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How to Install Linux on a VirtualBox

Instructor: David Delony

David is a freelance writer specializing in technology. He holds a BA in communication.

This lesson shows a step-by-step process to install a Linux distribution on VirtualBox host using Ubuntu as an example. You'll discover how easy it is to explore Linux while keeping your existing operating system without partitioning or rebooting.

Oracle VM VirtualBox

Oracle VM VirtualBox is a free and open source hypervisor program that allows users to create virtual machines and run different operating systems on one machine. One of the most common uses is for running Linux. This lesson shows how easy it is to install Linux guests on VirtualBox hosts.

VirtualBox allows users to run multiple operating systems at the same time without having to restart the computer. A user may want to study Linux operating system on a Windows host that is used for other work. For example, Microsoft does not make MS Office for Linux, but with VirtualBox, it is possible to keep both operating systems. You don't have to choose between the two operating systems.

With VirtualBox, you don't need to partition a drive before installing a Linux distribution. VirtualBox uses disk images that contain the operating system. You can also start up a virtual machine and continue to use your regular operating system. You can also back up the current state of your virtual machine and restore it in case something goes wrong.

Installing a Linux distribution on VirtualBox

You can install Linux virtual machines on Windows, Mac OS X, Solaris, and even Linux hosts using VirtualBox. For this lesson, we'll use Ubuntu. The process is identical for other Linux distributions. You simply download the Ubuntu iso image from the official website and run through the installation process in VirtualBox.

Getting Ubuntu iso images

Before you can install Linux on VirtualBox, you have to get a Linux distribution.

  1. First, download the .iso image for the version you want to use. We'll use the Ubuntu 16.04.3 LTS version.
  2. Go to the Ubuntu website at www.ubuntu.org and click on 'Downloads' button and click 'Desktop' from the drop-down menu.
  3. You'll be taken straight to the download page. Just click the green 'Download' button and the download will start. The .iso image is quite big, so it will take a while to download on slower connections.

Installing Ubuntu

Now that you have your Ubuntu image, we can install it in VirtualBox. We assume that you have already installed VirtualBox on your host operating system. We'll use the 'Guided mode,' as it's easy for new users.

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