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  1. #1
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    VM: Running computers inside computers




    BEST PRACTICES

    VM: Running computers inside computers




    By Lincoln Spector

    There are many excellent reasons to run virtual PCs within your real system, and it's relatively easy to do.

    While Microsoft has its version of a virtual PC system, there are third-party products that offer more flexibility.

    The full text of this column is posted at http://windowssecrets.com/best-practices/m-running-computers-inside-computers/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

  2. #2
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    As a long time user of Oracle's VirtualBox, I read this article with interest. I was disappointed to find that it is just an advertisement for VMWare.

    From what I know, VMWare is a good product and I am sure there are reasons to prefer it for some applications, but I believe that all the specific features and benefits mentioned in this article are also available in VirtualBox. I have been running virtual machines with Ubuntu, XP Pro 64bit, XP Pro 32, and even one with WindowsME(Don't ask!) All but the WindowsME can run in the "seamless" mode similar to the VMWare Unity mode but built into the free VirtualBox product.

    I am not here to support VirtualBox or even to claim it is better but an article under a banner of "Best Practices" should at least have provided equal information on similar or equal alternatives ... especially when it did mention two products with fewer features: XP Mode and DosBox.

    Graham

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    I think the article left out a MAJOR point about licensing.

    The article mentions the benefits of using a virtual machine to test new Windows programs.

    I believe you need a separate Windows license to do that. I think its a glaring oversight to not mention the hundreds of dollars it will cost for the additional Windows license needed to create that virtual machine.

    I would LOVE to able to test new programs or upgrades this way but can not afford another Windows license just for occasional tests. And I think many windows users who could afford more Windows licenses than they have PCs might find it highly objectionable that its even necessary pay for multiple licenses for a single PC.

    If by chance, the article assumes someone would install Windows and all the rest of their software every time a virtual machine was needed to test some new program, I think its rather far fetched to think people would/should spend that much time and effort.

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    VirtualBox

    I have not used VMware, I've examined Windows XP Mode, I use VirtualBox. From your description of VMware, I don't see any advantages of it over VirtualBox. Given VirtualBox's capabilities and popularity, an article about virtual machines just doesn't seem complete without coverage of VirtualBox.

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    I have been using VirtualBox for years without any problems. Very good stable product and easy to use.

    I have also been using DOSBox for quite a while and have had very good success with it.
    Because I believe computers should work for the user, not the user work for the computer, I am using DOSBox without bothering with the Z:\ prompt as that can require a lot of keystokes just to get your old DOS programs to run. I have the CD Tetris Gold installed under DOSBox (early 90s CD). I have an icon in my Start Menu. When I click on it, DOSBox starts and then opens the Tetris Gold menu. I play the game(s) and then click on the Exit button. DOSBox shuts down and I'm returned to the Windows desktop without having to type any DOS commands - which many folks today don't have an clues about.

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    XP in Ubuntu Question

    I have an aging XP desktop, in which I installed a second 600 GB drive and Ubuntu Linux. XP is on a much smaller drive, and since I'm new to the idea of virtualization, I'm wondering if you could help me with some questions: 1) If I virtualize XP within Ubuntu, is it still subject to all the malware threats and patches XP users currently encounter? 2) I have an XP-SP2 Operating System disc I bought several years ago to reinstall the the system in a notebook. Can I use that disc and the license from my desktop XP (I'd remove the currently-active XP from the old drive) to activate the virtual system? 3) The currently-active XP system is updated to SP-3. If the virtual system would still be subject to viruses and malware, is there still a way to update the virtual system to SP3? I'd like to start with a clean O/S, rather than moving the existing one, if possible. Thanks

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frosty2 View Post
    I have an aging XP desktop, in which I installed a second 600 GB drive and Ubuntu Linux. XP is on a much smaller drive, and since I'm new to the idea of virtualization, I'm wondering if you could help me with some questions: 1) If I virtualize XP within Ubuntu, is it still subject to all the malware threats and patches XP users currently encounter? 2) I have an XP-SP2 Operating System disc I bought several years ago to reinstall the the system in a notebook. Can I use that disc and the license from my desktop XP (I'd remove the currently-active XP from the old drive) to activate the virtual system? 3) The currently-active XP system is updated to SP-3. If the virtual system would still be subject to viruses and malware, is there still a way to update the virtual system to SP3? I'd like to start with a clean O/S, rather than moving the existing one, if possible. Thanks
    VirtualBox will run very well on top of Ubuntu. I have that configuration here on one machine. To try to answer you questions, I'll refer to your numbering:

    1. Within VirtualBox, your XP will OS will run exactly like it is now: it will still be at risk of malware and you should install your usual antivirus suite and practice safe internet use as normal. Ubuntu, while not 100% immune from attack, will have a much lower profile and for all practical purposes will be very unlikely to encounter any threats. There are some AV products available for Linux (and OSX), but I consider that these are not generally required at present as long as one is careful.

    2. You could install XP using the CD as long as it's not a factory recovery disk - it must be a Windows XP installation disk, rather than a manufactures recovery disk. The question whether you can then activate the virtual OS using the activation code from the sticker on the PC depends on what type of licence you currently have. If the machine is a branded OEM - Dell, Compaq, Acer etc, it is probably not going to be possible to activate the virtual OS without breaching the terms of the licence. OEM installations are licenced to one set of hardware. If it is a retail licence then yes you can move the licence.

    In terms of OEM licencing, the grey area is whether the virtual OS is running on a new set of hardware. Technically it is the same physical CPU, hard drive etc, but the OS will see a different hardware profile (the virtual platform) and may complain when you try to activate, on the otherhand you may get lucky and it may activate. However, if it is a OEM licence, my understanding is that it would still be in breach of the licence and may at any time deactivate itself and cause you problems. The best advice I could give is to call the Microsoft Activation phone service for your area. They are very helpful and I have never run into problems after consulting them.

    3. If you install XP SP2 from your installation CD, you can download and install SP3 separately, but this also links back to the activation issues discussed earlier because I believe that to install SP3, one needs an activated OS.

    You can also take an image of your existing XP OS and import that onto the virtual platform. Once again, this may run into activation issues, but I suspect Microsoft would be more relaxed about transferring an existing OEM installation onto a virtual platform rather than re-installing it from a different CD.

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    Thanks

    Belated thanks for your detailed and helpful response. I will indeed check with Microsoft on the activation issue.
    Happy Holidays. Clayton

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