A virtual machine (VM) allows a user to run another operating system on their computer using software, without needing to install that OS on their device. The host OS is still just as usable as before while offering the benefits of using a VM, which is useful for several reasons.
Virtualization has been around for a long time now, but it became more mainstream in the 2000s. With computers becoming more powerful every year, VMs are much easier to run even on basic machines, and can offer many use cases. There are a few options for VM software such as VirtualBox and VMware Workstation, both of which offer users the ability to create VMs easily.
So why might someone want to use a VM? As explained by VMware, a VM allows a user to install and use an operating system without needing to remove their current OS. This allows users to test out a new OS or update without the risk. For example, some users may not want to update their PCs to Windows 11 just yet. With software like VirtualBox, a user could install Windows 11 as a VM and try out the new OS without needing to change anything on their personal system. This can be very useful for those who might want to give a less popular OS like Linux a try, since Linux isn’t exactly user-friendly.
VMs Offer Security And Privacy Benefits
Security and privacy are other great reasons to use a VM. For example, an OS running inside a VM is closed off from the rest of the user’s computer (assuming there isn’t an exploit in the software). This creates a safe space to try the software without the risk of a virus or malware infecting the whole system. Some users, such as journalists or whistleblowers, may find themselves in compromising locations where there are fewer protections for freedom of speech. Installing the Linux distro Whonix on a VM, which it was designed for, allows a user to have an entire OS that is anonymized by the TOR network, while also adding the security protections that Linux can offer.
A virtual machine is clearly not for everyone, but when there is a new OS or update or sketchy software that a user might want to try out, it’s always useful to have a VM set up and ready to go. VMs are more useful for people who run Linux and might need Windows on the side to access specific software or apps. But a virtual machine can also be useful for the average person for all the reasons mentioned above.
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