Oracle VM VirtualBox is an industrial-strength open source virtualisation tool that makes it easy to create virtual machines (VMs), simulated computers that run on your PC but act as though they were separate systems. It's a powerful capability that has many different applications.
If you'd like a closer look at Windows 8 before you upgrade, for instance, then you could install Microsoft's latest in a VM, then access it in a window on your XP or Vista desktop.
Or maybe you've upgraded to Windows 8 and find a favourite old app doesn't work any more? Create a Windows XP VM and you might be able to run it again.
VirtualBox can also be a useful security tool: if you download and test apps in a VM, then any malware you might encounter will be isolated from your main system.
And it's the perfect choice if you want to try out another operating system with the minimum of hassle. Right now you can install Google Chrome OS, all the mainstream Linux variants (2.4 and 2.6), OpenBSD, OS/2, ReactOS, SkyOS, DOS, and just about every version of Windows there's ever been. (Of course you'll need to have the system discs to hand.)
VirtualBox 4 included an interface redesign, making it easier to view and manage your virtual machines. VM displays can now be scaled, so you can reduce a window size by half (for instance) and still see everything that's going on. The ability to limit a VM's CPU and IO time means the program will be less of a drain on your system's resources, and there are a host of other performance optimisations and bug fixes available.
What's new in VirtualBox 5.2.8 (see changelog for more)?
- VMM: added support for FSGSBASE, PCID, INVPCID CPU features for guests
- VMM: fixed EMM386 issue with detecting suitable page frame base (bug #10022)
- Front end: Linux: prevent VM window from jumping and auto-resizing to tiny size after resizing it on HiDPI screen
- Front end: Linux: fixed seamless regression caused by wm_class functionality (bugs #12534, #17304)
- Front end: switched to https downloads
- Front end: fixed crash while opening New machine wizard (s.a. forums topic 86592)
- Audio: added support for distinguishing recording sources in the PulseAudio mixer on the host when multiple VMs are running
- Audio: various fixes for the DirectSound backend
- Video recording: added better file seeking support and fixed playback of recorded files with certain players (e.g. Firefox)
- Audio: various fixes for Windows guest surround setups
- Audio: various fixes for HDA emulation
- Serial: fixed an issue where the serial port parameters in the emulation and host serial port got out of sync (bug #17116)
- Storage: fixed overwriting certain INQUIRY data for the DVD/CD drive attached to a AHCI controller
- Storage: fixed handling VMDK images created by Amazon EC2 VM export
- Network: fixed PXE boot regression in e1000
- Network: Added a workaround for older guests which do not enable bus mastering for the virtio PCI device
- 3D: add environment variable to configure presenting 3D content on main thread (see bug #13653)
- Windows hosts: fixed indiscriminate binding of NDIS5 bridged driver, that caused PPPOE malfunction (bugs #16407, #17489)
- Windows guests: fixed incorrect function error when using shared folders in certain applications (bug #14118)
- Linux guests: Linux 4.15 support (bugs #17311, #17320, #17282)
- Linux guests: fixed black screen when 3D enabled in guests (bug #17463, 5.2.6 regression)
- Linux guests: suppress setuid and setgid in shared folders
This professional quality virtualization package must be one of the most powerful open source tools around