Want to install a virtual copy of Windows or any other operating system but do not know how to go about it? This tutorial will guide you step by step in creating and installing your very own virtual operating system in a free tool called VirtualBox.

How to Create your own Virtual Machine

1.            I recommend you use a freeware version of Oracle VirtualBox, you can download and install it here: http://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Downloads

2.            Next download a virtual machine iso of your choice, I prefer Ubuntu 10.10 or Open Solaris. Simply visit the vendor’s site and download the 32bit version of their latest operating system.

3.            Next open up VirtualBox and click “New” to create a new virtual machine

4.            You will then be taken to the Virtual Machine Wizard, click next and enter the name of your Virtual Machine and the type of Operating System you are trying to install. For this tutorial we will be installing Open Solaris. Your setup should look similar to the following popup:

5.            Next enter the amount of ram you wish your virtual machine to have, the recommended is typically 512mb for any other Operating System, but for Open Solaris we will use 768ram since that is what VirtualBox recommends as listed in the popup.

6.            The next part of the setup wizard will ask you to create a virtual disk drive for your virtual machine. A virtual disk is basically a virtual hard drive for your virtual machine where you will store the actual operating system and any user files. A virtual disk could be fixed for dynamically expanding, one should use fixed if there is limited free space on your main hard drive, but it is recommended that dynamically expanding be selected just in case the operating system needs automatically add more storage space. Follow the on screen instructions and select a dynamic drive with about 8gb of free space, this will automatically expand if the operating system requires more free space.

7.            After clicking next you should see the following screen, you may label your virtual disk if you like or you may select a different save location for your virtual disk as well if you do not have enough free space on your existing drive.

8.            You have now finished configuring your virtual machine, next we will want to install the Operating System for our virtual machine. If you followed the steps correctly you should see the name of the operating system in virtual box like you see here:

9.            To install an operating system for your virtual machine, simply click the green start arrow at the top of the window.

Note: You will be presented with a black screen with a popup dialog about the Auto Capture Keyboard, all you need to know is that if you press the right ctrl button you will be able to free the mouse from inside the virtual machine, if you click inside the black window then the mouse will only be visible inside the machine. Virtual box sometimes allows you to release the mouse even without pressing right-ctrl. Simply check do not show this message again and click ok.

10.            After the Virtual box logo disappears, we can now proceed to loading an operating system for the virtual machine, of course you have two options here, you can either insert a cd that contains the operating system or you can load a downloaded iso image. For this tutorial we will load a downloaded iso image. Click Devices -> CD/DVD devices -> IDE (Primary Master) -> More CD/DVD images. If you wish to load from a cd then simply click the drive letter that contains the operating system on your drive instead. Notice that on the bottom right hand corner of the screen that there is a picture of a cd, this is grey because we do not yet have an bootable image/cd loaded into the virtual machine.

11.            Another dialog box will open up titled virtual media manager, click Add then go to the location that contains your downloaded iso (operating system), click open to open the image.

12.            You will now see the image in the virtual media manager, click the image you just opened from the list and click select.

13.            We will now want to reset the virtual machine so that the bootable image containing our operating system we selected can load up, also notice the cd icon on the bottom right hand corner of the window is no longer grey and that it is lit-up, this means that you are on the right track. Click Machine -> Reset to proceed. If a dialog box appears asking if you want to proceed simply click reset.

14.            Finally your operating system will now boot up, simply follow the step by step instructions to install the operating system and you will have successfully installed your first virtual machine! A screenshot below will show a freshly installed copy of Open Solaris installed on a Windows 7 based machine.