Oracle’s Virtual Box is one of the easiest to use virtual machines that run under Linux. Although we Linux users have reasons not to use Oracle’s products, the particular piece of software is maybe the best choice we can make in that area and at least it’s open source. If you want to use other free software alternatives to Oracle’s VM, you can check VMware Workstation, QEMU, or GNOME Boxes (currently works only on Fedora).
VirtualBox Version 5.0
The latest version of Virtual Box was released earlier this month and being a new major release, it brings some new features on top of the usual bug fixing. The most notable additions are:
- Support for paravirtualization on Linux (improves performance).
- Support for disk image encryption (improves security).
- Now supports the connectivity of USB 3.0 devices.
- Better drag n drop support on Linux.
- Major GUI overhaul in the settings area.
- New, modular audio architecture system.
You can get this pro-grade software tool free of charge from the official download web page. I will show how to install it on Ubuntu so I downloaded the .deb package for Ubuntu 14.04 in a terminal window:
After downloading the file, type the following command to install it:
sudo dpkg -i virtualbox-5.0_5.0.2-102096~Ubuntu~trusty_amd64.deb
Alternatively, you may simply click the downloaded file and your default package manager should handle it just fine.
Whatever way you choose, I suggest that you first uninstall (completely remove) any existing previous versions of the software.
Basic Set Up
For this guide, I will use the Fedora-Live workstation image to aid my demonstration. To get started, press the “New” button located on the top left and enter the details on the first dialog.
The next step is in regard to the RAM size that will be dedicated to the virtual system. Note that you shouldn’t allocate more than 50% of your system’s physical memory as this could cause a severe overall performance drop. Treat the 50% value as the maximum possible. If you have little RAM (like I do), you should always use 32-bit images instead of 64-bit that require more RAM for the same activities.
The next part is the allocation of the virtual hard disk space. You can either choose an already existing space or create a new one. I will create a new one with the option of the VDI and the “dynamically allocated” selection which automatically adjusts the space needed by the virtual operating system.
After all the above steps are completed, you should now see an overview of the created system on the application’s main window, as shown in the screenshot below:
Choose the virtual box from the list on the left and press the “Settings” button (yellow gear). This will open up some more advanced options that are very useful in most cases. First of all, as Fedora uses GNOME Shell, we should add more Video Memory and enable the 3D Acceleration option from the “Display” tab.
Another thing that we can do from here is to tell Virtual Box which image file we want to use for the machine that we created. To do this, go to the “Storage” options menu and press the little disk icon on the right. Then select the “Choose Virtual Optical Disk File…” option and navigate to the image file. Users are prompt to select this file in the first run of a newly created machine anyway, but you can always come back and set it again from this menu.
After this is done too, you may choose the VM from the list of the left and hit the “Start” button (green arrow). This will start the VM with the selected options. Note that you can install the image to the dedicated virtual hard disk space and use it regularly, update it and do whatever you want with it. By the way, you can even use Fedora’s GNOME Boxes for a kind of “virtual machine inception” if your system can handle such a load. Have fun experimenting (or working). 🙂