Along with cloud computing, virtualization is the current buzz in computing, and if your hardware is up to it, it can be spectacular. The virtualization we are concerned about is running one or more OS’s from within a host OS, while retaining full function from all running OS’s, virtual and real.
Virtualization software is available free on all the major OS’s via VirtualBox, and other options on both Windows and Linux. There are also pay for options giving better performance and improved options in cases. Over the last couple of years, virtualization has come on leaps and bounds, Full control of USB ports, shared folders with the host OS is now common practice. With options such as seamless mode you can run both the host and the virtual OS on one screen utilising apps and services from both.
I mentioned hardware earlier, and with good reason. Your system must have enough resources for your normal OS, plus any virtual machines you choose to run. Hard disk space, memory, and processing power all need to be taken into account.
Setting up a virtual machine is a relatively simple affair, everything is presented in sensible sections for you to allocate resources and allow access to chosen functions and peripherals. Most virtualization software will allow you to change the majority of your settings at a later date, but not all will allow you to change the amount of disk space, so if possible it is wise to use dynamically expanding storage.
The beauty of virtual machines is that you can have as many stored on your PC as your hard disk will hold, and that makes it perfect for testing new Linux distro’s. You can try as many as you like running at near native speeds until you decide which is right (if any) for you. Currently the biggest limitations come in graphics, modern games in a virtual machine are still pretty much a no no, but all other type of applications should be fine (allowing for any processing and memory restrictions you have in place).