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!
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:
- Ubuntu 9.04 Alpha 4
- Xubuntu 9.04 Alpha 4
- Debian 5.0 RC2
- ReactOS 0.3.8
- OzOs 0.9 Desktop
- PC/OS Open32 Desktop 2009 [Broken URL Removed]
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:
- OpenSolaris 2008.11 VDI
- openSUSE 11.1 Gnome VDI (Release)
- openSUSE 11.1 KDE (Release)
- Fedora 10
- CentOS 4.7 Server
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:
- OpenSolaris 2008.11
- openSUSE 11.1
- CentOS 5
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.