VirtualBox, virtualisation for free

VirtualBox, virtualisation for free

VirtualBox is an Open Source software package sponsored by those clever people at Sun (now part of Oracle), the people who brought you the Java programming language. And, like Java, VirtualBox was designed to be run on many systems, Windows, Linux, OSX, Solaris. Perhaps the Open University could take a leaf out of its book…..

To download a copy of VirtualBox for Mac, simply visit:-

And install “VirtualBox for OSX hosts”. The full VirtualBox package is available in binary (executable) form free of charge. This version is free for personal use.

VirtualBox running Windows XP on the Mac

Just like with Parallels and VMWare, you can have Mac OS X and Windows running at the same time in VirtualBox, and they can share folders on your hard disk, making it easy to share documents, screenhots, etc.

VirtualBox is remarkably polished for a free application. Setup is simple, with friendly wizards to guide you through. (see the VirtualBox page for detailed install instructions). OU users who’ve tried it with course software have said that compatibility is very good, even with sophisticated web services software, customised editing tools, windows .exe executables, and so on.

Like VMWare and Parallels you can take “snapshots” of your virtual PC, allowing you to rollback your PC system if you get a crash and lose data.

Problems with VirtualBox?

Not many! You can’t exactly complain about the price, which must have Parallels and VMWare shaking in their boots.
VirtualBox, though very impressive, isn’t quite as clean, polished and attractive to use as Parallels or VMWare. It’s a relative newcomer, and not a commercial enterprise, so lacks some of the more sophisticated touches of its paid-for rivals. One particular feature missing is the ability to drag-and-drop files from the Mac side into Windows. Both VMWare and Parallels can do this. That said, it may be a feature in future….

VirtualBox is a splendid addition to the virtualisation team for Mac users. For a student on a budget it is, frankly, unbeatable.