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test linux osFor a long time, I’ve been curious about Linux operating systems. I’ve used Windows my whole life, so the idea of switching to another operating system is a pretty big deal.

I know a lot of people that love Mac, and I admit that every time we go to the computer store, I often find myself poking around with the latest Mac laptop just to see what it’s all about. I wouldn’t mind a little bit of change, so long as I can still do everything I need to do with the computer – including using Office products, programming in those products using VBA, web programming, and of course the remote access and VPN applications I need for all of my other work.

I think switching to a new OS could be a lot of fun – something completely new. What made me decide to take a closer look at Linux operating systems out there is the fact that I love the Android OS on my Droid so much – and the fact that I’ve never had to “reboot” it once, or have never had a single issue with viruses or malware. I also like the fact that there are just so many Linux OS projects to choose from.

Testing Out Different Linux OS Projects

The thing about trying an OS in a dual-boot setup is that it consumes so much of your system resources. Not only that, but it takes the standard amount of time to set it all up, and then if you don’t like it, you have to remove it all and hope that you don’t completely screw up your system in the process.

The solution, if you just want to take a test ride of various Linux operating systems without doing anything too intrusive to your PC, is to install them into VirtualBox. We’ve covered VirtualBox in a lot of stories here at MUO, my favorite being Jorge’s suggestion to use it as a test bed for Linux OS platforms Test Drive Linux Operating Systems with VirtualBox Test Drive Linux Operating Systems with VirtualBox Read More . His description of the process was brief, and I wasn’t really sure where to find all of the images that I wanted to test. So I decided to go through the process of testing different Linux OS systems in detail, starting with a perfect place to find nearly all of them – pre-configured for use on VirtualBox.

Of course, the first step of all if you don’t have VirtualBox yet, is to install the Oracle VM VirtualBox Manager for your particular OS.

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test linux os

Once that’s installed, go over to VirtualBoxes.org and choose from the wonderful selection of installations. There are lots here that I’ve always wanted to try but was always too nervous – Ubuntu of course, but then there’s the “Other” category that I really like – Android OS, Haiku and a few others. Take your selection and download, but make sure you have many hours because some of the ISO or VDI files are really huge.

In VirtualBox Manager, click on the “New” icon and choose the base RAM you want to allocate. I usually just go with the recommended base of 512, but just check on the website for the OS to see what the requirements are for that OS and assign accordingly.

From Virtualboxes.org, there are basically one of two files that you’ll find – VDI or ISO. Whichever you get will determine at what point in the installation process you will need to access the file. If it’s a VDI file that you download, like the Ubuntu image I’m installing below, you’ll need to click on “Use existing hard disk” and browse to the VDI file that you want to install. Once you select the file, it’ll show up with the base memory listed.

test drive linux

I know the pic above shows the ReactOS VDI file – that was another OS that I wanted to try out as well. I had already tested the Ubuntu OS and was moving on to ReactOS. It’s amazing how fast you can just roll through installations (once you’ve downloaded the massive images of course).

Each system you’ve set up shows up in the left panel – and if you give it a descriptive name, you’ll know exactly what OS you’ve loaded and you can switch quickly whenever you like – just shutdown one system and load up the next.

test drive linux

So, the first OS that I tested and had high hopes for was the Android OS. I thought – hey, if it is so cool and slick on my mobile phone, wouldn’t it be neat to run a similar OS on a PC?

Well – not so much. The OS had the look and feel of your typical Android mobile phone, with a slider panel that you could flip open and closed with a swish of the mouse.

test drive linux

The image you download comes preloaded with a bunch of stuff – an RSS reader, music player, email client and more.  Here’s the RSS reader – pretty simple listing of latest news on a black backdrop, just like you’d expect to see on an Android app.

try linux without installing

So, it didn’t take me long to decide to shut that system down and try out a new OS. Aside from VDI files, in some cases you’ll find that the image download is an ISO file. This is an image file that you’ll select only after you’ve finished creating a new base virtual machine without an OS installed.

Click on the “Start” icon, and the VirtualBox manager will take you through a “First Run Wizard” that lets you choose an image to load onto the virtual machine. Just browse to your ISO file.

try linux without installing

I was so disappointed with the Android OS that I decided to go straight for the operating system that I’ve heard and read so much about from fellow MUO writers – Ubuntu. Virtualboxes.org offers a Ubuntu image you can test drive, and it is loaded up with the basic things you’d want – a Firefox browser, email client, document/spreadsheet apps, and more.

I have to say, the moment the OS loaded and the desktop showed up, I wasn’t a bit disappointed. This is a very cool desktop!

try linux without installing

Taskbar is accessible on the left side, Chat, email client and system settings have quick access icons right at the top right corner of the window. The stock background image is pretty sweet, and I’m already looking forward to seeing what else I can do to customize the desktop.

I like how the windows are laid out in a way that would be really easy for someone accustomed to a Windows operating system to pick up quickly. Modifying system settings, finding applications and configuring the desktop is  really easy – I’d say the learning curve to learn this OS is somewhere within the vicinity of zilch and none.

