How to run multiple OS simultaneously in a computer

dell-1420Recently I bought a new Dell 1420 (Intel Core Duo T6400) and packed it with 4 GB RAM + 320 GB HD.

This notebook  is quite a good deal – about $720 USD.

My old Dell 6000 was really old and slow, so I thought it’s about time I get a new one.

With 4GB of RAM and 320 GB of HDD, I’ve got lots of computing power and one way to fully utilize the available resources is by running multiple operating systems simultaneously. Photo by Leo s mavely

Now you must be wondering why in the world would I want to do that. Well, there are actually many advantages to this. In simple terms, it’s like you have access to two different computers at the same time. And in complicated terms, this technique is called Virtualization.

Now let me explain how I use virtualization on a daily basis. On my main operating system, which is Vista, is where I have all my frequently used software such as Microsoft Word and Outlook installed. Now, since I’m a software developer, I usually need to design and write codes in LAMP environment as well as .NET environment. My recent assignment requires me to work on Windows Sharepoint Services whereby the requirement to run it is Windows 2003 OS + .NET 3.0 + SQL Server. This would mean that there’s no way for me to install Windows Sharepoint Services on my existing Vista OS.

So to overcome this, I installed Microsoft’s Virtual PC and set up a Virtual Machine with everything in it to run Windows Sharepoint Services. Once done, I could access both OS at the same time. When I need to access Windows Sharepoint Services, all I need to do is to fire up the Virtual Machine directly without having to shut down and boot into another OS.

The sample screenshot below shows Ubuntu running in a Virtual Machine. while the host environment is in Vista. Photo by Photo Mojo

virtualpc-ubuntu

Besides Microsoft’s Virtual PC, some other virtualization software are:

Some other benefits of using virtualization software:

  • Saves cost on hardware
  • Have rollback capability just in case some mistakes were made in the virtual machine, you can choose not to commit the changes
  • Easily transfer virtual machines among friends and colleagues. Usually 2GB in size and above.
  • Easily backup everything in the virtual machine simply by copying the virtual machine file to an external hard disk.

So obviously there are many advantages and benefits of using virtualization. But there are 2 things which I must point out.

  1. To run virtualization smoothly, your machine better have lots of RAM and hard disk space available. Otherwise, it will either not run at all or even if it’s launch, it will be very slow.
  2. For each software that is installed in the Virtual Machine, you will need a license for it. Meaning that, just because you have an Adobe Photoshop license for your host machine, it does mean you can install and use it legally in the virtual machine as well. To be safe, just remember to treat each virtual machine as if it’s a separate machine altogether which requires it’s very own software licenses to run legally.

I guess the next Virtual Machine that I will build is one with Windows 7 beta in it. It’s about time I start playing around with it.

Till then, happy virtualizing!

About the author

Bob Lee

Hi! My name is Bob Lee and I’m a web developer / technical writer who specializes in developing and reviewing web applications. As an entrepreneur, blogger, developer, and tech enthusiast, I have been in this field for more than 10 years, and have been loving every minute of it.

19 Comments

  • I’m surprised of your article, because T6400 does not even support Hardware Virtualization or T6400 does not support Virtualization Technology.

    I’d like to know how the performance is with your Virtualization setup on the Dell config you mentioned.

    Even though, you can install VMWAre or Virtialbox or Parallels and setup a VM on T6400 based laptop/desktop, the performance will be significantly degraded or your OSes both host and VM will run substantially less than the full speed, from what I understood.

    Can you gimme your experience on this?

    TIA

  • Robert,

    Thanks for visiting and dropping a note.

    You’re right about T6400 not supporting hardware virtualization.

    Since I got the notebook – Dell 1420, I have been running a Windows Server 2003 installed on a Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 while the host machine is on Vista.

    In the virtual machine is where I do some of the following work:
    1. Programming on lamp environment
    2. Run FTP programs like cuteftp
    3. For torrents
    4. For testing out any trial software

    The reason why I’m doing the some of the above work in a virtual pc environment is to protect and maintain the performance of the host environment. From my experience, installing too many new software and treating it as a testing ground slows down the machine over time. With a virtual pc, since I can easily back it up on an external drive, whenever it runs too slow or is cluttered, I’ll just replace it with the backup vpc and it’s as good as new.

    As for performance, it was just a slight decrease especially in the vpc environment. The host environment runs fine without noticing any major slowdowns. Even in the vpc environment, the performance was not that bad as I could complete some programming tasks while in it.

    I guess Hardware Virtualization is important for servers which are utilized to run multiple server environments. For example to run a Sharepoint Portal Server environment, one can purchase a server with Hardware Virtualization capability and put in Virtual Machines into it which includes 1 for application server, 1 for database server, 1 for indexing server, etc.

    Give the virtual machines a try on your pc. Any further questions or comments, I’ll try my best to share.

  • Your article is exactly what I was looking for. I just bought a Dell Laptop with the same processor you have and I am now kicking myself for overlooking the VT feature.

    I need a laptop to study some basic network administration and I was hoping to be able to run one server (Windows 2003) and one client (Windows Vista) virtual machine on top my current host OS, which is Vista.

