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This is probably a really dumb question, but I want to be sure before I give my virtual machine memory. I'm going to try to install Linux on my mac through virtual box but I need to allocate RAM for it. My question is this: When the virtual machine is not in use, does it return the RAM back to my system for whatever it needs? Or does it keep the RAM reserved like partitioning a hard drive? Thanks!

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No, the ram is only reserved while the VM is running.

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