So far, Ubuntu had my vote, but I’d only just started testing out operating systems. After playing around with Ubuntu for 30 minutes, I just shut down the system, created a new Virtual Machine, and loaded up the Haiku image from Virtuaboxes.org.

Haiku is pretty sweet too. The window designs have a slightly Linuxy (that’s the only word I can think of to describe it) look and feel, but I love the layout and the overall design. I could see falling in love with Haiku just as easily as Ubuntu.

Finished with Haiku after about 20 minutes, I moved on to another interesting OS that I found at VirtualBoxes called IcarosLight. I didn’t install the full blown Icaros because I just didn’t have time to download the 700MB file. The scaled down OS is around 200MB and offers a small taste of what the full OS is like. As you can see, the window designs with this OS are a lot different, and it could take some getting used to.

I like the quality of the icons, and I absolutely love the app carousel at the bottom of the Desktop window. Here’s yet a third Linux-based OS that I’ve fallen in love with and want to test drive longer than the 30 minutes I took playing around with it this first time.

Three Virtual Machines into this test drive, and I’ve already become intrigued by three OS images – I’m in trouble. How am I supposed to decide on one?

And then it hit me – you know what? I don’t have to decide on just one. Isn’t that the whole point of a VirtualBox? You can switch from one OS to the next on a whim? All I have to do whenever I like is fire up the VirtualBox manager and choose from the list of images I’ve set up in the left pane.

This is just the coolest thing I’ve ever tried – my first foray breaking free from the world of Windows. I knew that the Linux OS developers had turned out some amazing things, but I really had no idea just how far they had come since the early days. I’m actually looking forward to test driving a few more – once they’re finished downloading that is.

Oh, and one more important note that I learned from MUO colleague Christian – if you notice the Virtualbox is running a bit sluggish, make sure that you’ve enabled virtualization on your CPU. You can check this by downloading the Intel CPU identification Utility, which will show you whether virtualization is turned on or off.

test linux os

If it isn’t, reboot your PC into the BIOS, find where virtualization is set up (it’s different for every computer manufacturer) and make sure to enable it. You’ll find that VirtualBox rolls along like a charm afterwards.

Are you already a VirtualBox user? How do you make use of it? What’s your favorite image? Is this your first time using it? Share your experiences test driving these OS images in the comments section below!  Oh and don’t forget to download our free downloadable manual on Virtualbox!

Image Credit: Close Up of Blank Monitor Via Shutterstock

  1. Raghav Gupta
    November 5, 2012 at 4:56 am

    Thanks for explaining. Now I will run the VM

  2. Suman
    August 8, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    i'm new with Linux and VBox.
    i am trying to run Ubuntu 12.04 in Vbox. when i open .iso file it asks me to try Ubuntu or Install it. if I click try everything goes fine but when I click install - ? on my mind.......
    plz who can explain it step by step???
    and if i choose install where it would install itself and can do some work with it?

  3. iyus
    August 6, 2012 at 3:24 am

    i want to ask some help.

    i have linux host (ubuntu) and ubuntu server as virtual linux server on vbox, i want to communicate both of them (i'd like to learn ssh remote server) without any lan cable connected. i'm just want to connect host to virtual only and ping their connection each other, could you give me some instruction???

    i'm sorry about my bad english.
    thank's before.

    • Thruster Piddleslap
      August 6, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      You can run several virtual machines at a time. VM will not communicate with your host if it is native (only if it is in a virtual machine env.) Set up two vms and network them like you would a real machine. You need to know IP addressing, or enable DHCP, if you know how to do it - just repeat and you need to know the NIC settings ...RTFM !

  4. Hasitha Chaturanga
    July 21, 2012 at 1:37 am

    This is cool

  5. C Dockery
    July 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Just my opinion but for a general purpose desktop OS that is much more stable and out performs windows, try Ubuntu.

  6. Irshaad Abdool
    July 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    you can also use VMWare Workstation but its a paid solution.
    to use linux OSs, you can also boot from their live cds

  7. Tom Sobieski
    July 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Even though iI THOUGHT myself a geek, true Geek-hood was not reached until a 5 year old laptop, with a crapped out HD had some Lubuntu installed so that it might be useable again. I'm using it right now to enter this comment.
    A Asus 1005 netbook running Ubuntu is next. Saved me some money so maybe I can afford a MS Surface later in the year.

    Life is good

    • Ryan Dube
      July 12, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      Oh cool - I'm glad to hear that Tom because I've been considering doing that on a couple of laptops I have at home - similar generation as well. Very happy to hear that Lubuntu gave yours new life.

  8. iStoopKid
    July 7, 2012 at 12:20 am

    I still want to try an Arch Linux setup. I've read talk online about how it's much better but harder to install. I don't know the validity of this, but I may try it on if I ever get some free time. Then again it's all a personal preference thing I guess because Ubuntu 10.10, Mint, and Puppy haven't let me down yet.

    • Ryan Dube
      July 12, 2012 at 5:08 pm

      I agree - I think when it comes to Linux varieties there is just such a wide selection that it does come down to personal preference. Which in my opinion is a positive thing going for Linux - choice is always nice.

