VirtualBox – Free Virtualization Software For Linux

VirtualBox is an open-source virtualization software. It enables you to run multiple operating systems on a single machine. It is designed to run Windows, MacOS, and other operating systems inside your existing Linux installation.

A Brief History Of VirtualBox

Virtualbox logo e1681949060201

VirtualBox was first developed by a German software company called Innotek Systemberatung GmbH in 2007. In 2008, VirtualBox was acquired by Sun Microsystems. Then in 2010, Oracle Corporation acquired Sun Microsystems. Since then, Oracle owns and maintains VirtualBox.

Over the years, VirtualBox has become popular among individuals, businesses, and educational institutions for its ease of use, flexibility, and support for hardware virtualization.

Since its initial release, VirtualBox has undergone several updates and improvements. Features such as support for virtualized 3D graphics, improved performance and stability, and improved support for modern operating systems have been implemented.

Today, VirtualBox is one of the most widely used virtualization software in the world and is available for free under the GPL open-source license.

What Is VirtualBox And A Virtual Machine?

VirtualBox is an open-source hypervisor that allows you to run multiple operating systems on your existing operating system. It allows you to create virtual machines on your existing computer.

A virtual machine, in this context, is a software-based simulation of a physical computer that functions just like a real computer. It runs its own operating system, applications, and data, and is isolated from the host operating system and hardware.

What Hypervisor Does VirtualBox Use?

A hypervisor, also known as a virtual machine monitor, is a layer of software that sits between the operating system and the physical hardware. It allows multiple virtual machines to run on a single physical machine, each with its own operating system and applications.

The hypervisor is responsible for allocating the underlying physical resources, such as CPU, memory, and storage, to each virtual machine and ensuring that each virtual machine operates independently and securely. Even though they are running on the same physical hardware.

There are two types of hypervisors: Type 1 and Type 2.

A Type 1 hypervisor, also known as a bare-metal hypervisor, runs directly on the host hardware and provides virtualization services to multiple virtual machines. For example, Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESXi, etc.

On the other hand, a Type 2 hypervisor, also known as a hosted hypervisor, runs as a software layer on top of a host operating system, providing virtualization services to multiple virtual machines.

VirtualBox is a Type 2 hypervisor. It runs as a software layer on top of a host operating system, providing virtualization services to multiple virtual machines.

In this case, the host operating system is the underlying operating system installed on the physical machine, while the virtual machines run on top of the host operating system.

VirtualBox supports hardware virtualization for both Intel VT-x and AMD-V processors, allowing it to run virtual machines with a variety of operating systems, including Windows, Linux, macOS, and others.

This makes VirtualBox a versatile solution for running multiple operating systems on a single machine, whether for personal use, testing, or enterprise deployment.

VirtualBox Pricing And Competition

VirtualBox is available for free under the GPL open-source license. This makes it a cost-effective solution for individuals, businesses, and educational institutions to use virtualization technology.

VirtualBox is competing with other virtualization software, both free and paid. The biggest competitors are VMware Workstation, Microsoft Hyper-V, Parallels Desktop for Mac, and Linux KVM.

These competitors offer similar virtualization capabilities but may differ in terms of features, performance, ease of use, and support for different operating systems and hardware.

In comparison to its competitors, VirtualBox offers a balance of features and ease of use, making it an attractive option for those looking for a free and open-source virtualization solution.

However, for businesses and organizations with more demanding requirements, paid alternatives may offer more advanced features and better support options.

Linux KVM is another free alternative, but it requires technical knowledge.

How To Install VirtualBox In Ubuntu/Linux?

You can download the latest version of VirtualBox for your Ubuntu/Linux distribution from the VirtualBox website.

Download VirtualBox

Visit the download page from the above link and choose the appropriate package for your distribution (e.g., Ubuntu 22.04) and download the .deb file. You can check the tutorial: How To Install A DEB File In Ubuntu? to install the DEB file. Or you can follow this tutorial: How To Install VirtualBox In Ubuntu/Linux? – Complete Guide to successfully install VirtualBox and the Extension Pack.

Advanced Features Of VirtualBox

In addition to its basic virtualization capabilities, VirtualBox offers several advanced features for those looking for a more powerful virtualization solution. Some of the key advanced features of VirtualBox include:

3D Acceleration Support

VirtualBox has 3D Acceleration Support that enables you to provide 3D Acceleration to virtual machines. 3D Acceleration is required to run graphics-intensive applications and games with improved performance and stability. Lack of 3D Acceleration will make your VMs leggy and unresponsive.

Nested Virtualization Support

Nested Virtualization Support allows you to run a virtual machine inside another virtual machine. VirtualBox has supported nested virtualization since version 6.0, making it possible to run virtual machines within virtual machines.

It is important to note that, Nested Virtualization Support depends on the host operating system and hardware, and may not be available in all configurations.

This feature is helpful in various situations, including testing and development of virtualization software, training, and educational purposes, and testing complex network and security configurations.

Networking

VirtualBox provides various networking options, including NAT, Bridged Adapter, Internal Network, and Host-only Adapter, allowing you to configure the network settings for virtual machines to meet your specific needs.

Seamless Mode

Seamless Mode is a cool feature of VirtualBox. This feature allows you to integrate the virtual machine’s desktop with your host desktop.

This means you can show and work on your host windows and the virtual machine’s windows side by side simultaneously. You don’t need to switch back and forth from your host to VM.

This mode is useful for running applications in the guest operating system that are not available in the host operating system. You can also use it for testing and development purposes.

With this mode enabled, you can switch between the host and guest operating systems with ease. You can run applications in the guest operating system just as if they were running on the host.

To enable the VirtualBox Seamless Mode, you need to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions on the guest operating system first.

The Guest Additions provide additional drivers and utilities that enhance the guest operating system’s performance and integration with the host operating system.

