Virtual machines

Original publish date: March 5th, 2013

Well, most ordinary user would probably have not, or never have heard of, virtual machines (vms), and probably will never care about them. But it is good to know some background about them, since they can be very useful.

So, what exactly is a vm? A virtual machine (vm) is when another operating system is run under an isolated environment, using a special software. Everything carried out by a virtual operating system is contained within one or more processes, which is controled by the vm software.

Because of this, vms had an advantage that if a vm is infected with a virus or the user accidentally messed up the virtual operating system, the data on the real machine is not lost; the user can just delete the crippled vm and re-create the new one, and some software even allows the user to take a snapshot of the vm state, and if the vm becomes messed up, the user can restore from the snapshot. Because of this, vms are good for analysing virus samples, or to test out new patches/software, and is most commonly used in businesses.

But, even if they are aimed at businesses, not all virtual machine emulation software are payware. VMware, for example, has a paid Workstation client and a free Player app available, and VirtualBox is free for home users. This shows that virtual machines can be used at home as well, for example to test an unknown software.

Although they may seem difficult to use, in reality they’re not. Most, like VMware, has a menu-driven interface, and an easy-to-use wizzards for creating new virtual machines, and easily allows the attaching of virtual CDs/DVDs/floppy disks, in forms of a file or a physical disk.

One thing to note, vms do take a lot of space, more than a gigabyte, and takes up considerable amount of RAM, since some RAM is needed to operate the virtual machine. The rule is, the more RAM you give to the vm, the more RAM the vm software uses up.

Hope this article helps you get some general ideas about virtual machines.

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