What is a Virtual Box

What is a Virtual Box?

A Virtual Box or VirtualBox, popularly known as VB is a form of software virtualization package which installs in a given operating system as a user application. A VirtualBox enables you to install additional operating systems as Guest Operating Systems that run in a virtual environment. By the year 2010, it was the leading virtualization software in the world. The operating systems that are supported by VirtualBox include Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7, Linux, Mac OS X, OpenSolaris and Solaris.

The users of VirtualBox can use it to load several Guest Oss with a single host OS. Each guest can be easily started, paused and stopped without interfering with another one in its own virtual machine (VM). Users can also configure each of the VMs independently and then run it under their choice of hardware assisted virtualization and software-based virtualization.

VirtualBox History

The VirtualBox has a rich history as it was originally offered by Innotek GmbH from Germany. It was using a proprietary software licence; hence one version of VB was available to users at absolutely no cost. It was used particularly or evaluation reasons or personal use only and was subject to the terms on the VirtualBox Personal Use and Evaluation License. Sun Microsystems bought VirtualBox and all other products when it acquired Innotek GmbH in 2008. VirtualBox was later bought by Oracle Corporation when it acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010 along with all its products. Since then, VB has rebranded as the Oracle VM VirtualBox.

VirtualBox Features

You possibly want to really know what Virtual Box is and how you can install and make use of it. But let us get to know its features first:

  • Snapshots
  • Shared folders
  • Shared clipboard
  • A seamless mode which offers the ability to run the virtualized applications along with the normal desktop applications in your PC
  • Special utilities and drivers that facilitate switching between various systems
  • 64-bit guests
  • A command line interaction apart from the Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • Acceleration for 2D video output
  • Teleportation or Live Migration
  • SMP support
  • A limited support for acceleration of 3D graphics
  • Public API (Python, Java, XPCOM, SOAP) to take control of the VM configuration and the execution thereafter
  • Nested paging for Intel VT and AMD-V for processors that support SLAT and are SLAT enabled

The storage emulation features for VirtualBox include:

  • A pass-through mode for all solid state drives (SSDs)
  • A pass-through mode for BD/CD/DVD disks that allows the user to burn optical disks, play audio CDs and play any encrypted DVDs
  • Ability to disable the Input/ Output cache of the host OS
  • Allows for the limitation of Input/ Output bandwidth
  • Controllers for SATA, PATA, SAS, SCSI, iSCSI and floppy disks
  • Offers NCQ support for SAS, SCSI and SATA raw disks and any other partitions

The storage support features of the VirtualBox include:

  • HDD format disks that are used by virtualization products of Parallels
  • QEMU qcow and qed disks
  • Microsoft VHD support
  • Raw hard disk access that allows for physical hard disk partition on host Oss that appear on the guest system
  • VMware Virtual Machine Disk (VMDK) support that allows the VB to exchange the user PC disk images with VMware

Top 10 Tips to help you make the Most out of VirtualBox

The VirtualBox platform enables you to make the most out of your virtual machines. This is absolutely relevant especially if you are in an environment that requires optimal computing power. Here are the tips:

  1. Avoid Skimping on RAM

Many people normally want to run their virtual machines with limited RAM but this is not a good practice. Always make sure that you have adequate RAM to enable you hand over to the guest OS so that it can also function properly. Skimping RAM denies you optimum functionality.

  1. Set the network to a Bridged Mode

Whenever you set up a new VM, it automatically sets the networking to NAT—the default networking. This means that the resources existing on your network will not be able to see the inserted device. In order for you to resolve this issue you need to set the network to the Bridged mode but unfortunately you need to do this manually for all your virtual machines.

  1. Make use of Virtual Appliances

Virtual appliances enable you to spin a blown server quickly. They include CMS tools, calendars, groupware servers, shopping carts and many more. virtual appliances simply enable you to get a complex system running within a short time and without any difficulty.

  1. Watch a Drift of the Guest Clock

If the time on your guest OS is constantly drifting then you can fix this anomaly through the command line of VB.

  1. Know the Commands

VirtualBox is a champion when it comes to the in-built commands. The principal command is known as the VBoxManage and it can handle numerous tasks including importing and exporting virtual machines, attaching storage, starting virtual machines, configuring them and cloning the hard drives. You need to spend a great deal of time going through the command structure and the VirtualBox manual in order to make the most use of these commands.

  1. Make Use of Snapshots

Snapshots help you to roll back a virtual machine to its former state. If something does not go as expected then you can roll back to the former state using the Snapshot feature. However, you need to save different snapshots as you use the VirtualBox.

  1. Clone the Virtual Disks

If you have already created virtual machines that you would like to use for any other purposes, you should not worry about recreating them because you can clone them. This essentially means making an exact copy of the virtual machine my clicking on Machine | Clone. You have the option of creating either a full clone of the virtual machine or a linked clone. But of importance to note is the fact you need a full clone created on your PC because a moved clone does not work.

  1. Reclaim more Space through Compression of Images

In case the space you allocated for your virtual machine is approaching its limit then you can compress the images stored therein with relevant commands. You can also clean out your VB by defragging the drive before running the compress command on the VirtualBox.

  1. Make use of phpVirtualBox

You can install the phpVirtualBox in case you want to control any or all of your virtual machines from a network. phpVirtualBox is essentially designed purely to allow headless deployment of the VirtualBox.

  1. Install VirtualBox Additions

Additions in any application user are very necessary especially VirtualBox and VMware. The add-ons are normally installed on the basis of per-machine after installing of the primary operating system. Some of the add-ons you may require include system applications and device drivers that help to optimize the host or guest experience. With add-ons you can enjoy shared folders, an improved guest/host communication, seamless windows, better video support and mouse integration.

For more information about what is a Virtual Box please click here!

About the Author: Kevin Purdy was born and brought up in Baldwinsville, New York, a Syracuse suburb. He holds a degree in English Literature from the University of Buffalo where he used to write for The Spectrum. Kevin has worked as a long-term intern with The Buffalo News before joining Sandusky Register and the Niagara Gazette along with its affiliate local papers. He has worked for Lifehacker for 3 years, where he managed to publish a record 5,883 posts before moving on to become a full time independent freelance writer. Apart from writing, Kevin loves playing with his pets: a dog and two cats.

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