Do you need to install Linux in a virtual machine? Whether it's your first time trying or you want to run Linux without dual booting, a virtual machine (VM) is a smart option.
But what is the best Linux distribution for a virtual machine? Should you be using VirtualBox or VMware? Here are seven of the best Linux distributions to run on your VM.
What should you use to run your Linux VM?
But first, how are you going to run your Linux virtual machine? Several VM applications are available, such as: B. VMware and QEMU. There is also Qtemu, a version of QEMU with a mouse-controlled user interface instead of forcing command line interaction.
However, getting started with virtualization is easiest with VirtualBox. It works like this:
Install and launch VirtualBox
Enter the name of the operating system you are installing
Select the type and version of the virtual machine
Configure the CPU, memory, and RAM of the VM
Select the Linux installation image you selected
Install in your virtual machine
This is of course a summary of the actions. Full details on how to use this amazing software can be found in our VirtualBox User Guide.
You could be using macOS, Windows, or even another Linux distribution as your desktop operating system, it doesn't matter. Any other operating system can be installed on top with a virtual machine.
Once you are done, you can choose a Linux distribution to run in your virtual machine. We have selected the most interesting and lightest Linux versions for you.
Linux Mint up to version 20 is currently available with several alternative versions, each offering different desktop environments. Installing Linux Mint in a VM is a good idea because the standard desktop doesn't require 3D acceleration. This makes it a good, lightweight Linux distribution for your VM.
Your virtual machine will almost certainly run like a lower version of your computer. With fewer resources available, low-spec Linux Mint support will prove beneficial. You will get even better results with a different desktop environment. Would you like to swap cinnamon for MATE or Xfce? Performance is further improved while running the most popular desktop Linux operating system!
This lightweight version of Ubuntu has been around for several years, and its small footprint makes it ideal for running in a virtual machine. Once set up, you'll get an idea of how it might work if you installed it as the default operating system.
And if Lubuntu itself doesn't prove to be easy enough for you, try LXLE, the Lubuntu Extra Life Extension. LXLE is even lighter than Lubuntu and is ideally suited as a virtual machine on hardware with low specifications but virtualization capability.
That means, of course, that it's also ideal for running on legacy hardware. We tried it on an old Compaq netbook with great results!
The Raspberry Pi is arguably the most accessible Linux device. Some models are available for just $ 10. If you want to start with the compact computer, you can try the Raspberry Pi operating system on your PC.
Just download the image for the full desktop version of the operating system. This is intended for x86 and x64 systems rather than ARM (according to the actual Raspberry Pi. Don't want to install a new operating system?
Don't worry – there is a version of the Raspberry Pi operating system for VirtualBox and VMware from OSBoxes. Just download the virtual machine file (in VDI for VirtualBox, VMDK for VMware) and run it on your PC.
Fedora is a popular Linux operating system and distribution focused on open source software. Oddly enough, it has a reputation for being difficult to use, but it really doesn't justify it.
While poor performance can be fixed by changing the desktop environment, Fedora's focus on open source matters. Despite their origins, Linux operating systems typically switch between open source software and some proprietary apps and drivers.
Fedora opposes this and only offers FOSS apps and drivers. This is a distro that everyone should try.
And where better to try out a new operating system than in a virtual machine?
Manjaro is a lightweight Linux operating system that is ideal for a variety of purposes. It is based on Arch Linux and is optimized for 32-bit and 64-bit systems.
While Arch is a little harder to set up, Manjaro is easier. Note, however, that it is not quite the same as other Linux distributions. The experience is less structured, which means you can configure your operating system however you want.
You can choose the desktop environment, which services to install, and which applications to add. Some consider Manjaro and Arch to be the "real" Linux, a free, open source experience.
Coupled with the breathtaking Pantheon desktop environment, the basic operating system isn't particularly light. Like many distributions, it is based on Ubuntu. So what makes it worth installing on a virtual machine?
Well, this is a distribution that shows how exactly that is possible on Linux. In addition to the impressive desktop, the elementary operating system has its own apps, is easy to use and has a lot to do with macOS. With few distractions and perfect for productivity, the elementary operating system is ideal for installation on VirtualBox or VMware.
Do you need more persuasion? Here is why you should install elementary operating system.
So far we've looked at desktop distributions. However, if your Linux interest is more server-based, consider Ubuntu Server. If you haven't used a server before, installing Ubuntu Server in your VM is a great way to familiarize yourself.
You don't want to experiment with a real server, do you?
When the server configuration is complete, you can transfer this experience to a physical server and prepare it for production.
Confused about the difference between desktop and server operating systems? Check out our guide on the differences between Ubuntu Desktop and Ubuntu Server.
Install a Linux distribution in your virtual machine today
By now, you should have a good idea of which Linux distribution is best for your virtual machine. It doesn't matter if you use VMware or VirtualBox – both are perfect for running Linux. Which one will you install? We looked at:
Raspberry Pi OS
Basic operating system
If you are new to Linux, consider installing RoboLinux in your VM to make the transition from Windows easier.
Why Robolinux is the best Linux for Windows users
Most versions of Linux aimed at Windows users have a familiar interface. At the bottom left you get an app menu, at the bottom a taskbar, at the bottom right a taskbar and …
About the author
(1410 articles published)
Deputy Editor for Security, Linux, DIY, Programming and Technology explains. He also produces The Really Useful Podcast and has extensive desktop and software support experience.
Christian is an employee of Linux Format Magazine and a Raspberry Pi hobbyist, Lego lover and retro gaming fan.
More from Christian Cawley
Subscribe to our newsletter
Sign up for our newsletter to receive tech tips, reviews, free e-books, and exclusive offers!
One more step …!
Please confirm your email address in the email we just sent you.