    Have you tried running two virtual machines on this processor rather than just the single Vista machine? If so, how does it handle the load. Also, do you recommend that I install a 32-bit or 64-bit host OS when I receive my laptop? All of my virtual machines have a 32-bit OS installed.

  • Jerry, I have not tried running two virtual machines at the same time before. Currently I have a windows 7 and windows 2003 Microsoft Virtual PC images. Will try to run 2 together at the same time and let you know how it goes.

    I would assume that it will run a little bit slower but both images should be able to start as long as you assign 1GB of RAM to each of it. With that, I hope your machine comes with 4GB of physical RAM in it. 🙂

    As for 32 bit or 64 bit, I would just stick with 32 bit. I’m not sure if 64 bit is supported. Need to check it out.

  • Thanks. I really hope it can run two. I just called Dell and they told me that it is took late to upgrade to the higher processor with VT since my order is already in there automated production process. Now all I can do is wait.

  • i have a dell 1525 with 2GB ram and 250 hard disk.
    do u think i could use windows xp with some other os at a time ?
    will the performance slow down?

  • Pallavi,

    If you dual boot xp with another OS, the performance should be fine.

    If your host OS is xp, you should be able to install virtual PC and run another OS at the same time. The performance of the VPC can be slightly slower. Just assign 1GB to the VPC if possible.

    I used to do some programming work in the VPC and could complete the project on time, so I guess the performance won’t be that bad. If you have 2 GB, it should be good enough.

  • Hi,
    I have a 64bit vista as host OS, but when i try to run a 64 bit VM image on Vwmare workstation 7, it gives the message, VL is not enabled on my host machine. In BIOS of my DELL INSPIRON 1440 laptop, i am unable to locate the setting. Any idea, how i can move forward? Thanks
    Lenin

  • Hi,

    I have a toshiba L305D-S5892. The specs are as follow:
    1. AMD Turion 64 X2 Dual-Core Mobile Processor TL60
    2. 3 GB 800MHz SDRam
    3. 160 GB Hard Drive

    Will virtual machine work properly on this or will it slow it down?

    Please follow up quickly

  • Hi Lenin,

    You can try the following steps.
    1. Restart / reboot the machine and goto BIOS settings.
    2. Select CPU information.
    3. Enable Virtualization Technology. (By default it will be disabled)
    4. Save and exit from BIOS.
    5. Restart the system.

    See if the above steps work.

    Hi jj,

    I don’t see why a virtual machine wont work on your machine’s spec. Give it a try, it should work just fine. If you haven’t bought the machine, then you can try to copy an image into to the machine at the shop and give a test just to see if the performance is ok for you.

  • One question about the virtualisation.

    I’m looking for multiple os virtualisation. But i do not want to run within a OS.
    Could ESXi as the under layer multiple OS’s at the same time? I’m currently upgrading my server with HP SAS drives and a second dual core Xeon and more RAM. That way i can allocate same ressources to each OS within 1 physical machine.

  • Hi……… Willl u plz tell me how to set up Virtual Machine settings. for ubuntu 🙂 i want to use ubuntu in virtual machine & Win XP as main system . plz tell me the steps 🙂

  • Hi All,
    I have already installed windows and RHEL in my system, I want to boot both Win and RHEL simultaneously. I dont want to go for the virtualization method. I heard of a software which will enable me to run both the installed OS simultaneously. Does anybody know about it????

  • Did you install windows server 2008 64bit on your T6400? I have the same processor and I read on few articles that I cannot virtualize windows server 2008. I have been virtualizing windows server 2008 and sharepoint development but now for sharepoint 2010 i need to install 2008 server.

  • Dear Osama,

    I installed windows server 2008 32bit (not 64 bit) on my T6400 and it runs fine.

    As for WS 2008 64 bit, you would need to give that a try by enabling VT on your CPU. These are the steps:

    1. Restart / reboot the machine and goto BIOS settings.
    2. Select CPU information.
    3. Enable Virtualization Technology. (By default it will be disabled)
    4. Save and exit from BIOS.
    5. Restart the system.
    6. Install your virtualization OS

    This is a good resource: http://giwitech.blogspot.com/2010/03/tip-installing-64-bit-virtual-machine.html

    Give it a try and do let us know if you’re able to virtualize WS 2008 64bit for Sharepoint 2010.

  • Thanks for your prompt response.

    Well the problem is that T6400 does not have the virtualization support, I mean for 32bit it is by default and you dont have to activate that option as you know, but if its about 64 bit and you try to search for the virtualization option you wont find it for T6400, it just thought that you might have a way around 🙂 thanks anyway

  • Hi there,

    I’m looking for a solution to allow 3 independent simultaneous users in 1 computer.

    Is it possible to have 1 desktop PC (host with Windows 7) and install 3 vmware images (each guest having Window 7) and have them run simultaneously and independently (3 monitors, 3 keyboards, 3 mice but 1 PC). So from the outside it’s as if there are 3 separate “non-related” computers (or 4 if you consider the host too), but in reality those 3 are running separate vmware images.

    Let me know if it’s possible. And if it is, how to set it up under vmware. I have difficulty setting vmware to recognize different mouse/keyboard/monitor in the guest OS than in the host OS.

    Cheers,
    HC

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