  9. Juan Carlos Espinosa Agudelo
    July 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm

    I don't use Virtual Box often, but I had to use it for school some months ago. Some of my classmates didn't know what a dual boot was, so we had to dual boot Windows XP and Ubuntu, using Virtual Box.
    Although I did the process right, my laptop couldn't handle Ubuntu and Windows 7 running at the same time(since they share the computer's resources), but my teacher let me pass the 'assignment' anyways. That's pretty much the experience I've had with it(besides playing a bit on the Windows XP)

    I wonder, have any of you had more experience with dual booting/multi booting on Virtual Box?

    • Ryan Dube
      July 7, 2012 at 11:34 pm

      Juan - I haven't tried it. If you don't get an answer here though, you might want to give Answers a shot. There may be someone out there that has tried this approach and could give you some tips. http://www.makeuseof.com/answers/

  10. Brent Coughenour Sr.
    July 6, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    well i use vmware 8.04 paid app and am running 21 virtual machines not all at once on 2 2tb phantom black hard drives for the past 6 months and adding more each 2 to 3 days love it run them right thru vmware with thier iso right on 1 harddrive and install the vmware image on the other using win dows 7 ultimate 64 bit 16 gig memory

    • Ryan Dube
      July 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm

      Wow - 21! And here I was getting worried about going up to 10. Good to hear that you can do that...I wonder what the limit is when it comes to loading up virtual machines. Probably just hard drive memory to store the images?

  11. Uncle B
    July 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Have Acer with Windows 7, then added Ubuntu using wubi, now wish to get rid of Windows 7 entirely and use Ubuntu 12.04 exclusively - no body seems to know how?

    • Brent Coughenour Sr.
      July 6, 2012 at 8:27 pm

      just goto boot in configsys from run menu and delete it like i did vista on a machine changed that one to mint cinamon only it was hp

  12. jasray
    July 6, 2012 at 2:19 am

    http://virtualboximages.com/

    It seems VeeDee Eyes is now known as VirtualBoxImages located at .com rather than .org.

    The site has been around for years.

  13. jayOhh
    July 6, 2012 at 12:38 am

    Nice article. Surprised that you did not try Linux Mint. I started out with Ubuntu and MInt virtual box. I now dual boot Ubuntu and Win7 and currently run Win8 consumer preview via virtual box on the win 7 partition.
    i didn't know you could get ubuntu installations via virtualbox.org, so I will surely head on there and give it a try. I would like to try Zorin Os. I hear it is similar in apperarance to Windows.

    • Ryan Dube
      July 7, 2012 at 11:32 pm

      Thanks - I did spot Linux Mint and was very tempted to try it, but there were too many flavors of Linux I wanted to try first. :-)

      I do plan to download Mint and give it a test run though.

  14. musicphann
    July 5, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I've been meaning to try Gentoo but didn't realize I could use a pre made image. I feel like I'd be cheating. I do use VirtualBox to run Crunchbang Linux though!

  15. David
    July 5, 2012 at 9:04 am

    If that's not your thing (remembering that the VirtualBox is sharing the resources with the Windows system), but you still want to give Linux a go without completely committing to it, do check out Wubi and/or Unetbootin.

  16. Ben
    July 5, 2012 at 8:53 am

    I use VirtualBox more or less daily. My system runs 64 bit Windows 7, Home Premium (it came preinstalled). Being a developer, my entire programming life has been on Windows XP using VB6 which does not work in my version on Windows 7 (you need 32 bit Windows 7, Professional or so I have been told). I set up a virtual XP machine in VirtualBox which enables me to carry on as I have always done and I can migrate my stuff to the new Windows OS on my own schedule. Now that is truly awesome, for me anyway. I also tinker with Linux and with VirtualBox, I can do this safely.

    • Ryan Dube
      July 7, 2012 at 11:31 pm

      Ben, I like that approach. Like you, i've been using Winxp and VB6 for years and know what you mean about the pain of migrating (especially when you have a lot of apps to migrate). I never actually considered using VirtualBox to handle things until ready for migration - very smart...

  17. Greg
    July 5, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Thanks for link to the manual and this article. I needed something to help me start using Virtual box :)

  18. Trevor
    July 5, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Linux Mint is the distro that I fell in love with when I made the switch. I have tried many ISOs and they aren't THAT large compared to a Windows ISO. Nice article.

  19. spencer
    July 4, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    Why were you so disappointed in the Android OS? I've been considering installing this as a virtual machine on a laptop, using a 3G USB drive as a means of turning my laptop into a phone, just so I don't have to have more than one device. and I'm wondering why you found it such a letdown.

    • Ryan Dube
      July 7, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      Spencer - it was mostly the interface, which was really designed for a touch-screen setup. The slider to open up menu items was cool, but a little bit clunky to use with the mouse. I also found text entry to be a bit hit or miss and difficult sometimes...hard to describe unless you try it. I think you'll see what I mean.

      • Declan Lopez
        July 12, 2012 at 1:58 am

        Android 4.0 ICS isn't that bad with a mouse, I ran it live on my laptop for a few hours and didn't find anything wrong with it.

    • Ihtisham ul haq haq
      November 3, 2012 at 2:08 am

      Me agree with you...

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