There are a lot of cases where you’d like to run a different Windows operating system inside the one you’ve already got, virtually. Perhaps an application or driver just won’t work in the Windows you’ve got. Or there’s a compatibility issue. Or perhaps you’d like to test something in Windows without a full-fledged installation. That’s where VirtualBox comes in. Get it from their website.
For starters, a virtual machine is just a program that runs an operating system inside of another operating system — and in this case, you’re trying to do exactly that. Other options, such as dual booting — where you choose which OS to boot into when you turn your computer on — are preferable to some. Others prefer the convenience and ease of using a virtual machine within a pre-existing operating system. Among the reasons for using a virtual machine are being unable to use desired functions in your existing operating system — Mac users, for instance, can often be seen running Windows in a virtual machine and vice versa — and virtualization is also an emerging technology used at businesses, schools and data centers.
Virtual Machines are the most popular among Mac and Linux users, though there’s plenty of Windows owners that make usage of it as well.
To run another version of Windows using VirtualBox, get yourself the program, the OS on a disk, and just a little bit of time. First off, does your processor support virtualization? If it does, it probably doesn’t have it turned on by default. Get into the BIOS and turn on virtualization. If you don’t see the option in your BIOS, you may not be able to run a virtual machine. Once you get back to your normal desktop, launch VirtualBox.
Now we can really get started.
In VirtualBox, click New. Name the Operating System whatever you like, but choose Microsoft Windows for OS, and choose whatever version of Windows you’re going to be running in the Version menu.
After this, you’re going to need to determine how much memory you’re going to allocate to the simulated OS. A general rule is to go for half of your RAM — so if you have 2 GB of RAM, use 1 GB, if you have 4, use 2, and so on. Once you’re set the name and memory allocation, move on to the next step.
You’re going to need to set up a virtual hard drive for the virtual machine to make usage of. Have at least 50 GB to account for how large the OS is, and be sure to give yourself however much room you want for programs you’ll be using and files you’ll be using. Stick to a fixed size, for consistency. Once you’ve decided how large the virtual hard drive should be, move on to the next step.
It’s going to take a large amount of time for the virtual drive to be created. While you wait, get your installation disk and write down the verification numbers you’ll need. Once you’ve gathered everything you’ll need to use for setting up your new Windows installation, just wait patiently for the virtual hard drive to finish. It can take anywhere from half an hour to an hour or more, depending on how large you decided for it to be.
Now you’ll need to go to settings. To ensure compatibility, select Enable IO APIC in the motherboard tab. In the processor tab, check Enable PAE/NX, and in the acceleration tab select both options there.
After you’ve done all that — congratulations, you’re done. Your Virtual Machine has been created. Put the OS disc that you intend to virtualize inside of your computer, run the virtual machine, and select the disc drive. Note that if you have an official .ISO disc image file of a Windows operating system, you can use that too.
Once you’ve done that, go through the setup of your new virtual operating system as normal. Since VirtualBox is running another operating system, the virtualized OS is going to expect full control of your mouse and keyboard at all times. Clicking the open window will give the OS control of your mouse and keyboard, but to get out, press CTRL. However, you can change this to a different key in the settings. The bottom of your VirtualBox window will always show what key to press to get out of it, as a reminder.
The nice thing about a virtual operating system is that if it crashes, simply restart the machine. It won’t take your whole PC with it. Good luck!
Steve Horton has been working with computers for over 20 years. He's dedicated to helping people get the most out of their PCs, and likes playing cards and writing comics.
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