Notes from the VirtualBox – Part 1

Setting Up VBox

VirtualBox (VBox) is Oracle Corporation’s entry into the Virtual Machine market. And since it is a free software product, I decided to download it and install it. And I am pleased to announce that it is simple to download and install on Windows 10 (Linux & Mac versions are also available). But without easy access to a VBox guru, getting it configured was a little trickier.

I had tried numerous times to set up my desktop and laptops to dual-boot into either Windows or Linux but without success. Between overly-zealous boot sector protection,  UEFI vs BIOS, and disappearing grub, the best I’d been able to accomplish was selecting either UEFI or BIOS to enable the desired operating system. To change from the currently selected OS to the other OS required a hard reboot, pressing F2 key repeatedly to activate the BIOS setup screens, selecting either the UEFI or BIOS method, and then rebooting again. Needless to say, a slow and clumsy process.

Fortunately, VBox has fixed this problem for me. Now, after booting Win10, I can launch one or more guest machines inside my VBox and have access to any one of them. They are all live and running simultaneously; I can click on the desired OS (window) and use the resources available in that OS as easily as using multiple apps side by side in Windows. This is a big improvement over my attempts to dual boot.

Important Concepts

VBox is based on the concept of host machine and guest machine(s). The host machine is the base computer’s operating system, or Windows 10 in my case. The guest machine is the operating system that runs inside of VBox, or Ubuntu gnu/linux for me.

Installation of VirtualBox

Once the VituralBox installer has been downloaded, just execute it and then follow the prompts. The Win10 installer is smooth and fast and simple. I haven’t tried the other installers, so I can’t guarantee that they will work as easily. The installation routine also doesn’t require any hard decisions, such as disk partitions or CPU cores because those decisions are all associated with the guest machines that you install.

Installation of Guest Machines

Start the VBox Manager and a screen similar to the following should appear. The empty white panel on the left of the screen is where the guest machines will be listed after you have created them. Click the blue New button to create a new virtual machine.

The Create Virtual Machine dialog box appears (on left). As you start to name your new VM, it will try to guess what type of OS you are installing (on right). 

Default New VM with Blank Name
Guesses Your New VM Based on Name

I have already downloaded the .iso image for Ubuntu 18.04 desktop so I will name the new VM “ubuntu 18” – it is just a name so VBox doesn’t care if I name it “third door on the left” or “Bert”. Since I will also be installing Ubuntu 18 server later, I probably don’t want to get too “creative”.

Next it will ask how much memory you want to allocate to this new VM. I have 12 GB of RAM available but its default setting is 1 GB (on left). Even though it is easy to change this setting at any time, I will change it to 2 GB for initial set up (on right).

Next it will ask about the virtual hard disk to add. The first option doesn’t add a virtual hard drive which may be useful for some special situations but none come to mind. The second option is probably the most used option as it provides a place where you can install a new OS. The third option allows you to re-use or share an existing virtual hard drive between various VMs, which seems like it would be useful if you wanted to performance test different configurations using a common software base or if you wanted to reuse the installed software and data but wanted to reinstall the OS. 

I usually create a new virtual hard disk (2nd option). The default size is 10 GB but you don’t actually set the size on this dialog – that will happen in a few steps. And I usually select the first option for the Hard disk file type.

For Storage on physical hard disk (left), I normally select the Dynamically allocated hard disk file; so far the performance has been more than adequate. And finally we can set the size of the virtual hard disk (right). I normally set it to 20 GB.

And in a flash, you are returned to the VBox Manager with the new VM shown on the left. It happens so quickly because the allocated virtual hard disk was not formatted and Ubuntu was not actually installed. Instead, space has been reserved for Ubuntu, nothing more.

New Ubuntu Desktop VM added to Panel on Left

The next part in this series will discuss the installing and configuring Ubuntu 18 desktop and Ubuntu 18 server.

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