As mentioned in the previous article, one of the first things that will allow you to start learning quickly is to start by understanding how to install a commonly used Operating System. However, there is a good chance that you already have access to an existing modern computer, that would lend itself to this recommended learning path. The method suggested in this article would allow the computer to continue its existing function, but allow you to install a second operating system, essentially inside the existing one.
This type of configuration is called a virtual machine, which runs in an isolated environment, and can be used without harming the existing computer setup. Basically, by installing some additional software on the computer, you can create the same learning environment as if you had a dedicated physical computer for these exercises.
After deciding this is the path that will be used for your learning platform, the next decision is to decide on which virtualization software to use to emulate the virtual computer. My personal recommendation would be to download and install Virtualbox for a couple of reasons:
1. Virtualbox will run on both Windows and macOS, making it a common platform to run virtual machines. This can be very beneficial if you have access to computers of each type and want the same virtualization software running on each.
2. Virtualbox can be used, even if the host computer doesn’t have ‘virtualization support’. Basically what this means is, you don’t have to worry about changing any settings on your host computer, in order to use the virtualization software. This is important so that you don’t have to worry about exploring the computer’s BIOS settings, which is something you can do after you learn the basics.
There are many guides and videos on how to install Virtualbox and creating your first VM. As mentioned previously, seek out quality content for a step-by-step approach to getting started. If for some reason you can’t install Virtualbox on the computer, there is another option.
If the computer is a PC and is running Windows 10, you can use the add/remove features option in the control panel to enable Hyper-V support. This option, however, does require virtualization support enabled in your computer’s BIOS settings.
Enabling virtualization in the BIOS is not a hard task to do, however, it will be something specific to the model computer you have. My recommendation would be to search for ‘enabling virtualization support for X’, where X is the brand and model of your PC. In some models, this option is enabled by default.
An alternative to not checking the BIOS setting first would be to proceed with adding Hyper-V and hoping it is set. If the option is not already enabled, the installation process will tell you and not continue. In my experience, virtualization is usually not enabled by default – but will vary based on multiple factors.
Again, this is virtualization approach would be my preferred solution to getting started, as opposed to buying old, dedicated hardware for the purpose of learning. It really just depends on what you are starting with: an existing computer capable of running virtual machines vs. no existing computer or big budget to buy a new powerful computer vs. small budget.