Thanks to dual-boot methods, we don’t have to rely on a single operating system to meet our needs. But choosing and locking into an OS at boot time can be constraining. Virtual machine software removes that constraint by allowing us to run an OS inside of an OS. For all intents and purposes, it looks like both systems are running side-by-side. Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion are among the top commercial solutions and I’ve used both. They solve the multiple OS challenge very well for those that don’t mind paying. I feel that they’re worth the price of admission, but folks on a budget should take Sun’s open-source VirtualBox for a spin.
The free virtualization software is now available in its third major iteration and the refresh adds features previously found only in the paid version of the competitor’s packages. New to VirtualBox 3.0 is support for Open GL 2.0 as well as Direct 3D 8/9 in Windows. Also included is the ability for guest operating systems to use up to 32 virtual CPUs. The entire change log is here and it’s filled with other enhancements and fixes. VirtualBox might not be as glitzy, glamorous or functional for games as solutions from Parallels or VMware, but you can’t beat the price. It’s definitely a must-see if you want to run multiple operating systems at the same time on a Windows, Mac or Linux machine.