Test Drive Linux Operating Systems with VirtualBox

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VirtualBox is a great way to test out new operating systems, without having to configure your machine to dual-boot. You can even install Windows 7 on VirtualBox. There are two ways to obtain free operating systems for VirtualBox: using virtual disk images (VDIs) or actual installation disks.

Downloading virtual disk images is probably the quickest and easiest way to test out a new operating system on VirtualBox.  Downloading and using a virtual disk image is the equivalent of installing a new physical hard drive into a computer, with the hard drive already having the operating system on it.

If you have two computers with identical underlying hardware, it should theoretically be possible to move the hard drive from one to the other.  That is exactly what you are doing when you download and use a virtual disk image on VirtualBox.  This is because a VirtualBox system on one computer is essentially identical to a VirtualBox system on another.

There is a website called VirtualBoxImages that has a number of free virtual disk images for free operating systems available to download.  You can simply download the virtual disk images, set up your virtual machine to use them, power up the virtual machine, and you’re all set!

virtualboximages-free-vdis

There are more detailed instructions on VirtualBoxImages for using the VDIs.  The instructions on that page describe how to install their Puppy Linux VDI, but the steps are the same for other operating systems as well.  You will just use a different VDI file, rather than the one for Puppy Linux.  VirtualBoxImages has a number of free virtual disk images available, including:

They also have some disk images that are labeled as “premium downloads” where you pay a nominal fee to download them.  I’m not sure why they’ve decided to make some VDIs available for free and they require you to pay for others.  Some of the premium VDIs available are:

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Regardless of whether VirtualBoxImages has them labeled as premium or not, all of the VDIs they have for download are for free operating systems.  You may not be able to find the VDIs you want for free, but you can still download the installation media and install the operating systems yourself.

Although doing so involves more work on your part since you need to run the full installation, it allows you to avoid the cost of paying for one of the premium VDIs.  Here are some links for the installation disks:

Once you download the installation disk images, the installation process is very much the same as installing Windows 7 onto VirtualBox.  You’ll just be using different file names for the installation disk images, and the process for installing the VirtualBox guest additions will be slightly different.

Have you installed any of these operating systems on VirtualBox?  Have you found .torrent links for any of VirtualBoxImage’s premium VDIs?  If so, please do share them with us!  Do not share .torrent files for operating systems that are not free.

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Comments (8)
  • Ben

    I use a combination of Virtual Box and Virtual PC on my host PC. Virtual PC IMO is the easiest and quickest solution for running Windows guess O/S if your running a Windows host. Though when it comes to Unix/Linux and other alternative guest OS’s on a Windows host, I prefer Virtual Box which has much better alt.os support.

  • Windows Guy

    I personally prefer Virtual PC over Virtual Box.

  • whs

    I run Ubuntu and Windows 7 in Virtual Box. It works extremely well and I like the fact that I can switch between the host Vista and the guest system. I have also written a tutorial on Virtual Box and how to run Windows7 in it. MS Virtual PC is alao covered in that tutorial: http://www.winvistaclub.com/forum/windows-vista-tips-tutorials/26816-run-windows-7-any-os-virtual-partition.html

  • Travis Quinnelly

    What makes VirtualBox better than say MS’s Virtual PC?

    • Jorge Sierra

      It’s open source and it’s not a Microsoft product. :-D But seriously…

    • It’s available for Linux, Mac OS X, as well as Windows.
    • It has support for 3D graphics.
    • It supports virtual machine extensions on Intel and AMD chips that support it.
    • It supports USB passthrough
    • I’m not sure if Virtual PC has all of those features (yet).

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This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.