Virtual Machine Basics (img heavy)

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Shaman - Secret Keeper
Shaman - Secret Keeper
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Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2012 12:02 am
Location: Wilbraham, Ma

Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:46 pm

Have you ever wanted to...
  • Try some software out, but didn't know if it's worth actually installing on your desktop
  • Try different operating systems
  • Have a safe place to preserve an old desktop and its software
  • Get a desktop that's dedicated to one particular thing, but didn't want to dedicate your own personal desktop for that thing
If any of the above things spark your interest, then you may want to consider using virtual machine software to make your life easier.


What is a virtual machine? - Virtual machines are computers emulated within the software of another computer. (Usually within your own physical computer) You can have as many virtual machines running within a single physical computer as long as there are resources available for these virtual machines to make use of. It's much like having a whole bunch of desktops whenever you need them. Unlike a physical computer, a virtual machine can be copied, moved around, and deleted like a regular computer file. This would make a virtual machine verry flexible, easy to forgive mistakes and disasters, and easy to back up.

What do I need to use a virtual machine? - In order to use/create/modify a virtual machine, you will need to install virtualization software. This kind of software is in charge of managing the virtual machines, their resources, and making them work within the physical computer hardware the virtualization software was installed on.

My tool of the trade - My personal tool of the trade and the software we shall use for this tutorial is called VirtualBox. VirtualBox is a desktop based Virtualization Software by Oracle. I love using it because it is free in both price and freedom to use. (The base package is GPL licenced) The user interface is also simple enough where the visual elements may be self explanitory and not too simple in which an advanced user would have issues doing their own thing. Documentation is also freely available (HERE) .
Complimentary Downloads - You may be able to make your own Virtual Machine, but what is a computer without an operating system? A fancy paperweight I say. hehe. Take a look at these following download links which are free for you to use. You are more than welcome to play around with them and learn about them on your own time.
  • UBUNTU - This is the operating system we will use for our tutorial. Ubuntu is a fully fledged linux based operating system geared towards ease of use meanwhile offering a powerful variety of tools for the creation and consumption of services and media. The flexibility lets this operating system be suitable for both the home users as well as server admins. Software installation is as easy as installing a phone app. And lately it has been pushing for getting more mainstream applications for purchase and download such as Steam. You may also use Wine to run windows software on it if you cannot find it within its applications manager.
  • Chromium OS - Chromium OS is the base operating system behind every Google Chrome Book. (minus non-free proprietary extensions) This operating system is more geared towards cloud based services and therefore requires a minimal amount of resources. This is perfect for those on the go, are consumers of social media, and the most you would do on your desktop is write documents and play simple games. (Like one would do on their smart phone)
  • React OS - This is an open source operating system that is designed to run your favorite windows based software, and yet not depend on proprietary Microsoft Code. Use this if you truly need a windows-like operating system, but cannot afford to pay for an official MS Windows License.
!!!Before You Begin!!!
Before you create your own virtual computer, you must be sure that your own desktop is capable of running the virtual computer inside it as well as your own host operating system. Leave at least 1 or 2 gigabytes of ram and at least one core so that your main Operating System has some breathing space to operate normally.

To Check Within Windows Vista/7:

[Start] --> [Control Panel] --> [System and Security] --> [System]

You should get a screen like this...
Spoiler! :
The relevant information should be highlighted. And in my case, I have 12 gb of ram, and 8 cores. This should mean that it would be safe to offer 10gb or ram and 7 of those cores in making one or more virtual computers.

