There are many ways to run Linux on a windows computer. You can use Wubi to dual boot windows and Linux, OR create a separate partition on your hard drive and then install Linux on it, OR simply run Linux from a live cd/flash drive, etc.
Now if you are a complete beginner who is trying Linux for the first time, then the simplest way would be to use a virtual machine. But, even this might be tricky if you have never used of virtual machine before.
So here is a step-by-step tutorial (with screenshots) on how to install VirtualBox and configure it to run Ubuntu (or any other OS like Android) on it.
What is a Virtual Machine?
In a laymen term, a virtual machine is a software that lets you run an extra operating system inside a regular OS. And this newly created OS has its own RAM, storage, network cards, etc, which it shares from parent computer.
Say you want to test newer developer version of Windows but don’t want to partition your hard drive. Or you want to use Instagram but don’t have an android, then with a virtual machine, you can run Android OS directly on your windows computer.
Overall, with a virtual machine, you can run other operating systems like a program.
What will you need?
Before we start, make sure you have the following items checked.
#1 A computer with a decent power: Since we are running two operating systems simultaneously, it’s better if you try this on a computer with decent built. Mine works fine in 4-year-old Dell laptop with 4 GB RAM and i3 processor.
#2 Decent internet connection: we will have to download two files — a virtual machine software and .iso image of OS you want to run inside it.
Which Virtual Machine to choose?
There are many virtual machines out there like — VMware, VirtualBox or Parallels.
Each one has its own pros and cons, but in this tutorial, we will use VirtualBox. Why? Well, it’s free and open source, has a user-friendly interface and works on all platform i.e. Windows, MAC, and Linux
Run Linux on Windows with Virtual Box
Part 1: Downloads
Before we proceed with the installation and configuration part, first you need to download the following two files from the internet.
#1 Download VirtualBox (110 MB for Windows) from their official website.
#2 Next you will need to download an image file (.iso) of the Operating System you want to run inside a VM. In this tutorial, we will download Ubuntu from its official website. If you are not sure which version of Ubuntu you should download, go with 14.04 LTS (1 GB). It’s more stable.
You can also use other OS as well. The steps are the same. And once you have both the download, place them on your desktop and follow the instruction below.
Part 2: Installation
#1 Installing VirtualBox
Right-click on VirtualBox setup and run it as an administrator. And then Install the package just like you install any other program.
Since it’s an open source program, you don’t have worry about getting any ask toolbar installed. I suggest you follow the recommended settings.
You will see a warning like ‘your network may get down for a moment’. This is because VM will install a separate network adapter for itself. Don’t worry about it and click on next. Once done click on finish.
#2 Configuring VirtualBox
We need to make sure the container (VirtualBox) is ready before we pour in anything.
So, launch VirtualBox from the shortcut or start menu. A new window will open, here click on New. Under the name field, write the name of your OS you are going to install.
You can give any name you want, but writing OS’s name will help you to remember it in the future. From the type and version select the appropriate field for your OS. Once done click on next.
In the next window, you will have to specify, how much RAM you want to allocate to VM.
If you offer too little then your VirtualBox will not work properly and if you give away too much, your main OS will underperform. For best result give 25-50%. For instance, if you have 4 GB of RAM, give 1-2 GB of RAM to VM. And then click on next.
Now since we are using VirtualBox for the first time, we have to allocate it some hard drive space. Next time, if you install another OS on VirtualBox, you can use this existing space. But for now, select ‘create a new virtual hard disk‘ and click next.
For type, select the first option i.e. ‘VirtualBox disk image’ and click next.
Now for storage on new HD, you have two options — dynamic and fixed allocation.
Dynamic allocation will automatically increase your hard drive space if needed. But sometimes it also gives errors like ‘you are running out of space’ even though the HD will extend itself if needed. So, it’s always better to give a Fixed size to your image.
The next step is obvious, you will have to allocate space from your HD to the VM machine. For most stuff 8GB is OK, but to be on a safe side, bump it up to 16 GB or even more if you think so. Once done click on create, it will take a few minutes to make changes.
And that’s it. Now your vessel (VirtualBox) is ready. Next step is to pour the liquid (Ubuntu) on it.
#3 Installing Ubuntu
Make sure your newly created partition is selected and then go to setting > storage. Here you have to specify the directory of Ubuntu image file.
For that click on the small plus sign on the folder and add the location of the iso image. Once done, click on OK and close the window.
Now go back to the main window and click on start. This start button is equivalent to the power button of your computer.
A new window will pop open with a black screen and a bunch of text with boot animation. This means VirtualBox is booting your OS from the image file.
Next up you will see the setup screen of Ubuntu. Now you have to install Ubuntu on your computer. If you ever install other OS before, this should look familiar. Basically, you have to select language, specify date/ time/ location and click on continue.
You need to do this only once, from next time onward you will see login screen just like your normal windows installation.
Make sure your computer is plugged into charge. Though, it no necessary to connect to the internet and you can skip updates for now.
Next, select the HD partition where you want to install ubuntu. Since in the starting of the tutorial we have already created a partition, select that and click on install now.
Then select your time zone and click on next.
Now, this is the final stage. Give a name to your computer and enter the username and password. You will need this credential next time you logged in to Ubuntu.
And hit continue. It will start installing file on your drive. This will a few minutes.
Once done you will be asked to restart your OS (i.e. Ubuntu) and your OS is now installed on VM Ware
Part 3: Troubleshooting
So you have installed ubuntu successfully on your VirtualBox. However, there few tweaks you need to make sure you use ubuntu just like a normal OS.
Problem 1: When you restart your ubuntu, you will still see the boot screen and not the login screen. This is because VirtualBox is still booting from the image file and not from the hard drives.
Solution: To change that, go to settings > system > make sure boot order is set to Hard drive only, by checking every other option. Now, when you start your device, you will see the Ubuntu login screen.
Problem 2: Ubuntu Window will not resize.
Solution: To fix this, go to device, and click on insert guest mode addition cd image > a new dialogue box will pop up.
Click on run.
Then it will open terminal again confirm by entering your password. It will run for a few minutes and once it’s the offer, quite terminal and restarts ubuntu.
Now you will be able to use Ubuntu on a virtual machine as you would normally do.
For most of the stuff, it works fine. You can use your computer keyboard and mouse to navigate inside VirtualBox, it even has its network adapter so you can also use the internet.
Overall you will be able to do all sought of things like you would normally do, except for high graphics intensive things like playing games or heavy multitasking
Hope this helps.