Some time back, I announced that I was planning to give Windows 8 a try by installing it on my # 2 PC when it is released in Oct. of this year. Well, I’m getting a jump on things by installing the Windows 8 Release Preview on a virtual machine using my main PC.

So what’s a virtual machine? According to Wikipaedia, it’s a “completely isolated guest operating system installation within a normal host operating system”. In other words, it allows me – or you – to run two different operating systems on the same PC at the same time. So how’s it different from my # 2 PC? Well that PC is a dual-boot computer for both Windows and Ubuntu Linux 11.4. I can boot-up one OS or the other but not both at the same time.

I’m able to run two operating systems on the same PC at the same time by using virtual machine software. In this case, it’s Parallels Workstation from Parallels Inc. This firm made an offer to members of PC World to purchase their product for $9.99 rather than the regular price of $79.99. If you’re not a PC World member, do not despair. Oracle produces open source software called Virtual Box. I’ve used the Oracle product on the job and decided that since the price was right, I’d see what Parallels Workstation had to offer.

I installed Ubuntu Linux 12.4 as a trial run and will get to work installing Windows 8 just as soon as this post goes out. How fast a guest operating system will run on a virtual  machine depends on the host PC. If you’re short on memory, have a relatively slow processor or if you’re like me and have a boatload of tool bars and other gadgets running in the background then the performance may lose a step or two. On the other hand, if you’re like me and have 8 gigabytes of  RAM on board and are running a 3 GHz quad processor, you’ll find the performance to be quite satisfactory.

Admittedly, virtual machine software is not for everyone and if all you ever use your PC for is Facebook, Flickr and Mahjong, then you probably won’t have any use for thins kind of thing; free or otherwise. However, if you’re always wanted to try Linux and don’t have the cash to splash out on a second PC, then Virtual Machine software may be well worth investigating.

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