Virtual Machines

A virtual machine is a full computer, implemented in software. Modern virtual machines are powerful, fast, and easy to set up. They do require a moderate amount of RAM in your system, and wil need disk space to hold the required files.

Virtual Machines are a vital part of today’s technological world, so it is important that you know something about them.

I use virtual machines to create isolated development environments, to set up exactly the tools I need for one class, and to model the environment I will eventually be using on a real server on the Internet somewhere. All of the tools I use are readily available, most are free, and all are in active use in development shops around the world!

Checking Your System

Before you start off working with virtual machines, you need to make sure the machine you will use to try them out, called the host computer, can run the virtual machine you want to try. Most recent systems can run 32-bit v:term:virtual machines, but to run 64-bit machines, you need to do some checking:

Windows Systems

Here is a Windows program you can use to check to see if your system is able to run 64-bit term:VM systems:


If this tool reports that you are unable to run a 64-bit “guest” machine, check to see if you have a 64-bit AMD processor. I have had reports that this tool fails on such systems, but they actually have managed to run 64-bit VM machines anyway!

See this link for more info.

Enable VT-x Extensions

If your system passes this test, you may still need to activate VT-x extensions in your BIOS. Unfortunately, getting to the right spot to do this is machine specific, so you may need to seek help to get this done. On many systems, you havd an opportunity to get into the BIOS contro panel as you power up the machine fro being shut down. Usually, that involves pressing a function key. A message may pop up briefly as the system boots. If you see it and it disappears too fast, power down, and try again.


On Windows 8 machines, accessing this control is buried in a Windows menu. I am still trying to nail that process down.

See this link
for more info.

Virtual Machine Tools

Here are some of the VM tools I am using at this time:

  • VirtualBox (free for all platforms)
  • VMware (Player, Workstation for PC; Fusion for Mac)
  • Vagrant (a VM manager)

Here are links to more information on these tools, and how to install them:

Here is another tool useful in managing virtual machines.


This tool is free for VirtualBox, but it requires a commercial add-on if you want to run it with VMware.