Guide: How to Create and Configure Virtual Machines on Windows

How to create and configure a virtual machine in windows

Virtual machines are awesome tools. They are often used as test environments in many professional applications like cybersecurity, software debugging, etc. Besides, a VM allows you to use many different operating systems at the same time.

But creating and configuring a virtual machine properly can be difficult, especially if you aren’t familiar with virtualization software. People often complain about slow VMs, and in most cases, the reason is just bad configurations. So here, we’ll walk you through the whole process. You’ll learn how to create a virtual machine using VirtualBox and properly configure a virtual machine properly.

What is a Virtual machine?

Simply put, a VM is just a program that simulates computer hardware, which can run another operating system in an encapsulated or virtual environment.

What is a Hypervisor Server
A diagram showing how hypervisors work.

For example, let’s say you have a windows machine, but you want to use Final Cut Pro for video editing. You can do it on your windows by running mac on a virtual machine.

The program that creates the VM is called a hypervisor. There are a lot of hypervisors for windows. Here are a few you can try.

  1. VMware
  2. VirtualBox
  3. Parallels Desktop
  4. QEMU

Most of them have similar settings, so we’ll just show you the process with VirtualBox. It’s a popular, open-source program with excellent performance and compatibility. It supports a wide range of operating systems including Windows, BSD, Linux, Solaris, and more. And since it runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac, the process of setting up a VM is pretty much the same for all operating systems.

You need a capable host

Virtual machines are resource-intensive. They require a lot of RAM, use the CPU constantly, and make a lot of I/O requests. For a smooth experience, there isn’t just an alternative to upgrading hardware. At a bare minimum, your computer should have at least 4GB of RAM and a processor with at least 4 threads.

Create a Virtual Machine in VirtualBox

To create a virtual machine, you’ll need two things. You need a hypervisor and an ISO file of the OS you want to install. You can download the installer ISO file from the official website of the OS.

1. The first step is to install VirtualBox. Go to the official website of VirtualBox, download the windows installer package, and install. If you need USB support, you’ll have to install the extension pack too. Here‘s a step-by-step guide.

2. Run VirtualBox. You should see the following window.

VirtualBox window
Virtualbox window.

3. Now Click Machine > New. The following window should appear:

Create new virtual machine window in VirtualBox.
VM creation window.

4. Put the name of the VM, change the machine folder if you want, and select the correct type of operating system you want to install.

5. Now choose the amount of memory you want to allocate to the VM. For optimum performance, do not allocate more than half of your host’s memory. You also want to meet the minimum requirement of the guest OS as well. Too low or too high, and you might face performance issues.

6. Now add a virtual disk to the VM. You can use an existing disk or create a new one for the VM. If you’re creating a new disk, choose the “Dynamically Allocated” size, so that the disk won’t eat up a lot of space.

Creating a virtual disk in VirtualBox
Creating a Virtual disk

Click Create, and your VM is created.

Setting up and Installing an OS

Now you need an installer ISO file of the OS you want to use. You should find it on the official site of an OS. After you’ve downloaded it, it’s time to configure things properly and install the OS.

1 In the VirtualBox manager, select the VM you just created. Click Settings > System, then select the Processor tab.

Virtualbox VM setting windows
Virtualbox VM setting windows

To maximize performance, you want to assign at least two CPUs. You can also bring the Execution Cap down if you find the host lagging a lot.

2. Now go to the Storage tab. Click on the SATA Controller and click on the Optical Drive icon, then click Add. In the next pop-up window, locate and select the ISO file. Click OK and you’re done.

Adding Installer ISO file.

Now you’ve successfully created and configured a virtual machine. Go ahead and start the VM, and install the OS as you do on any physical hardware.

Installing Ubuntu 20.04 on VirtualBox
Installing Ubuntu on VirtualBox

Get familiar with VirtualBox

In this guide, we tried to be as simple as possible so anybody can do it without any prior knowledge. But if virtualization is something you often require, you may want to get familiar with a particular VM software.

Any VM program has a lot of configurations and settings to maximize performance and compatibility. To understand what they do, you can read the documentation, as well as experiment and tweak around. I mean, it’s a Virtual machine. What could possibly break?

Did our guide help? Do share your opinion so we can make better guides in the future.

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