If you need to run more than one operating system on a single PC there are several ways to do it. You can have separate hard drives for each OS, and connect only the one you need. Or, you can dual-boot two or more operating systems on the same hard drive, with each version of Windows or Linux – say – in its own partition. Here, though, we’ll show you how to install another operating system in a virtual machine so you can boot it up on your Windows desktop whenever you need it. No need to reboot, have multiple hard drives or separate partitions. Plus, it’s free!
It’s called virtualisation and involves creating a software model of a PC’s hardware. With this model in place you can install and run a so-called ‘guest’ OS in that software PC or, as it’s more commonly referred to, a virtual PC.
The guest OS is totally independent from the host OS although you can readily swap between the two and some virtualisation software allows you to exchange files between the guest and host.
One thing a virtualisation package doesn’t model in software is the processor which means that the guest operating system must use the same processor as the host operating system. In the world of PCs this means versions of Windows and Linux variants. In theory it also includes Mac OS but, because of licensing issues, it generally isn’t possible to run this operating system under Windows via virtualisation. (You can run Windows on a Mac, though, using Boot Camp.)