I was talking to a friend yesterday about virtual machines. The topic got started because I had about 4 virtual machines and I had to explain why I had such a setup – why just not “dual-boot” – and so I thought I document the reasons that I gave out. Note that I am using Virtual Machines on my personal computer and this blog post falls into the class of “personal technology” and I’ll not touch upon why businesses use virtual machines. Before we begin, a quick note about what are virtual machines? Think of virtual machines as “software application” that can run “operating systems” in them. Example: You have Windows X on your machine and there’s an application on your machine that says “LinuxOS.xyz” – if you click on it, it would open Linux operating system as an application without leaving your windows machine. This is not technically correct definition but from a personal technology standpoint, all you need to know is that “virtual machines” lets you run operating systems like linux, windows, etc like an application on your main operating system. Here’s my current configuration: “I have windows 7 as my main operating system. and I have a couple of virtual machines running Windows Server 2008 R2, one virtual machine having a windows 7 environment & one machine to kick tires of Hadoop”. with that, here are the reasons that I use virtual machines:
1) I can have multiple flavors of operating systems running as application on top of my “main operating systems”. And I do not have to worry about the hassles of dual/multiple boot.
2) I can COPY a virtual machine and PASTE it on a different machine. Basically share “OS along w/ app installed” with others or open them up using a different computer
3) I can “Save” a state of a virtual machine. For example I can save the state of my virtual machine today and if something happens tomorrow then I can just “restore” it to the previously saved state. Think of it like “system restore”
4) When I am on a virtual machine, it gives me the freedom to play around with “do not touch” and “not recommended” configuration. I can experiment things I want to without worrying about “breaking” my main operation system
5) Do you have software’s on your OS that you installed for one-off purpose and forgot to uninstall it later? I usually install applications that I rarely use on a separate virtual machine. This helps me keep my main operating system cleaner.
Those were the quick five reasons I use virtual machines on my computer, if you want to get started you can check out: Microsoft virtual PC or Oracle’s Virtual Box.
Question: Do you use virtual machines on your personal computer? Yes? What is your “why”? why not share that in the comments section?