Egyptian blogger from Cairo.
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Partner & Creative Director at ThePlanet.

Windows XP with VirtualBox on Ubuntu

For the average user, making the long-awaited switch to Linux seems quite challenging. The open source community has worked tirelessly to tempt the main stream crowd to the penguin world, and after many Linux distributions, Ubuntu has come through the ranks as the obvious choice for any newcomer willing to abandon the commercial world for the real one. Ubuntu’s slogan says it all: Linux for human beings.

Ubuntu logo and slogan

Ubuntu logo and slogan

In many cases, Ubuntu’s new releases do not offer obvious improvements, especially from the eyes of a skeptical Windows addict. Fortunately, April’s release of Ubuntu, Jaunty Jackalope, brings to the table the sort of features that are immediately noticeable, including an enhanced interface, improved performance, and an overwhelmingly extensive hardware support.

Indeed, with Ubuntu 9.04 there has never been a better time to switch to Linux. Nothing beats having free, open source software, with impressive performance, tight security, and the fact that it just works! Pop in the CD and test out the Live edition to get a complete idea of how exactly it will look and function. Moreover, the installation takes less than 20 minutes, and you won’t break a sweat.

Making the switch is difficult for many reasons, and that is a whole topic of its own. However, it is suffice to say that the one functionality commonly demanded by stubborn Windows users, is the ability to run certain specialized programs that are not available on Linux. Even if there are equivalents offered for Linux, it is to a certain extent understandable that users will need to either stick to their programs on Windows, or at least make the gradual shift to the Linux equivalent. This is precisely where VirtualBox comes in.

Install Ubuntu and run Windows virtually on top

Install Ubuntu and run Windows virtually on top

VirtualBox is a free, open source virtualizer available for (almost) all operating systems allowing you to install an OS on top of another. In this case, it is the ideal solution for the regular user looking to move to Linux. After installing Ubuntu 9.04 on your computer, and installing VirtualBox from the Add/Remove Applications, you can easily install Windows virtually over Ubuntu, thus granting yourself access to the Windows-only applications that you need. As long as your processor is relatively recent, and you have over 2GB of RAM, you should be good to go, and installing Windows virtually would be a great idea, regardless of how frequently you plan to use it.

The steps are pretty straight forward:

  1. Open VirtualBox and click on the New button
  2. This will prompt the wizard, click Next to continue
  3. Enter a desired name (for example: MyWindows). Then choose Microsoft Windows in the Operating System field, and Windows XP for the version
  4. Choose how much memory you would like to dedicate to the virtual installation (in this case, Windows XP). This comes down to personal preference, really, and I recommend half of your RAM to the new virtual machine
  5. For the Virtual Hard Disk, you’re going to need to create one to use it. This will be the file on your computer that Windows XP will treat as it’s hard disk. Therefore, click new:
    1. This will start another wizard, so click Next to continue
    2. Choose the type of storage. Again, personal preference. I tend to stick to Dynamically expanding storage since I’m never exactly sure how much space I will end up needing for Windows. If you’re still hesitant, check out the Virtuatopia explanation
    3. Choose the location for the hard disk data on your computer, as well as how big you would like the file to be. I personally think a Windows XP installation with some basic programs will need 10GB or more, but then again, that depends on the space available on your local machine, as well as the applications you are planning on installing
    4. Now that the hard disk file is created, click on finish to return to the main wizard
  6. Choose the file that you have just created for the Boot Hard Disk field and click Next
  7. After reviewing the short summary, click finish and the virtual machine will have been created!

VirtualBox home showing Windows

NOTE: That does not mean that Windows XP has been installed on Ubuntu. It means that the virtual machine where Windows will be installed is ready to go.

Now all you need to do is to insert the Windows XP installation CD, and start the virtual machine that you had created. After that, you can follow the regular steps for installing Windows, as if on a normal machine.

The result: A fresh Ubuntu installation that provides a fast, secure, and absolutely free user experience, with access to Windows on top of Linux in case you still rely on some Windows-based applications. It is also very useful for designers looking to test how a website renders on Windows’ browsers like Internet Explorer. In all cases, it is very easy, and everything besides Windows is free and open source. You can’t beat that.

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August 20, 2009

i just upgraded from 8.10 to jaunty jackalope (9.04) yay! i’m pretty excited with the new desktop background and what have you. i’m seriously considering getting rid of windows entirely, and letting ubuntu enjoy the full use of the computer. i just have to figure out how – as i partitioned the drive when i initially installed ubuntu…

Tarek Shalaby

August 20, 2009

I think it is best to let Ubuntu use the entire hard disk space available. Since yous is already partitioned, you have two options:

1. You can use the disk partitioner within Ubuntu to format the partition with the Windows installation to the native ext3 used by Linux. This will remove windows completely and use that space as a hard drive to store and access files normally.

2. You might want to do a fresh install and tell Ubuntu to use the entire hard disk when you get to the partitioning part of the installation. This way your computer will only be running Ubuntu making the most out of your hardware. Also note that if you want to save your current version of Ubuntu with all the configuration and applications, you can make a back-up copy to be restored as a new installation.

Physically partitioning your hard drive to have dual boot seems like a thing of the past. Virtual installation is free, and incredibly efficient. Keep us updated on your progress, and hail the power to the people!


August 26, 2012

very good, it’s very useful to me, thank you very much!

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