Shared Clipboard

VirtualBox allows you to share the clipboard between the host operating system and virtual machines. Making it easy to copy and paste data between different operating systems.

The Shared Clipboard is available in both directions. This means you can copy data from the host operating system and paste it into the guest operating system, or vice versa.

You can also choose between four modes of operation: “Disabled”, “Host to Guest”, “Guest to Host”, and “Bidirectional”.

This makes it easy to transfer data between the host and guest operating systems. It can also save you time and effort compared to other methods, such as using a shared folder or network drive.

Remote display

The Remote Display feature allows you to display the graphical output of a virtual machine on a remote machine. This feature is useful when you want to run a virtual machine on a powerful host machine, but display the output on a less powerful client machine.

With Remote Display, you can use a client machine to control the virtual machine running on the host, just as if the virtual machine was running locally on the client.

The host machine transmits the graphical output of the virtual machine to the client, which displays the output on its screen.

To use the Remote Display feature, you must have the VirtualBox Extension Pack installed on the host machine. The Extension Pack provides the necessary components for the Remote Display feature to work.

USB Support

VirtualBox provides support for USB devices in virtual machines. This allows you to use USB devices such as flash drives, printers, cameras, etc. in virtual machines.

You can easily transfer data between the virtual machine and the host, or use USB devices as if they were physically connected to the virtual machine.

To use USB devices in a virtual machine, you need to enable the USB controller for that VM. Just go to the VM settings, select USB, and Enable USB Controller.

For USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 support, you need to install the Extension Pack on the host machine.

Snapshots

Snapshots feature allows you to save the state of a virtual machine and revert to it at a later time. With Snapshots, you can preserve the current state of a virtual machine, including its operating system, applications, and data. So you can return to it later without losing your VM.

Snapshots are useful in a variety of situations, such as testing and development, software upgrades, and data recovery.

For example, if you want to test a new software application or operating system, you can take a snapshot of your virtual machine before making any changes.

If something goes wrong, you can simply revert to the snapshot and return to the previous state of the virtual machine.

VirtualBox allows you to take multiple snapshots of a virtual machine, and you can even create a snapshot of a virtual machine while it is running.

You can manage snapshots from the VirtualBox Manager, where you can create, delete, and revert to snapshots as needed.

Disk Encryption

VirtualBox provides disk encryption to secure sensitive data stored in virtual machines. With disk encryption, you can encrypt virtual machine hard disks to protect the data from unauthorized access.

VirtualBox uses the industry-standard AES encryption algorithm for disk encryption and provides options for setting the encryption strength, from 128-bit encryption up to 256-bit encryption.

To use Disk Encryption, go to the virtual machine’s settings. Under the General tab, select Disk Encryption, and Enable Disk Encryption with the appropriate Disk Encryption Cipher and password.

What Are The Advantages Of VirtualBox?

VirtualBox has some compelling advantages over its competitors. It offers several advantages for individuals, businesses, and educational institutions looking to use virtualization technology. These are some of the key advantages of VirtualBox:

Advantages Description
Cross-platform compatibility VirtualBox runs on a variety of host operating systems, including Windows, Linux, macOS, and others, making it a versatile solution for virtualization.
Easy to use It is easy to use and has a user-friendly interface that helps you to create and manage virtual machines easily.
Free and open-source VirtualBox is free and open-source, making it accessible to users on a budget.
Cost-effective VirtualBox is available for free, thus making it a cost-effective solution for those looking to use virtualization technology.
Hardware Virtualization Support Hardware Virtualization technology provides efficient and secure virtualization, improving performance and stability compared to software-based virtualization.
Support for multiple operating systems You to run multiple operating systems on a single machine, making it possible to run applications that may not be compatible with your primary operating system.
Isolation VirtualBox provides isolation between the virtual machines and the host operating system. This ensures that the virtual machines do not compromise the stability and security of the host system.

What Are The Disadvantages Of VirtualBox?

Though VirtualBox has some compelling advantages over its competitors. It has some disadvantages too. These are some of the key reasons you might consider not using VirtualBox:

Disadvantages Description
Performance VirtualBox may not provide the same level of performance as other virtualization tools, especially when running resource-intensive applications.
Complexity It has a range of advanced features that may be overwhelming for some users, especially those with limited technical experience.
Limited support The support is very limited compared to other virtualization software. Some operating systems may not work well in VirtualBox.
Resource usage VirtualBox can consume a significant amount of system resources, especially when running multiple virtual machines.
Integration issues Integration between the host and guest operating systems in VirtualBox can be problematic, and some applications may not work well in virtual machines.

Personal Opinion

VirtualBox is a great virtualization software you can get for free. It is easy to use and supports all the major platforms. Despite the cons, VirtualBox is a great option for those who want to use virtual machines without any restrictions.

It offers a range of features and is widely compatible with different operating systems. You can run Windows, Linux, and macOS easily. It offers hardware virtualization support for better performance and also supports 3d acceleration for graphics-intensive workloads.

VirtualBox can be slowed down if the host machine is not powerful enough. It is true though, VirtualBox may not be as efficient as its competitors, but it offers more for free. You can not ignore the features it gives.

I have been using VirtualBox for years now and I have no complaints. Sometimes I face some issues regarding some extended features like USB and 3d Acceleration. But this is not a deal-breaker for me as it is a reliable tool and I can create and run virtual machines without any major issues.

Conclusion

VirtualBox is a widely used and versatile virtualization tool that provides a range of features. It supports all the major platforms and offers a user-friendly interface, and advanced features like nested virtualization, remote display, USB devices, and Disk encryption.

It is a popular choice for users looking for a free and open-source virtualization solution. Although it has some limitations, it is still a reliable and effective solution for using virtual machines.

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