Virtual Machines, what in the world are they? What purpose do they serve? How do they benefit the average computer user?

These are all common questions that you might have running through your ear right now. A virtual machine is an emulation software that executes as a physical machine. We're specifically discussing system virtual machines in this tutorial.

Virtual Machines can run a separate OS alongside your current OS that is running. For example, let us assume that we're all running Windows XP Professional and we use Linux Ubuntu quite often as well. Since we're tech savvy we partition our hard drive and install Ubuntu on the second partition so we can dual boot. Using a virtual machine there is no need to partition our hard drive or even to dual boot. We can use the emulation software to run XP and Ubuntu at the same time.

These virtual machines allows users to run two different operating system at the same time on the same computer. If you are someone that can benefit with the use of a virtual machine since you switch back and forth between operating systems then this is a solution for you!

Note: you can comfortably run a Virtual Machine (VM) on 1GB of RAM and on a 80GB Hard Drive. The more RAM and HDD space the better, however.

Setting up your VM

The first thing we need to do is to go to the BIOS and change one critical setting. Before the OS begins to boot up press the proper function key to get into your BIOS. Find the Virtual Machine setting and change it to "Enabled". Reboot the computer and now the fun begins!

Parallels

Parallels is a company that creates some of the best virtualization software available. This software, however, comes at a cost. There is a full 30 day free trial of the software and you will need to provide information for a new user account. http://www.parallels.com/computing/ and we would want to try or buy the Parallels Desktop ® 4 for Windows & Linux.

Once we obtain the program and the trial license, install the program and then reboot once it finishes installing or when it prompts you to do so.

Step 1

Whichever OS you choose to have as your VM, take the image of the OS you wish to install on your VM and put it in Documents and Settings > My Parallels.

Note: Disc Images are merely files that have the extension .iso and is one big file that contains all of the information from a disc such as a DVD or a CD. You can use iso programs like Alcohol 120%, PowerIso, MagicIso, UltraIso, and Dameon Tools.

Pass the Intro Screen and then select the OS you wish to install on your VM. For this tutorial we'll be installing Linux Ubuntu 10.04.

Step 2

We want to do a custom instillation of our VM because the typical settings might be a little much or not enough for our taste.

If we have a multi-core processor then select the number of cores you wish the VM to be able to use and then select the amount of RAM you wish to allocate to the VM (What is the max amount of RAM you wish to grant to the VM?).

Step 3

Next we want to create a new disk image to be used on the VM. Create a new image means that the software will create the VM partition it needs to run the OS.

Select the capacity that we want to allocate for the VM to use. By default the number will probably be quite substantial so we might want to reduce it.

You'll notice some options under the HDD allocation option. There are two radio buttons and one check box. The check box is for legacy FAT (File Allocation Tables) or older file systems.

Expanding Disk does not grant the VM the entire space all at once. As more and more space is used the software will grant the VM the necessary space it needs. This can help us save HDD space by only giving the VM the space when it needs it.

Plain Disk grants the VM the entire amount of space all at once.

Step 4

Setting up the network is a critical part of setting up VM. Sometimes you don't want to allow the VM to be able access the internet for security reasons. Sometimes you want the VM to be able to access the internet under the same connection as your current machine.

  • Shared Network Allows the VM to connect to the exist network connection. This means that the OS installed on the VM will not have its own unique connection.
  • Bridge Network allows for the OS installed on the VM to have its own unique connection.
  • Host-Only Network keeps the VM as a local only network. This means the OS installed on the VM has access to the host computer and other VM's on the same computer or within that local network.
  • No Networking this means that the VM literally has no networking privileges.

Step 5

This step has multiple options and is probably best to leave the default adapter unless you have two separate adapters on a laptop or desktop. For example, your desktop came with a build in wifi receiver and you installed a PCI card that receives wifi and instead of using the PCI Card (which you set as the default adapter) you decide to use the built in wifi receiver.

Step 6

We can choose how we want to order the performance of our system. If we want to allocate more resources to the VM then select Virtual Machine and if we want to keep the VM secondary then allocate more resources to the host computer. This all, of course, is when the VM is running.

Step 7

This is where we name and specify our VM. The OS we wish to install on the VM will be in .iso file format and should be placed in C:\documents and settings\my parallels (XP) or C:\users\{username}\documents\my parallels (Vista and 7).

Step 8

This is where we actually "install" the OS on the VM. We can install the OS from a CD/DVD or from the image of the OS. For this example, we'll be using the disc image of Ubuntu 10.04. Select where the disc image is and press continue.

Step 9

Now that we're all done setting up our VM using Parallels, we start our VM and we might see an error like this:

This is because we need to get into the BIOS and allow Virtual Machines to be used on our system. If you're unsure how to get into your BIOS consult the manufacture's website or documentation. If you are using a custom built system then check the motherboards documentation or website.

Step 10

Now that our system allows Virtual Machines we can commence with the process. Open parallels and wait for Ubuntu to boot up. You'll see the following screen:

Once it has finished loading you'll notice that we need to physically install the OS on the VM. Ubuntu will give us options like the following:

Which is asking us where we want to install Ubuntu on. Select the option with the allocated space that we chose for the VM to have earlier in the setup process.

Once we choose everything we need to, the OS will begin to install.

Step 11

Once it is done installing we can finish setting up the OS.

Once everything is done, check the resources to make sure everything is working property for example:

If all of the settings are in order then you now have a virtual machine using Linux Ubuntu!

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