VirtualBox 3.0

Version 3 of my favorite desktop virtualisation software was released last week. The first thing that attracted me to VirtualBOX is the ability to run 64bit guests on a 32bit host, a nice way to extend the life of those 32bit boxes scattered around my house. The second feature I like is that it is multi-platform, I can build a VM on my Macbook and then copy the virtual disk to a Windows Vista machine (or Linux if you’re that way inclined).

A short and incomplete list of features:

  • Seamless Desktop e.g. IE8 running as a seamless app on OSX via Windows 7 guest.
  • USB pass-through
  • Audio pass-through
  • Direct3D 8 and 9 and OpenGL 2.0 support if running on Windows
  • Convert VMware VMDK files to VDI format files
  • RDP access to guests allowing remote access to VM’s even if the OS doesn’t support it
  • Guest additions for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7

As a test I decided to install Windows XP from an ISO into VirtualBox on a 1 year old Macbook. XP installed in just over 10 minutes including reboots. Setup network bridging, installed guest additions and in less than 20 minutes I had a working XP professional VM with internet access and seamless desktop integration with the Mac. Next step was to move the image to my Vista laptop, a simple file copy, quick VM creation using the built in Windows XP template, connect the virtual disk and booted up. Now I can run IE6 and IE8 at the same time on the same hardware or any other legacy software for that matter.

Now for some really geeky stuff…I decided to create a VM and install HaikuOS (a BeOS clone). I downloaded a VMDK file from the HaikuOS website, ran the VMware to VirtualBox conversion tool which took a minute or so booted up. Now I have a great virtual machine that can run in full screen mode and is a good way to prevent unwanted people on you PC…

On a more serious note, I have installed Windows 7 and Windows 2008R2 RC’s in Virtualbox and was impressed with the overall performance and support for both operating systems. Making snapshots of base servers allows for easy roll back when carrying out experiments in the “test lab”.

Finally, Virtualbox is being developed actively, improvements appear frequently and you can’t beat the price.