As a software/techy/geek, I love VMware Workstation for Windows (and Linux and Fusion for OSX). These products allow an operating system to run within the context of the operating system—a computer within a computer, so to speak. This allows a single machine to be used to run any applications without having to to use multiple machines, dual-boot, or reinstall applications.
- Applications can be test-installed first, without disturbing the primary computer.
- A portable computer set up can be created so that you can move a set of applications to a new computer to run without having to set everything up again.
- Applications that will only run on a different operating system can be run on your computer.
- Applications can be “released” from their guest environment to appear to run within the same operating environment as the primary operating system (i.e., Windows, OSX, or Linux), sharing screen space with the other apps you are running. Copy and paste and drag and drop are also supported between the apps running in, what is really, separate environments.
VMware has a free product called VMware Player which can run “virtual” computer configurations to perform a lot of those features. Their commercial VMware Workstation product that goes beyond Player and allows easy configuration and other operational features. I am not pushing Workstation, but if you have it, you will never use Player. For all your buddies that do not have Workstation, they can still run the machine configurations that are created with Workstation.
There are many alternatives to VMware’s solutions, some of the better known are noted here.
VirtualBox is an open-source solution, similar and somewhat compatible with the VMware products that is free. Performance and integration is clearly inferior to the VMware products.
Microsoft, of coarse, has its own solution,, free with the more expensive versions of Windows (e.g., Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate), known as Virtual PC—convenient if all that you do is run Windows.