James Bannan16 December 2008, 10:00 PM
Page 1 - Intro
Want to virtualize Ubuntu on top of Windows Vista for free? Check out our step-by-step tutorial!
Step 1 - Prepare Your System
In this tutorial we're going to virtualize Ubuntu 8.04.1 on Windows Vista Enterprise SP1 x64 using Sun xVM VirtualBox 2.0.2. To prepare for this tutorial you should download the necessary resources:
This tutorial was tested on an Acer TravelMate 7720G running Windows Vista Enteprise SP1 x64. However this tutorial will work on any version of Vista, and either 32-bit or 64-bit (subject to hardware requirements - read below).
Before going down the virtualization path, you should make sure that the system which will act as the host has sufficient resources to run both its own operating system as well as all the virtual machines you're planning to run.
Running virtualized desktop operating systems isn't particularly processor intensive, so really any relatively up-to-date CPU should be able to handle it. Obviously processors with more than one processing core is beneficial, as are CPUs which support Intel-VT or AMD-V.
RAM and disk performance and availability are the most essential components. You really want to be able to run both the host and guest OSes within physical memory. As soon as physical RAM is full and spills over to the page file, hard drive performance will decrease dramatically, adversely affecting both systems. Therefore, on a system running Windows Vista as the host you really need at least 2GB RAM to make virtualization worthwhile. Obviously the more RAM the better, but if you've got 4GB available then you will really need to install a 64-bit version of Vista to get the most out of it.
Hard drive performance is also a major factor, as the virtual guest will be completely dependent on it. You shouldn't attempt to host the virtual hard drive of the guest system on a hard drive slower than 7200rpm, so laptop users should verify their hardware first. You can use an external USB 2.0 or Firewire hard drive, but certain intensive disk operations like creating the virtual disk, formatting it or copying large amounts of files around will chew up the available bus bandwidth and performance will be affected. Finally, if you host the entire virtual guest on the primary partition of the host, fragmentation will occur and affect both systems. So keep the partition defragged and reap the performance benefits.
The last word of warning is that it's important to remember that your system will be running two operating systems, so resource management becomes very important. For example, it's not a good idea to encode video while running a live VM unless you have some serious processing power to hand. It's worthwhile to fire up the Performance monitor in Windows Vista to see under what sort of loads your system is running. To access the Performance monitor, right-click the Start Bar, select Task Manager and go the Performance tab. You want to keep your eye on the "CPU Usage" and "Memory" graphs.