 under openSUSE 11.3 (more on this later).
Security is also an advantage. The main operating system is separate from the one running on the virtual machine. For the most part viruses, malware, crashes, bugs, etc. are all contained inside the OS running in that VM. This of course does not relieve you of the responsibility of using safe computing habits. Lets say you download a file that contains a virus while under an Ubuntu VM and then run that file in Windows you could get infected.