Thursday, 12 November 2009

* Boot Windows XP in 20 secs !.

One of my greatest niggles as a regular computer user was having to wait 2 minutes or more for my system to boot. It was actually longer than that because the wireless internet connection didn't establish itself for another minute or so. Now being a repair technician I realise that 2 minutes is good compared to many of my clients but it still seems an age. And then of course you never knew whether you would then be delayed as your system applied the usual Microsoft Updates only then to ask you to re-boot to complete the installation a minute or so later !. Wonderful.

This was one of the reasons (amongst many) that pushed me to move to a Linux based operating system. Like most who try this move I was reluctant to entirely abandon Windows, after all i'd paid for it, albeit indirectly when I bought my PC; and of course there were those applications that I couldn't do without that Linux couldn't run despite the availability of Wine ( the environment to run Windows apps under Linux).

So like many I became a "dual booter" with Linux and Windows on my hardrive with the selection done from the menu displayed when turning on the PC.

Then I read about Virtualisation, ie. the ability to create a virtual PC running almost ANY operating system within the Linux host system. Virtualbox was extolled by many as the application of choice for this and so with evidently little to lose and no apparent danger to my existing setup I gave it a bash. (unintended Linux pun there.....).
After a bit of experimentation and learning I now have something I thought i'd never have. The ability to boot into a full WinXP system with two clicks of the mouse. One to run Virtualbox and one to start the WinXP "virtual machine".

How do I get up and running in 20 secs. Simple ..........whenever I close it down I save the machine state instead of powering off or closing down. Then the next time I start the WinXP virtual machine it restores the previously saved state and bingo, i'm up and running.

Furthermore, all normal Windows applications run smoothly and my Wireless connection is instant as it piggy backs on the already existing Linux host connection. After configuring shared folders (the ability to read/write to existing folders on partitions outside of the virtual machine) and enabling access to my DVDRW drive, the only thing I can't do at present is access USB ports directly.

I understand that you can if you wish similarly run the Mac OS as a virtual machine so you could have Linux, Windows and Mac OS's running alongside each other at the same time.

So if you are a dual booting Linux enthusiast I can recommend giving Virtualbox a try. You never know, you may decide to give up that Windows partition after all and leave more room for your favorite Linux OS and your data.

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