Using VirtualBox for Mac to Run Windows
Following are the general steps to get Windows running under a virtual environment:
- Download and install the virtualization software.
- Configure a virtual environment and install Windows.
- Run Windows in the virtual environment.
Several virtualization applications are available, but one of the best is also free: VirtualBox. This open-source application has made great strides in performance and usability in recent years and now offers the same features as commercial virtualization solutions at a $0 price point. Although this chapter covers VirtualBox for virtualization, you might also be interested in Parallels Desktop (http://www.parallels.com/products/desktop/) or VMWare Fusion (http://www.vmware.com/products/fusion/overview.html) if you prefer a company-supported option.
To install VirtualBox, complete the following steps:
- Browse to http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads.
- Click the VirtualBox for OS X hosts link to download the disk image to your Mac.
- When the download completes, open the VirtualBox disk image (DMG) file in your Downloads folder. The disk image opens to reveal an installer package (see Figure 25.6).
Figure 25.6 Double-click the VirtualBox.mpkg package to install.
- Double-click the VirtualBox.mpkg package and follow the onscreen instructions to install VirtualBox. You should not need to change any of the default settings during the install.
- When the installation finishes, click Close to quit the installer. You’re now ready to launch VirtualBox and install Windows.
Configuring a Virtual Machine and Installing Windows
Each OS you run under VirtualBox has its own VM for which you can set various settings, such as the amount of disk space dedicated to that machine, where the machine is stored, and so on. Before you can install Windows, create and configure a VM for it.
To set up a new Windows 7 VM, follow these simple steps:
- Launch VirtualBox from your Applications folder or Launchpad if you haven’t done so already.
- In the Welcome to VirtualBox window, click New. The New Virtual Machine Wizard window appears. Click Continue to begin the setup process.
- Provide a name for the VM, choose the operating system type and version, as shown in Figure 25.7, and click Continue.
Figure 25.7 Choose the OS type and version.
- You are prompted to choose the amount of memory to be allocated to the VM. Leave the defaults, unless you know you can spare more. The more memory, the better Windows will perform. Click Continue when ready to move on.
- Prepare the virtual boot disk that will be used to start your VM, as shown in Figure 25.8. Again, you can just go with the recommended defaults provided by VirtualBox. You are prompted for the maximum disk size later. Click Continue to proceed.
Figure 25.8 Choose to create a new boot disk for the VM.
- Pick the type of file that will be used for the virtual disk. VDI images are the default for VirtualBox and should be your typical selection. If you need to use the disk with VMWare, choose VMDK, or select VHD for compatibility with Microsoft’s VM architecture. Click Continue.
- Choose whether the storage for your virtual disk is dynamically allocated (space is used as needed) or whether the entire space for the drive is taken out of your available storage immediately. Typically, you want dynamically allocated volumes. Click Continue when ready to proceed.
- Choose a name, save location, and maximum size for the virtual disk, as shown in Figure 25.9. Click Continue to move on.
Figure 25.9 Choose the size and storage location for your drive.
- Click Create to build your VM.
Your VM is now ready and waiting to be used. You should be looking at the VirtualBox Manager window, as shown in Figure 25.10. From this window, you can choose between any configured VMs, start them, or delete (discard) them.
Figure 25.10 View your VMs from the VirtualBox Manager.
Of course, your VM isn’t going to do much good without a copy of Windows, so it’s time to start the VM and install. Follow these steps to start your VirtualBox VM:
- Within the VirtualBox Manager, select the VM you want to use and then click the Start button.
- If the VM has been previously configured and has an OS installed, it boots in a new window and is ready to use. If not, the First Run Wizard starts, as shown in Figure 25.11. Click Continue.
Figure 25.11 The First Run Wizard walks you through the installation of Windows.
- Insert your Windows CD/DVD installation media and wait until the disk mounts.
- Choose the location of your Windows media when prompted by the wizard, and then click Continue.
- Click Start to boot your VM and install windows.
Windows starts and stops a time or two, and you see a variety of messages from Windows itself and from VirtualBox. Read and respond to the messages as seems best; in most cases, you just click OK at various prompts.
After the basic installation process and initial configuration are complete, you see Windows in the VirtualBox window, exactly as if you were sitting in front of a Windows machine.
- Log in to Windows and choose Install Guest Additions from the Devices menu, as shown in Figure 25.12. This updates the Windows drivers to dramatically improve the speed of your VM.
Figure 25.12 Choose Install Guest Additions from the menu to improve performance.
After you’ve installed Windows, there isn’t much difference between running Windows in a VM and running it on a Windows PC. You just launch VirtualBox, start the VM you’ve configured, wait for it to boot, and then use it.
Unlike Boot Camp, however, you can jump back to the Mac at any time by clicking outside of the VM. You can leave Windows running as long as you need to. If you won’t be using it for a while, it’s a good idea to shut it down to maximize the resources available to the Mac OS.
VirtualBox offers far more features than can be discussed here. Be sure to read through the accompanying documentation for tips and tricks to maximize your VM efficiency and speed.