After writing my two How To Articles on installing VMware Server on Both Windows Home Server Version 1 and Windows Home Server 2011 I had been thinking of exploring the other alternatives to free Virtualization appliances that is easier to install on your Home Computer. What finally prompted me to actually write this article when fellow moderator and collaborator Jim McCarthy here at UWHS asked me a good article I could recommend that would cover some of the different virtual appliances out there so he could get more familiar with it. Of course I did what I always do and ran for my Google Crystal Ball to research for such an article and was kind of disappointed in the offerings. One article I found was from Petri that was over 2 and half years old and the information on it was broad on what was out there in virtualization (which also included enterprise level appliances) but sparse on what they said about each appliance then just supplied the vendor’s URL. So being the professional perfectionist I am I sent Jim another e-mail back to him giving him what I felt in my 3 years of experience in the personal home virtualization front what would be good for him to try out, Minus the enterprise level stuff.
Who is this Article For?
This article is specifically aimed at the Home user environment for people who want to try other alternatives in their flavor of different Operating Systems other than and including Windows or even the hobbyist IT who wants to try different ways of bettering their existing environment without taking the chance of accidentally breaking it. The best thing about most of my suggestions is the appliance is free or the worst case scenario it has at least a 30 day evaluation before having to buy.
Suggested Virtual Appliances for the Home
We are going to start off with probably the top three free virtual appliances out in the virtualization technology market today…
VMware Player – This is what I have come to dub as “VMware Workstation Lite”. This was one of VMware’s first free Virtual appliances that was originally designed as sort of an “add-on” for VMware’s workstation appliance. So once a VM had been made it could be distributed to other users and “played” without having to buy another copy of VMware Workstation. However before version 3.0 you were limited to playing the VM’s that had been created by it’s big brother Workstation, Now you can create VM’s with it as well. VMware Player supports multiple Operating Systems Including Microsoft Windows (from Windows 3.1 all the way to Windows 7/2008 R2), Linux, Sun Solaris, Novell Netware, and others. Player also supports USB connectivity thru the Host operating system and now has limited support for Direct X Video Card emulation for the more video intensive applications. The appliance can be installed on either Windows (Windows 2000 and up) or Linux Based Operating Systems. It’s completely Free and you need to only register with VMware, The current version as of this writing is version 3.1.4 .
Oracle’s (Formally Sun’s) Virtual Box– This particular Virtual appliance has had a very interesting history. Virtual Box started out it’s life by a company called Innotek GmbH in 2007 before being subsequently purchased by Sun Microsystems the following year in 2008, and then ultimately by Oracle when they in turn brought out Sun Microsystems in 2010. On top of what the normal offerings in a free virtual appliance like VMware Player and Microsoft’s Virtual PC it also supports some of the technology that the enterprise level virtual appliance offers like snapshots of VM’s and connecting a physical disk to the Virtual Machine. Virtual Box supports a variety of host operating systems which include Microsoft Windows (Windows XP and Up), Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, Open Solaris, and even the MAC OS X.This comes in 2 parts, One is the main download of the Virtual Box appliance and its expansion add-on. The expansion pack will allow the USB connectivity through the host operating system and RDP session from without the virtual environment. The appliance is free for all personal use but not for all business use. The current version as of this writing is version 4.1.2 .
Microsoft Virtual PC – There actually is 2 versions of Microsoft’s Virtual PC and that is Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 and the new version which was designed to work with Microsoft’s Windows 7 line of operating systems (well, most of them at least). As everything with Microsoft they originally brought the technology of the Virtual PC appliance when they acquired the company who made it by the name of Connectix in 2003. Virtual PC 2007 can be loaded on most version of Microsoft Windows (Ranging from Windows NT/98 to Windows Vista) host operating systems and support most Microsoft Operating Systems as a guest (MS-DOS all the way to Vista). The newer Version has the ability in Windows XP mode to incorporate its devices with the Windows 7 host operating system. Both appliances are free to use with genuine copy’s of Windows and support USB pass through.
The last Virtual appliance I am going to talk about is for the serious hobbyist IT that wants to do more with their virtual machines than the Free versions have to offer and that is of course is VMware Workstation…
VMware Workstation – VMware workstation has been one of VMware’s flagship desktop virtual appliances since the early 2000’s and is still one of the premier virtual technology in todays virtual market. Workstation has all the features that all the previously mentioned free appliances has plus the addition of team virtual networking, running multiple Virtual machines at once, recording your virtual machines, and much more. Workstations supports the following guest Operating Systems which Include Microsoft Windows (from Windows 3.1 all the way to Windows 7/2008 R2), Linux, Sun Solaris, Novell Netware, and others. This appliance can be installed on either Microsoft Windows (Windows 2000 and up) or Linux Based Operating Systems. Workstation also comes with VMware Player as an additional add on. It is free to try for 30 days (after you register for an evaluation license) and is approximately $189 for a permanent license. Again, I would only consider making the move to VMware workstation when you have gotten of what you can due with the basic functionality of Virtualization. The current Version as of this writing is 7.1.4 .
In all for starting out I would most likely use either VMware Player or Virtual Box. Both are very easy to install and use for the first time Virtual User.
Guest Operating Systems Legality
It is the responsibility of the user to obtain the the legal licenses and genuine copies of any operating system that is used for the Virtual Machine on the Virtual Appliance. Yes, even if the OS is not being installed on a physical machine the same legal rights do apply.