Building a Working Ubuntu Virtual Machine:

So awesome! You've braved that big "scary" wall of text. You should also have downloaded and installed Virtualbox and have downloaded an iso of Ubuntu Desktop Edition. Once that's all sorted out, it's time to have some fun with making our own virtual computer! :smile:

Step 1)
Spoiler! :
Run Virtualbox. You should get a screen similar to the image below. The important part is hilighted.
  • New - Starts a wizard that guides you through the process of creating your virtual machine
    Settings - Configures what resources and virtual devices the currently selected virtual computer will have
    Start - Powers on your virtual computer
Step 2)
Spoiler! :
Press "NEW" to start the virtual machine creation wizard. You should get a dialog similar to this.
Here, I gave it the name "ubuntu_personal", and told the setup wizard that this virtual machine will be running Ubuntu Linux.
Step 3)
Spoiler! :
We don't have an existing virtual hard drive. Therefore, we need to create our own.
  1. Define the type of virtual hard drive. The default option is usually the best option considering we aren't planning on using any other software
  2. Define if we set aside the space for the virtual hard drive now or later. Selecting "Dynamically Allocated" will save you space now, but your virtual computer will be faster if you chose "Fixed Size" for the virtual hard drive.
  3. Give the hard drive a name and set the size of the virtual hard drive.
Step 4)
Spoiler! :
You now have a blank virtual computer. Hurray!!! It's time to install our Operating system. I've bumped up this virtual computer's specs to 1 gig ram and 16 gigs of hard drive space.
Step 5)
Spoiler! :
Press Start. Since this is the first time your Virtual Machine is run, It wants an operating system install disk to load. Click the folder icon and browse on over to where you have downloaded your Ubuntu Iso.
Step 6)
Spoiler! :
You are greeted by this lovely interface. You can either try ubuntu out right now, or you can go straight to the installation of Ubuntu. Let's not waste any time here and click on "Install Ubuntu".

Step 7) Many of the options given for the install process are pretty straightforward.

Be sure that the "Erase disk and install ubuntu" option is selected so that this operating system is using the whole disk.

With Ubuntu, you are given the ability to login automatically and encrypt the files of your home folder. For simplicity sake, just leave it at "Require my password to log in"

Eventualy, you will get over to here. Your operating system is installed within your virtual machine and you are free to play around with this virtual computer as you wish!!!

Using your Virtual Machine:

While running your virtual machine, You may notice your virtual machine taking control of your keyboard and mouse. If you want to release it back to your main Operating System, press the Right Control Button on your keyboard.

You should notice this strip of icons within the lower right part of the Virtual Machine window.
These little icons detail the status of the virtual machines hardware and shared folders. Right clicking these icons would let you configure these specific settings directly. Hovering your mouse above these icons will give you the status of your hardware.

On the upper left, you have a nifty little menu. Machine, View, Devices, and Help.

Machine Menu - If you wish to Pause, Reset, ShutDown, forcefully power off, or otherwise configure the virtual hardware of the machine then this would be your menu. The important options are hilighted and their use will affect the virtual computer much like it would a real physical computer.


View Menu - Use this menu if you would like to adjust the size of how the virtual computer is displayed.

Devices Menu - Use this menu to configure the state of your virtual hardware. IE: You wish to load/eject a disk, plug in a physical usb device to the virtual computer, edit how the virtual computer connects to the network. The highlighted options within this menu are ones that are considered the most important to a new user.


Help Menu - It's okay to use this if you have been stumped on something along the way. You may however find more detailed documentation about "that odd issue that somehow only you've been experiencing that you cant find on the local software manual." whatever weird and confusing VirtualBox issue you may have had over on the community forums. Perhaps someone has had your issue before and figured out how best to resolve your issues



In Closing, I hope that you have come out more enlightened than before by being able to make use of virtualization software to create, configure, and make use of virtual machines. I hope that I have expanded your boundaries in what you are capable of doing by getting your feet wet with this powerful and accessible technology. Perhaps someday, you will learn the right occasion in making use of it. (Besides the fact that it's fun. hehe :-) ) And you guys can certainly count on me referring to this lil how-to down in the future.

Sometime, next week, I shall be streaming an example of this tutorial within the future. Please do keep your eyes peeled for it!!!

Questions and Comments always welcome!
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