What is VM VirtualBox used for?

VM VirtualBox is a powerful virtualization software that allows users to run multiple virtual machines on a single physical computer. Some of the key uses and benefits of VirtualBox include:

Testing Software

One of the most common uses of VirtualBox is for testing software in different environments without needing multiple physical machines. For example, developers can test their applications across different operating systems like Windows, Linux, and macOS using virtual machines. This allows catching compatibility issues early in the development cycle.

Running Older OS Versions

VirtualBox allows users to install older versions of operating systems like Windows XP or Windows 7 in a virtual machine. This is useful for running legacy software or systems that only work on older OS versions. It saves the cost of maintaining outdated hardware.

Testing Websites

Web developers can use VirtualBox to test their websites across multiple browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions. The virtual machines provide an isolated environment closely mimicking end-user machines.

Running Software Written for Other Operating Systems

Some software is exclusively written for certain platforms like Windows or Linux. With VirtualBox, users can install virtual machines running the required OS to use such software. For example, running Windows-only software on a Linux or Mac host system.

Learning New Operating Systems

IT administrators, developers, and power users can utilize VirtualBox to experiment with new operating systems like Linux distributions or BSD variants. The virtual machines provide a safe sandbox environment without tampering with the host OS.

Testing Network Configurations

Network engineers can build complex network topologies spanning across multiple virtual machines. This allows testing things like routing protocols, firewall rules and intrusion detection without dedicated test hardware.

Running Old or Incompatible Programs

VirtualBox enables using software that may not work properly on newer host operating systems. For example, running 16-bit Windows 3.x applications on a modern 64-bit Windows 10 system.

Improving Security and Isolation

Critical applications can be isolated in separate virtual machines to enhance security and limit potential damage from malware or crashes. Each VM functions independently preventing issues affecting the underlying host system.

Consolidating Physical Hardware

Companies can use VirtualBox to reduce hardware costs by consolidating multiple dedicated servers into virtual machines running on powerful hosts. This optimizes hardware usage across multiple workloads.

Testing Patches and Upgrades

VirtualBox allows safely testing operating system updates, driver upgrades and software patches before deploying them to production systems. Any issues can be caught without impacting real hardware.

Running Headless Servers

VirtualBox can run virtual machines in headless mode without any GUI for hosting servers, network appliances, databases and other headless systems. This allows leveraging unused computing capacity.

Education and Training

IT education institutions utilize VirtualBox for delivering hands-on training on various operating systems, network configurations and software applications cost-effectively.

Portable Work Environments

Users can carry their complete work environment including applications, files and settings in a VirtualBox virtual machine. This provides a portable workspace across different computers.

Trying New Operating Systems

VirtualBox allows safely experimenting with new operating systems like ReactOS, Haiku, MorphOS or TempleOS for learning and testing purposes without any permanent change to the host system.

Running Alternative Architectures

Developers can run operating systems for non-x86 architectures like ARM or SPARC on VirtualBox for cross-platform development and testing.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

IT organizations can replicate production systems as virtual machines for disaster recovery or backup purposes. This provides quick availability of mission-critical systems.


In summary, VirtualBox is a versatile virtualization platform used for software development, testing, training, security, cost savings and running old or niche operating systems effortlessly alongside the host environment. The easy-to-use interface and open source availability makes VirtualBox ideal for personal as well as professional virtualization needs.

Benefits of Using VirtualBox

  • Run multiple operating systems simultaneously
  • Test software across platforms
  • Isolate applications and enhance security
  • Save hardware costs by consolidating servers
  • Safely evaluate patches, upgrades and configurations
  • Support legacy systems and old software
  • Portable work environments across computers
  • Hands-on learning and training platform
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity

