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I am trying to convince my wife to switch to Ubuntu (after wanting to reinstall Windows for nth time because the computer is too slow). One thing that prevent her to do that is that she use several programs only available on Windows.

I thing that trying to use Wine with these programs can be a negative experience, so I want to try running Windows inside Ubuntu using a virtual machine. It seems that Virtualbox is the standard way, but I don't have any experience with it.

Is Virtualbox the standard way to run windows inside Ubuntu? Are there better ways?

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9 Answers 9

up vote 33 down vote accepted

I use Virtual Box and it works great.

It's pretty simple to use. After installation, just click the "New" button in the toolbar, and a wizard will wall you through creating the VM.

Afterwards, click "settings", go to "storage" and mount the and mount the installation media (either as an .iso or the physical drive itself). Click "ok".

Now you can start the VM and it should allow you to install the OS.

Here is an introduction article on virtualization on workswithu.com. Click on the tags at the bottom of the article for even more info.

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8  
The "OSE" (open source edition) can be installed using the Synaptic package manager or the Software Center, however you can download a .deb (installer) for the non-open source (but still free) version which includes extra guest additions from virtualbox.org –  Nico Burns Jul 29 '10 at 19:32
    
@Nico: Ya, the extra guest additions are worth it for me. –  Nathan Osman Jul 29 '10 at 19:47
    
@both: Agreed. The guest additions make life so much easier. –  DLH Jul 29 '10 at 19:52
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You don't need to download a deb, Oracle host a repository for the non-open-source version. You can add it to your sources list and it will autoupdate as the rest of the system. IMHO it's much more convenient than downloading a single deb. –  Javier Rivera Jul 30 '10 at 14:00

The best way is to run it as a VM. So yes, virtualbox is a good choice.

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You can give Virtual Box (http://www.virtualbox.org/) a try. It sets up a virtual machine inside your XP opeating system without losing anything. Moreover Virtual Box is free.

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Virtualbox is a great choice if Wine doesn't work with a particular application. However, if a program does work well in Wine, Virtualbox may not be preferable, due to the inherent performance loss and the need to boot a full Windows OS. It can also be tricky if you do not have an extra copy of Windows available for installation, because it does involve a fresh install.

I was going to say that DirectX 3D games and apps were out of the question, but research seems to indicate that it now has Direct3D support.

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I will note that I use VirtualBox to run Windows on a Linux host and in my experience, graphics-intensive applications such as games are unacceptably slow. This is on a fairly new (and fast) host computer, too. But YMMV –  David Z Jul 29 '10 at 22:18

VMWare workstation and VMWare player (free) are also options.

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In addition to VirtualBox being a perfect solution by technical means, I also find the user experience to be better. If you use a Windows application with Wine, you suddenly have some window on your Ubuntu desktop which may look completely out of place. Technically it runs in Ubuntu, but it often doesn't behave like your remaining Ubuntu applications.

With VirtualBox the separation between both environments is a bit more clear, because you expect the applications inside VirtualBox to behave like Windows applications. This makes the "mental switching" easier and therefore improves your user experience.

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I highly recommend at least testing the applications in Wine before virtualizing them. When Wine does work there are some important benefits over virtualization: performance is noticeably better, they're easier to run (links right off the Application menu), and they become integrated with the system (easy access to the files in your home folder, no windows in windows, and if they have a system tray icon it sits in the panel).

If every app you need works in Wine, then you also get the added benefit of not needing a copy of Windows for your virtual machine.

An alternative to testing them in Wine is to look them up in Wine's application database: http://appdb.winehq.org/

Currently, I also recommend using my packages from the Wine PPA rather than the packages that come with Ubuntu (which are also mine). You can get instructions here: http://www.winehq.org/download/deb -- on 9.10, 10.04, and 10.10 you can install either the wine1.2 or wine1.3 (beta) packages. The 1.2 one will remain stable, while the 1.3 will receive updates as new Wine releases come out -- which means 1.3 will generally work with more apps, but might break on an update as well.

The main advantage of using the PPA packages is that you can find an exe file and just right click->open with Wine without having to manually set it as executable.

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Virtualbox is excellent. And strangely Windows XP for me runs quicker in Ubuntu (as a guest) than it ever did in real life! Also oddly the Windows XP recognised my sound card, wireless etc. without the fiddling I had to do when I was using it for real! I have to say that Wine can be useful but the "real thing" works quicker in a virtual XP - I love Ubuntu just that it can't do certain things (Windows is the same) - nothing wrong with that; I tend to think that certain Linux users take a special pride in avoiding Windows at all costs, and stick with some pretty shaky Wine emulations just to say it works (just)! Top tip for installation of Virtualbox seems a minor point - make sure your Windows CD is nice and clean and you've got it in the correct CD Draw (if you have two) - for some reason any tiny flaw on the CD seems more likely to upset the virtual machine than it would in a real installation. Secondly my Windows is a OEM version and it worked, just have your product code to hand - and it works, and activates the product via the internet. What's great if you try to install your OEM windows on a different computer it will often go mad, and you may lose your drivers for onboard sound etc. - with Virtual Box XP no problems - works right out the box.

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you wont have the driver problems in a virtual machine as virtualbox emulates very generic devices which are simple and should work in any guest os out of the box.thus - your windows in the VM does not recognize your hardware, but the simple hardware which is emulated by virtualbox. –  Michael K Dec 7 '11 at 8:21
    
...which explains why Virtualbox is so clever / useful. Thanks. –  Jules Dec 7 '11 at 9:33
    
this comes true for nearly every virtualization system.However, I agree with you that Virtualbox is the best choice at the moment –  Michael K Dec 7 '11 at 11:24

Oracle VM VirtualBox is a program that allows you to create operating systems on virtual machines, i.e. to use Windows programs on Linux. If a program doesn't work under WINE, for example, it will probably work in its native environment, Windows. Using VirtualBox would be a better and easier alternative than installing a separate partition for Windows on a Linux machine.

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