Windows XP running on Ubuntu

I’ve just managed a setup, which if I didn’t see or do it for myself, I wouldn’t believe it: I’m running Windows XP inside Ubuntu like another program.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on this blog, you will by now realise my non-too-subtle affinity for Ubuntu.  Yet, I still need Windows for some unported software, so I’ve been unable to totally boot Bill’s bloat.

I’ve very cleverly (I thought) set up a dual boot so that my default OS is Ubuntu (currently 8.10 Intrepid Ibex) and with the tap of the ESC key Windows XP is a secondary option in my Grub boot loader.  This is however still a pain in the donkey, because when I need to do some minor tasks in my Windows-only software I have to shut down, reboot, do what I need to do, shut down and reboot again. This could happen several times a day as the tasks trickle in.

So it was then that I had my dinner in front of YouTube this evening, watching the new and interesting stuff featured on the front page.  There was this Mac vs. PC clip that set me off on the PC path (I’m always keen to witness the new skirmishes on this war-torn front).

And, as you do, I clicked through on the related stuff until I got to this clip, “How to run Windows XP on Linux Ubuntu with Virtualbox“. Now I’ve dabbled with Wine aplenty, but have had nothing but hangovers, as often I can get the programs to run, but then invariably some or other important function is rendered impotent. So this claim to run Windows on Ubuntu intrigued me no end.

Sun XVM VirtualBox

As the clip above illustrates, those great guys and gals at Sun have perfected (I hope and pray) this free, open source software, which doesn’t run one or two Windows applications in Ubuntu, nay, it actually runs the entire Windows operating system in Ubuntu.

And it does so smoothly in a few very easy steps.

I downloaded Sun’s VirtualBox from their website and installed the software in Ubuntu.  Then I installed the VirtualBox software in Ubuntu and after a few questions it had readied a virtual harddrive for my Windows installation.

Once you launch this virtual environment, you work inside a normal Ubuntu program window. In this instance though, the program window represents a virtual computer screen as if you’re working on another computer, or box (slang), within Ubuntu.

You then push a virtual power button on your virtual box, and it starts up much like a real computer. If you’ve assigned your CD drive, it boots from there and in my case from my Windows XP installation CD.  On your virtual screen, which represents your virtual computer, Windows XP then installs itself like it will on any computer.

Windows running on Ubuntu

And moments later, you have a fully working install of Windows XP, running in an Ubuntu window, which you can even minimise to your Ubuntu taskbar if you want.  Some clever connectivity lets you access your Ubuntu shared folders from within Windows via a virtual network, so you have a fully integrated environment.

For me, this is sheer bliss, because now I don’t have to reboot my machine – ever.

Taking it a step further, I connected my old, cracked Acer LCD and used Ubuntu 8.10’s slick Dual Screen Setup (no headaches like up until as recently as 8.04), so the laptop is entirly Ubuntu, and the LCD is, for all pratical pruposes, Windows XP.

This allows me to do my  normal stuff on my laptop unhindered, and then when I need to reach over into Windows XP for some graphic or web tweaking, I simply move my mouse cursor to the right and viola!, I’m in Windows XP.

Unbelievable.  A computer geek’s wet dream.

I love Ubuntu.

Ps. I noticed in quite a few videos people mispronouncing the word Ubuntu.  It’s pronounced “ooo-boon-too”. It’s a Zulu language word (from the Zulus, an indigenous people in South Africa) and, in a very broad sense, means humanity towards others.

5 Comments

  • Mister Peabody

    17 January 2009 at 07:41

    OH, YES! I installed VirtualBox on top of Easy Peasy (Ubuntu Eee 8.04.1) and then loaded up WinXP Home (had it on hand). Works GREAT! No speed issues on an ASUS eeePC 1000, and now I can back up the VM for later. Much shorter timeframe than setting up a dual boot.

    Did have issue with the USB DVD-ROM not being seen by VirtualBox during XP install ("Please insert your WinXPHome CD-ROM" requested by Win installer). Clicking out of VirtualBox and into Ubuntu seemed to solve that problem.

    One thing to look at: darn resolution of Eee PC is 1024×600. Will I have to set res to 800×600? PIA but oh well.

    Thanks for the overview. The YouTube video made process even easier.

  • Conan

    18 February 2009 at 23:53

    This is a really cool set up.

  • Joao

    5 March 2009 at 15:00

    I'm interested in doing this too. May I ask, how much RAM do you have? Do you notice any lag inside Windows or does it run, as far as you can perceive, as fast as it would in a "standalone" installation?

  • 1Earth

    5 March 2009 at 16:59

    I have 2GB of RAM on a Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz processor and in VirtualBox I've allocated 500MB to Windows. I use DreamWeaver, which lags a little tiny bit when it updates files from the 'network' (shared folder under Ubuntu which I can access through the network).

    Photoshop runs also lags a bit when you start doing processor intensive stuff. If you have more RAM on your system you can allocate more of it to Windows and I think things will go a lot smoother then. For me, the negligible loss of performance is a small price to pay for not having to reboot into Windows.

  • Joao

    6 March 2009 at 01:38

    Thanks for the reply 1Earth.

    My specs are similar, but before setting up XP inside VB/Ubuntu I'm thinking of getting anywhere between 4 to 8GB of RAM (which nowadays can be bought fairly cheap) so that XP runs as smoothly as possible. I can allocate 2 or 3GB to XP, and Ubuntu will use the rest.

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