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VirtualBox

CNET Editors' review

Though there are some free virtualization tools available, most have limitations. VirtualBox is a free open-source virtualization tool powerful enough for enterprise systems yet easy enough for home users. It runs in Windows editions 95 to 7, Mac OS X, Solaris, and Linux, and it supports a wide range of guest operating systems, including MS-DOS, early versions of Windows, and OpenBSD.

VirtualBox's wizard-based interface simplifies the creation and management of virtual machines (VMs). The tabbed main display is paired with a side panel listing all existing VMs. Control icons labeled New, Settings, Start, and Discard handle all functions, and tabs for Details, Snapshot, and Description display information about any selected VM. We clicked New to create a new VM to install Ubuntu, the free Linux-based OS, within Windows 7 to test VirtualBox's ability to host multiple operating systems without making drastic changes. The wizard let us select the operating system (Linux) and version (Ubuntu) we planned to install during the creation, as well as specify the amount of RAM to allocate for the new VM. Next we created a new virtual hard disk, though you can select an existing bootable disk image. You can choose to create either a fixed or dynamically expanding disk; we chose the latter. If you need more RAM or disk space, the Settings icon accesses these options as well as other settings like audio, USB, and serial ports. When everything was ready, we clicked Start, followed the First Run Wizard, and created a custom-configured VM ready to host our new OS. Surprisingly, VirtualBox even had a wizard for that. While you're using your VM, you can always exit back to the host system instantly with a specified keystroke.

VirtualBox was developed by Innotek, which is now part of Oracle, and VirtualBox is part of Oracle's extensive support system. Add the advantages of open-source development and the fact that's its totally free to both enterprise-level developers and home users, and it amounts to a strong recommendation.

Publisher's Description

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All User Reviews

Results 1-10 of 44

  • 5.0 stars

    "Amazing tool but kinda slow..."

    March 15, 2014  |   By alexmonte

    Version: VirtualBox 4.3.8

    Pros

    I love it, I really do. It works fine, runs a variety of OS and has many settings to customize it however you want.

    Cons

    Maybe I just did something wrong with the OS I'm using on it but it always seems extremely slow. I kept adding more resources to it to see if that would help it run faster but after giving it the max amount of resources my computer would let me, it still didn't seem to speed up a bit. Maybe I'm just expecting too much from a virtual machine.

    Summary

    Seems slow but great nonetheless.

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  • 4.0 stars

    "A very versatile local VM solution"

    January 23, 2014  |   By RickMay57

    Version: VirtualBox 4.3.6

    Pros

    Will support lots of systems, and seems to be low use on the local resources

    Cons

    Interface could be a little more intuitive. I had a little trouble figuring out how to restore from a snap-shot. Also switching between full-screen and window screens took some getting used to.

    Summary

    I have tried the Microsoft and VMware solutions, which all worked fine. I felt the MS solution was overly resource hungry, and VM took a lot more disk space to install than it should. This seems to be a solid performer for testing against a VM in the real world.

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  • 4.0 stars

    "A Fantastic Product, & Free Too"

    December 29, 2013  |   By Mr Windows

    Version: VirtualBox 4.3.6

    Pros

    This is everything that Windows 8's much vaunted virtualization should have been.

    Cons

    It's a little time consuming setting up a VHD, Virtual Hard Drive.

    Summary

    I admit it, I'm a Windows 7 man, but with Oracle's Virtual Box I'm able to install, and test out any operating system I want. I bought Windows 8 Pro when it first came on the market at the reduced price. However, I wasn't about to abandon my Windows 7 setup, just to test out a new operating system. That's when I found Virtual Box. I installed it, set up a Windows 8 spot for it, gave it enough memory, and a large enough VHD to play in, and I was off.

    I was able to test, and fully evaluate Windows 8 for my clients without sacrificing my Windows 7 setup. I have since set up, and tested other operating systems for my various clients at no cost to me. Also, the fact that Oracle continues to improve, and update Virtual Box makes it a winner in my book.

    So, if you want to test out another operating system, or you now have Windows 8, but don't want to struggle through the tortures of setting up its virtualization so you can install XP, for example. You can just install Virtual Box, and easily put XP back on your system. This is a winner of a program.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Excellent program!"

    December 6, 2013  |   By UmbrellaCorp

    Version: VirtualBox 4.2.16

    Pros

    Doesn't take up much system resources, free, great for testing out beta or new programs!

    Cons

    Can't think of any at this time.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Free alternative to vmware"

    April 10, 2013  |   By jebage

    Version: VirtualBox 4.2.10

    Pros

    Free!
    Easy Setup
    Several wizards make config simple
    pop-ups provide context useful hints

    Cons

    Performance not quite as good as vmware
    no quite as "polished" as vmware

    Summary

    Best summed up as the best free virtual desktop available. Not as polished as vmware but it gets the job done. I would suggest trying it before spending any money. My guess is it will do what you need.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "WOW.Better than W7 XPmode.Ran 3VMs of W8 in W7 perfect!"

    January 27, 2013  |   By the-original-katPHish

    Version: VirtualBox 4.2.6

    Pros

    Worked flawlessly to run Win8, Win7, and XP. I could access drives, folders, printers, scanners... So easy to use. Going to try other OSes soon.

    Cons

    For FREE it has done all I wanted it to do and smoothly.

    Summary

    Glad I ran across an articel on this tool that was referring to run Windows8 on a Win7 box.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Excellent, works very well!"

    January 26, 2013  |   By Rioismycat

    Version: VirtualBox 4.2.6

    Pros

    Once you figure out how to set up this software it works very well, right now i'm running Windows 8 using this software, computer actually seems to run faster!

    Cons

    There're are no cons once you figure out the settings.

    Summary

    I'm very happy with this software!

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  • 4.0 stars

    "Good for running other OS's"

    January 11, 2013  |   By moe04

    Version: VirtualBox 4.2.6

    Pros

    Installs other OS's fast and uses allows the guest OS to use the hardware properly. Nice customization and easy settings configurations.

    Cons

    None so far

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Turns a Win7 laptop into a classic gaming powerhouse"

    November 3, 2012  |   By ihtoit

    Version: VirtualBox 4.2.4

    Pros

    Free
    Easy to use once configured

    Cons

    Initial configuration of the virtual appliances can be tricky

    Summary

    I currently run the following, both locally and over my network to several computers at home, all from a dual core laptop with 6GB of RAM:

    Windows XP (OEM and Legacy)
    OpenSuSE 11.4
    Lubuntu 10.04
    AndroidX86
    FreeBSD 7.1
    Knoppix-Debian 7.0.1
    MS-DOS
    OSX86

    Obviously, the more complicated platforms such as OSX and the latest Linuxes are not going to run anywhere near the performance you'd get from running native, however the DOS appliance I'm running so far outperforms native mode on an APM machine I have to throttle CPU duty cycles back to *slow it down*.

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  • 5.0 stars

    "Great tool"

    October 16, 2012  |   By c2looney

    Version: VirtualBox 4.2

    Pros

    works as advertised

    Cons

    a little complicated

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Results 1-10 of 44

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