VirtualBox is open-source software for virtualizing the x86 computing architecture It acts as a hypervisor, creating a VM (virtual machine) where the user can run another OS (operating system).
The operating system where VirtualBox runs is called the “host” OS. The operating system running in the VM is called the “guest” OS. VirtualBox supports Windows, Linux, or macOS as its host OS.
When configuring a virtual machine, the user can specify how many CPU cores, and how much RAM and disk space should be devoted to the VM. When the VM is running, it can be “paused.” System execution is frozen at that moment in time, and the user can resume using it later.
VirtualBox was originally developed by Innotek GmbH, and released on January 17, 2007 as an open-source software package The company was later purchased by Sun Microsystems.
On January 27, 2010, Oracle Corporation purchased Sun, and took over development of VirtualBox.
Supported guest operating systems
Guest operating systems supported by VirtualBox include:
- Windows 10, 8, 7, XP, Vista, 2000, NT, and 98.
- Linux distributions based on Linux kernel 2.4 and newer, including Ubuntu, Debian, OpenSUSE, Mandriva/Mandrake, Fedora, RHEL, and Arch Linux.
- Solaris and OpenSolaris.
- macOS X Server Leopard and Snow Leopard.
- OpenBSD and FreeBSD.
- BeOS R5.
Solid virtualization solution
If you are looking to test other operating systems or wanting to run apps that aren’t compatible with your system, then VirtualBox is a tool that you need. It is a free and open-source virtualization solution that comes with an easy-to-use interface The primary integration takes time, but the app runs well after the process is complete.
|Easy-to-use interface||Doesn’t support drag-and-drop|
|Offers unlimited snapshots||Primary integration takes time|
|Supports various operating systems||Running the OS may eat up a lot of your system resources|
|Multiple customization options||No automation option for certain features|
Hardware and Software Virtualization
Hardware virtualization uses a hypervisor to emulate hardware devices for virtual machines. Intel VT-x or AMD-V CPU features are required on a physical (host) machine to make hardware virtualization possible, and must be enabled in UEFI/BIOS Some guest codes can run directly on the host hardware, which increases the overall performance of the VM. The host and guest systems must use the same platform, for example, x86-64.
Both VMware and VirtualBox support hardware virtualization.
Software virtualization requires the host system to completely emulate the whole guest platform, including CPU instructions by using special software Hardware virtualization features are not required for the host machine’s CPU, but the performance is less than what it is for hardware virtualization. The host and guest platforms can differ.
VirtualBox supports software virtualization, which means that you can run virtual machines with VirtualBox – even on the old hardware on which CPU doesn’t support hardware virtualization features.
As you can see, VirtualBox supports a higher number of host operating systems.
What is VirtualBox used for?
When you download VirtualBox for Windows, you can easily run Mac and Linux operating systems on your native Windows device. Additionally, you can use the tool to run applications you would otherwise not have access to. It also offers all the features that make virtualization attractive.
Users can run an old operating system like Windows 8 on their Windows 10 device, or test an OS before installing it fully. They can even use the full performance of their desktops by packing multiple virtual machines onto a few hosts while saving up on a lot of hardware costs. Owing to the snapshot feature, users can easily switch to an old snapshot and avoid frequent backups whenever something goes wrong.
Easy to install for tech-savvy users
Installing VirtualBox and another operating system is quite easy if you’re technologically savvy. In case you’re inexperienced, you may have to go through the manual provided by Oracle. The installation only takes about 5 minutes on a computer with 2GB RAM. You can choose to either install the software or add support for USB and different types of networking, including host-only, bridge, and conventional. Once installed, the software offers a great user experience so you can run different operating systems and applications from your native PC environment.
Simple and easy-to-use interface
VirtualBox has a clean interface with three primary menus, which include Machine, File, and Help. You can use the Machine option to create your first guest operating system. Adding a virtual machine is as easy as pressing CTRL and N together. Once you do that, a module pops up and asks you to choose the type of operating system you want to load as well as its unique name. The latest version of the software allows you to scale the display, so you can reduce the size of the window and still make out everything.
The File option gives users access to the media manager, preference module, as well as import and export features. With VirtualBox, you can reduce or limit the CPU and IO time of any virtual machine that you’re running. By setting a limit, you can ensure that the virtual OS doesn’t drain your system resources. Apart from this, the software also offers various tools to fix bugs and increase the performance of your virtual machines.
Multiple customization options
VirtualBox supports numerous operating systems including Linux, macOS, and Oracle Solaris hosts. It provides users with the option to create a multi-platform or collated server, useful for testing and development. You can even use different customization options to personalize the user interface of the guest OS.
Integration may take a while
One of the biggest challenges of running the free version of VirtualBox is creating a guest operating system. Users don’t have the option to automate certain features and have to go at it manually. The process also requires patience on the part of the users. For instance, if you wanted to install Windows 10 or even Windows 7 using VirtualBox, adding the final touches would take time.
Fortunately, the software offers different guided modes, so users have some help when they need it. VirtualBox doesn’t offer a deep integration option, which is quite an advantage if you’re concerned about privacy. This means that if a virtual machine is vulnerable to a virus attack, the host system isn’t compromised. While paid software offers much better integration between the host and guest OS, VirtualBox offers all the necessary tools needed for virtualization.
Offers exhaustive documentation
VirtualBox is open-source software, which means that it has a vast online community. Typical to all such software programs, these communities create a wide range of information and help. Users of the software get easy access to technical documents, changelog, operation manuals, FAQs, and more. There also exists a Bug Tracker page, where users can report bugs and track any status updates. Apart from an array of information, Oracle also offers live chat, so users can easily connect with a representative for any questions.
Is VirtualBox free?
Formerly known as Sun VirtualBox, the base package of the virtualization tool is free to download and use. It is licensed under the GNU General Public License and is available as open-source software. While the base pack is free, Oracle also provides an extension pack with added features. Since it falls under the Personal Use and Evaluation License, corporate users need to purchase a commercial license from Oracle.