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Chapter 4. Installing Windows XP for Mul... > The Virtual Machine Approach

The Virtual Machine Approach

If you need access to multiple operating systems primarily for testing purposes, rather than for long periods of work, there's a way to enjoy the use of multiple operating systems like any of the hassle of multi-boot setups. In fact, you can even use multiple operating systems simultaneously on the same computer. It's done with a setup called a virtual machine. It's an old concept (IBM used it on its mainframes back in the 1970s) that's making a big comeback thanks to today's fast processors and huge hard disks.

A virtual machine program emulates (simulates) in software all of the hardware functions of a PC. It lets an entire operating system (called a guest operating system) run as an ordinary application program on a host operating system such as Windows XP. Since all of the hardware functions are emulated, the guest OS doesn't “know” it's not in complete control of a computer. When it attempts to physically access a hard disk, display card, network adapter, or serial port, the virtual machine program calls upon the host operating system to actually carry out the operation. Services supplied to the guest operating system (the virtual machine) typically include access to ports, floppy disks, CD-ROM drives, even networking (including access to the Internet).


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