8 reasons why you should be running Linux in a virtual machine
If you wanted to run multiple Linux systems on a single machine, you had to install them using multiboot. A great thing about Linux is that it works well with virtual machines. Linux virtual machines have many hidden advantages that most users ignore.
1. Quick start
Virtual machines can start up faster than a “bare metal” installation on real hardware. This may be because a virtual machine does not have to undergo the power-on tests that a physical machine performs at startup. You can work in a virtual Linux machine without wasting time.
2. Isolated environment
A Linux virtual machine is isolated from the host operating system. This means that any problem with installing the operating system will be limited to that virtual machine.
If your virtual operating system is corrupted or affected by malware, you can simply restore your snapshots or backups (we’ll talk about this later) and continue as if it hadn’t happened. And since only the virtual system is affected, you can use your normal machine normally.
You can also have a specific environment that you need for an application. A developer can deliver the environment with an application. This approach, using lightweight containers like with Docker, has become a popular way to deploy software to servers.
If you are using Linux, most of the time when you need to use a Windows application that does not work with Wine, you can run it on a VirtualBox machine instead of creating a dual boot system. It also works the other way around. If you can live with the overload, virtual machines are more flexible than dual-boot systems for all of the reasons described.
3. You can clone virtual machines
A Linux desktop is wonderful, but what happens when you get a new machine? You will need to migrate all of your files and reinstall all of your apps.
With a virtual machine, you can export the system and move it to the new physical machine and pick up where you left off.
You can also share your surroundings with other people. You can create a standard environment for developing and testing an application that will be the same among members of your development team.
With the ability to capture snapshots, you can undo any changes to your system that are malfunctioning.
4. You can try different distributions
Much of the fun of Linux comes from trying new distros. You can continue to use your favorite distro while experimenting with different ones.
Repartitioning your hard drive for each new system is tedious, but creating new virtual machines is trivial. You can avoid fumbling around with CD-Rs or trying to find spare USB drives to start a live distribution.
When you are done testing a system, you can simply delete the virtual machine if you do not want to.
If you are using a stable distribution like Debian, you can try a cutting edge system like Arch Linux. Because it is isolated from your stable system, you can experiment without risk to your primary operating system.
5. Easy backup and recovery
It is easier to back up and restore virtual machines than for a physical system. You can take a snapshot of a virtual machine in a known good configuration before making any significant changes. If these changes are causing issues, you can just go back to where you were by uploading the snapshot you created.
Because you can create and restore snapshots, you can safely experiment with Linux configurations. Taking snapshots will save you a lot of frustration as you can spend time working instead of troubleshooting.
6. You can use predefined images
Besides quickly starting to use a virtual machine on a physical installation, you can also save time by using predefined images.
There are pre-built virtual machine repositories for almost all open source operating systems, such as the OSBoxes site for VirtualBox. The advantage is that you can skip the installation process and start working on the new machine.
These systems come with standard administrator accounts, so you need to change the passwords. Security is less important on a virtual machine that only runs on your local system, but you need to practice good habits.
7. Easy-to-learn Linux / IT concepts
If you are completely new to Linux, the best way to learn is on a virtual machine. You can become familiar with installing, configuring, and using Linux without having to destroy your existing environment. It’s also more convenient than using something like the Windows Subsystem for Linux.
If you’ve used Linux on the desktop and want to learn how to run Linux on servers, you can also experiment in a virtual machine rather than buying expensive additional hardware. You can create a LAMP stack on a virtual Linux server and learn to write web applications.
There’s a reason virtualization is so important to many IT departments. Virtual machines are a great way to set up a “home lab” of virtual servers without the expense or space of physical machines.
8. Different virtual machines on one computer
You can easily configure different virtual Linux machines on a physical machine. You may only have limited physical space on your desktop. Maybe you only want to manage one computer.
You can have different virtual machines for different purposes. You could have a small, stable Debian server or a state-of-the-art Arch desktop. You can also configure a database server or a router on a server. You can connect all of these in their own virtual networks.
Virtual Linux machines make efficient use of your hardware. Even the cheapest computer you can buy can run multiple virtual machines with reasonable performance. So why not tap into the hidden capabilities of your computer and put it to good use for you?
Virtualization and Linux: a winning combination
One of the reasons Linux has become so prevalent is that it can coexist with different systems. Virtualization makes this possible. You can create multiple Linux machines on a single physical computer and move them as needed. It’s hard to imagine Linux where it is without virtual machines.
VirtualBox is the first open source virtualization application, and there are ways to overload your Linux virtual machines to take full advantage of it.
Tired of the poor performance offered by virtual machines? Here is what you need to do to improve the performance of your VirtualBox.
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