Key Features of VirtualBox

  • Open source software with free usage
  • Runs on Windows, Linux, MacOS, Solaris hosts
  • Supports a wide range of guest operating systems
  • Easy to install, configure and manage
  • Creates both 32-bit and 64-bit virtual machines
  • Snapshots, cloning and import/export of VMs
  • Virtual networking and NAT configuration
  • PCI, USB and shared folder pass-through
  • Headless server support
  • VM grouping and resource prioritization
  • Remote machine display and management
  • Command line interaction and automation

System Requirements for VirtualBox

Host Platform Processor Memory Disk Space
Windows Intel or AMD x86/x64 At least 1 GB RAM Around 100 MB for VirtualBox installation
macOS Intel or Apple silicon At least 2 GB RAM Around 120 MB for VirtualBox installation
Linux x86/x64 with Intel VT-x or AMD-V extension At least 512 MB RAM Around 110 MB for VirtualBox installation
Solaris SPARC and x64 processors At least 512 MB RAM Around 90 MB for VirtualBox installation

Additional disk space is required for each virtual machine’s operating system, applications and files. RAM requirements increase with more virtual machines.

Popular Guest Operating Systems

Some of the commonly used guest operating systems for VirtualBox virtual machines include:

  • Windows (XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10)
  • Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora, CentOS, Debian, Mint)
  • macOS (High Sierra and newer)
  • BSD (FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD)
  • MS-DOS and Windows 95/98/ME
  • Solaris and OpenSolaris
  • OS/2 Warp
  • Haiku
  • ReactOS
  • Android x86

Many other operating systems are supported as well based on the x86 architecture. Even some non-x86 operating systems like ARM-based Android can run on VirtualBox.

Getting Started with VirtualBox

Using VirtualBox involves three main steps:

  1. Download and install VirtualBox on the host computer from virtualbox.org
  2. Create a new virtual machine for the required guest OS
  3. Install the selected guest operating system inside the virtual machine

VirtualBox provides an intuitive wizard-driven interface for creating virtual machines and configuring resources like memory, disk space and network. The virtual machines appear in separate windows like any other application.

Powerful command line tools are also included for automated virtual machine management. Overall, VirtualBox makes it very easy to get started with virtualization even for novices.

VirtualBox Alternatives

Some alternatives to VirtualBox for virtualization include:

  • VMware Workstation – Commercial desktop virtualization software
  • Parallels – Virtualization for Mac users to run Windows
  • Hyper-V – Microsoft’s hypervisor included with Windows
  • KVM – Open source Linux virtualization built into the kernel
  • QEMU – Emulator and virtualizer for Linux/Unix
  • Xen – Open source bare-metal hypervisor
  • Virtual PC – Microsoft’s older virtualization tool

Each solution has its own pros and cons. For cross-platform free virtualization, VirtualBox remains a popular choice among developers, system administrators and home users.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is VirtualBox free to use?

Yes, VirtualBox is open source free virtualization software for personal and enterprise use without any licensing costs.

What operating systems can I virtualize on VirtualBox?

VirtualBox supports a large number of x86-based guest operating systems including Windows, Linux, *BSD, Solaris, OS/2, Haiku, ReactOS, Android x86 and many more.

Can VirtualBox run Mac OS X guests?

Yes, macOS guests are supported on VirtualBox starting from OS X 10.5 (Leopard) to the latest macOS releases.

Can I run virtual machines from physical disks or USB drives?

Yes, VirtualBox supports attaching physical disks and USB storage devices directly to virtual machines as if they were internal drives.

Is VirtualBox suitable for enterprise use?

Yes, VirtualBox comes with enterprise-grade features like remote machine management, multi-user access, CLI automation and integration with management platforms.

Can I copy or migrate virtual machines to other hosts?

Yes, VirtualBox makes it easy to export virtual machines to standard formats like OVF for copying VMs across hosts.

How do I access physical hardware from guest VMs?

VirtualBox provides USB, serial/parallel port and PCI passthrough for connecting printers, scanners, host drives, network cards, GPUs etc. to virtual machines.

Can I run graphical guests like Windows on a headless server?

Yes, VirtualBox can run guests in headless mode, while remotely viewing their displays over a network connection.