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Running Virtual PCs on Your PC with VMware Player

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Need to test-run a new software app without affecting your main computer? Software developer Kulvir Singh Bhogal introduces you to VMware Player, a program that allows you to run virtual machine images on a host PC, effectively allowing you to run multiple operating systems on the same PC simultaneously.
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Modern-day computers are powerful enough to run "virtual" computers inside them. This article introduces you to VMware Player, a product offering of VMware, Inc. If you are interested in trying out the latest version of a Linux distribution or you simply want a virtual machine that enables you to browse without the worries of catching a virus, then this article and VMware Player should stimulate your interest. Imagine being able to start over with a pristine copy of your Windows operating system with just a few clicks!

What Is a Virtual Machine, and What Exactly Is VMware Player?

A virtual machine (VM) is a computer defined by software. Virtualization effectively enables simultaneous execution of more than one instance of operating systems, including ones that might not even be able to execute on the physically available hardware. The science of virtualization works by convincing the "guest" operating system that it really has sole ownership of the hardware environment it requires.

Think of it as being able to run a PC on your PC. The operating system of this guest virtual PC can originate from a myriad of operating systems supported by VMware, including Microsoft Windows, Linux, NetWare, Solaris, and FreeBSD. Recently, VMware released its VMware Player product for free, which gives the user the software needed to run a VM image. VMware currently works only on Intel x86-compatible computers. For Mac users, VMware Inc. is currently beta-testing a VMware desktop product codenamed "Fusion" (see http://www.vmware.com/products/beta/fusion/).

Why would someone want to run an operating system on top of an operating system, you might ask? One of the reasons might be to use the OS as a testbed in order to try out new software without affecting your main computer.

As a software developer, I have used VMware Player to turn my single computer into a full-blown network for developing and testing the deployment of the multi-tier software applications I write. In short, I can emulate a full client server environment on my laptop while on the road!

Also, VMware allows software developers to test their applications on different operating systems. This is extremely beneficial when a software application needs to be tested for legacy operating systems such Microsoft Windows 98 and Windows 2000. The advantage brought to the table by VMware Player is that a developer can get away without having to maintain separate physical machines to perform legacy operating system compatibility testing.

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