It might not seem obvious, but virtual machines rule this digital world. It’s thanks to them that we can run things safely and test different software out without running the risk of destroying our computers and costing so much money. In order to explore them, we need to understand virtualization first and what virtual machines really are. We could also explore the topic of VM vs. Docker containers, as they both serve virtualization purposes. After reading through this, you will hopefully find a new hobby or a newfound appreciation for virtual machines!
But first, what are virtual machines?
The act of virtualization is essentially running a completely simulated ‘computer’ within your own computer. It borrows hardware resources from your host to simulate an independent working computer within your own sandbox. This computer can be any operating system, and it doesn’t have to be a replica of your existing setup (but it could also be, should you want to).
Virtual machines as a test site for OS
If you’ve been living with a Windows operating system your whole life, then you’re missing out on a lot. Ever had the curiosity to try out new and different operating systems? Virtual machines and virtualization could be your way of doing that. There are different ways of testing operating systems, but virtualization is one of the safest routes to do it. It’s also very cost-effective if you go this way. For example, you want to try out a Linux operating system, such as Ubuntu or Linux Mint. You can always buy a laptop pre-installed with that OS, but that beats the whole ‘trying out’ goal.
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Running your virtual machine and installing a Linux operating system using it is your best bet. Not only would you be able to explore the OS at its full capacity, but you’re safe from any crashes or unwanted bugs that you’ll encounter. Because a virtual machine is an independent, contained sandbox, anything you do within Linux wouldn’t really affect your main system. Again, this won’t cost anything, so that’s always a nice-to-have.
Test your software on multiple platforms
If you’re a game developer, virtual machines could come in handy. Say, for example, you’re making a game that’s compatible with different platforms; you’d need something to test the program with. Buying a console, a mobile device, and a separate computer with a different operating system doesn’t sound so practical when you compare it to virtual machines. All of those aforementioned devices could have their software emulated and simulated within a virtual machine. As with trying out new operating systems, you could also do different platform-testing sandboxes with virtual machines. Developing, testing, and refining your game could be done within a single hardware device. Not only does this save you money, but it also eliminates the hassle of transferring files, coordinating with other devices, and other inconveniences when you’re not using a virtual machine.
Test out malware
Computer viruses and malicious software have become very rampant in recent times. Exploring and understanding how these things work might just save your computer from catching one or falling victim to such. Trojan viruses, ransomware, and other software that could potentially render your computer useless could all be run inside a virtual machine, and this wouldn’t destroy your device. You’d be able to see how the malware works firsthand and perhaps even learn from it. Just practice safety measures whenever you’re dealing with malware, as it’s never a bad idea to be protected. This could also go the other way; testing out computer antivirus. Running malware and seeing if your chosen antivirus covers and protects your device from the former is always a good idea, and testing it out yourself would give an extra ounce of assurance.