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Free Virtualization Software

by Steve Wiseman on November 30, 2012 · 7 comments

in Free,Microsoft,Utility


Over the Thanksgiving holiday I found myself in a situation where I wanted to test some software (Dad wanted to install some free stuff, but I thought it might have spyware)…but I didn’t want to clutter the computer with the junk that might come with it.

I thought about downloading a copy of VMWare. It would be the perfect way to test things out, and then when I was done I could just delete the virtual machine.

VMWare Logo

I have a license for VMWare Workstation, but since I was out of the office I didn’t have any of my license info. Thinking back now I could have used their 30 day trial…but I would have never had a chance to try VirtualBox.

VirtualBox Screen Shot

VirtualBox is a free alternative to VMWare, and Microsoft’s Hyper-V.

It has been years since I looked at it – I am blown away by its functionality, and how smoothly it runs.

The first thing that surprised me is that while installing Windows 7 on my VirtualBox, I didn’t have to install any special mouse or video drivers. Yes, they do have their own guest drivers – but out of the box the mouse was working smoothly.

After Thanksgiving, I decided to look at VirtualBox more carefully to see what it could do.

The next test for me was Windows 8. Many of the slightly older VM solutions cannot handle the changes in Windows 8. I was able to install it without a hitch.

It has all of the features you would expect:

-Mount an ISO as a DVD/CD

-Shared clipboard

-Bridged network, or NAT

-EFI Support

-Audio Redirection

This tiny list does not even scratch the surface of what is possible. You can view the user guide here.

My favorite feature is the remote display system. VirtualBox has its own RDP server. This means you can use the remote desktop client to connect remotely.

Just go to the display settings of your virtual machine. Enable the remote display, and pick a high port that is different than 3389 (So it does not conflict with your own RDP port). In my case I used 33388:

Virtual Box RDP Settings

Then, when you want to connect…just specify the port like this:

Virtual Box RDP Connection

The IP address is the IP of the computer running VirtualBox – not your guest. This is great in situations where you have different network settings on the guest, or don’t even have RDP (Windows XP Home, or Windows 2000).

Just hit connect, and you are on the machine in seconds.

You can download VirtualBox from here:

The license allows you to use the free version in a commercial setting. The only exception is if you are going to use it as a service provider, or you are going to deploy it across your network – then they ask that you purchase a license.

Another thing to note – I have not had a chance yet to measure performance against VMWare and Hyper-V. So I am not sure how it matches up.

Still, from what I see so far – it is worth taking a look.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jennifer December 1, 2012 at 12:00 am

Great stuff steve. We have been using ESX here for quite some time. Will be giving virtual box a try.

2 Michael Allen December 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Hi Steve,

I have been using Virtual Box for a while after I switched from Microsofts Virtual PC 2007. I use it for the packaging of applciations in VM ThinApp as well as testing. What I like is the portable version of it. It allows me to take my images with me, eg when I move roles or need to test something quickly on another PC. Check out if your interested.

3 Phil December 2, 2012 at 7:43 pm

Not to say anything bad about VirtualBox, which I have not tried, but the latest version of the free VMWare Player (v5) has no problem with Windows 8.

4 Steve Wiseman December 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Hi Phil,

Thanks for the post. I forgot about VMWare Player. I will need to take another look at it.


5 Steve Wiseman December 2, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Hi Michael,

Always good to hear from you. I will definitely check it out. Thanks!


6 Michael Long December 7, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I too discovered VirtualBox as an alternative to VMware Workstation and was also very impressed. The only feature that I miss (a little) is the ability to drag and drop files between the host and the VM. With VirtualBox you can transfer files via the shared folders feature. Not as convenient but not dramatic.

7 George January 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I too use Oracle Virtual Box 4.2.
I have installed on Open Suse, Fedora, Ubuntu Linux and Windows XP Pro. It is a great tool to have around the computer room to test a lot of software.

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