NOTE – It is recommended that you have atleast 4 GB of RAM on your machine to ensure that both the guest and host operating systems have sufficient memory for a seamless experience. This guide was written for VirtualBox v4.1.8 on a Windows 7 host.
If you’re one of those people who’ve always wanted to try out Linux, but put it off for fear of messing up your computer beyond repair, virtual machines are a great way to experience it without breaking your existing Windows installation. As a bonus, you can simply delete them when you’re done tinkering and they’ll go away. As simple as that! Read on to find out how you can get started with virtual machines today.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with a virtual machine, it is a guest operating system running within a host operating system, such that the two are completely isolated. In this case, our guest OS will be Ubuntu, and our host OS will be Windows 7. For the purpose of this guide, we will be using VirtualBox, which is a free and open source software virtualization solution.
Installing VirtualBox and Ubuntu
First off, download and install VirtualBox. Make sure you choose the one titled “VirtualBox for Windows hosts”. Once you’re done installing VirtualBox, run it. This is how it should look at first –
Click on the button that reads “New” and press Next to see the following screen –
Name your VM (Virtual Machine) anything you wish. Under “OS Type”, make sure the “Operating System” is Linux, and the “Version” is Ubuntu. Click Next and allot 1024 MB of memory to the guest (this should suffice for Ubuntu).
On the next screen, choose “Create new hard disk” –
The following screen should appear –
Choose VDI as the file type, and proceed to the next screen. You can now choose a dynamically allocated virtual disk that expands as your guest OS’ space requirements increase, or a fixed size one that is often faster to use. Dynamically allocated virtual disks work well enough and we’ll be choosing them for this guide.
On the next screen, choose where you wish to save your virtual disk, as well as its maximum size.
Finally, click Create to finalize the disk.
Click Create on the Virtual Machine summary page to finalize your VM as well.
This is how your VirtualBox screen should now look –
Select your VM from the list on the left, and click the Settings button. Under the Systems page, edit your boot order as shown –
Similarly, edit your Display page as well –
Save your settings and click on the Start tab. Close the dialog box that pops up to see the First Run Wizard –
On the next page, select the path to your installation media (either your disc drive, or an ISO stored on your hard drive) –
Finish the First Run Wizard to begin your Ubuntu setup.
(Optional) Installing VirtualBox guest additions
These guest additions are a handy way to enable support for screen resolutions higher than 1280×1024, among a host of other features detailed here. Download and install the VirtualBox Extension Pack, then refer this detailed guide for a walkthrough.