Virtualization is common practice on servers in order to set up a flexible, portable and fail-safe infrastructure: A tricky piece of software creates one or more so-called virtual machines (VMs) by partly emulating all the resources that make up a computer and partly from the host System. In such a VM, another operating system can be installed, which runs completely independently and isolated from the host. The same can also be used well on a desktop computer. With suitable processor expansions and smart solutions in the virtualization software, a virtual machine runs almost as fast as real hardware. Connected devices can be extended from the host system to the guest systems. And for all of this you don’t even need root rights or special permissions.
There are various reasons for using virtual machines on a desktop system or a notebook. The Linux cover story from 2020 (see dossier) reported a number of readers who would like to switch to Linux entirely, but there is still the one absolutely necessary Windows software. Too often, the Wine runtime environment doesn’t help either. Dual boot, on the other hand, is cumbersome and annoying, since restarting takes time and nerves and not all data is available in the other system. Instead, simply starting Windows in a program window or even briefly waking up from deep sleep is much more convenient. Even copy & paste between the host and guest system usually works without any problems. With the help of snapshots, the status of a system can be saved and reset in the event of failures and messed up installations.
A virtual machine is also useful if software only runs under Windows 7 or older. Since Microsoft no longer closes any gaps there, its use is extremely problematic in terms of security. In order to use the oldie software with peace of mind, simply cut off network or internet access to the VM. If internet access is required for the software, you should urgently seek an alternative or an update.
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