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 10 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 10 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 6 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 6.1.2 (see changelog for more)?
- Virtualization core: fixed performance issue observed with Windows XP guests on AMD hosts (6.0.0 regression; bug #19152)
- Virtualization core: consistent IBRS/IBPB CPUID feature reporting, avoids crash of NetBSD 9.0 RC1 installer (bug #19146)
- GUI: fixed updating of runtime info
- GUI: in Display settings, do not show "2D video acceleration" checkbox if it is meaningless for the selected graphics adapter
- Audio: fixed audio input handling when VRDE is enabled
- Audio: fixed crash in the HDA emulation when using multi-speaker configurations
- Storage: fixed use of encrypted disks with snapshots involved (6.1.0 regression; bug #19160)
- Storage: improve performance of virtio-scsi
- Storage: read-only support for compressed clusters in QCOW2 images
- Windows installer: include unintentionally dropped vbox-img.exe utility again
- Windows host: when installing or removing an extension pack, retry the sometimes failing directory renaming (usually caused by anti-virus software accessing the directory)
- Linux host: Support Linux 5.5 (guest additions not yet)
- Windows guest: accelerate 2D video decoding (scaling and color space conversion) if the VM is configured to use VBoxSVGA with 3D enabled
- Windows guest: fix guest additions installer to upgrade the mouse filter driver reliably
- Windows guest: when uninstalling older Guest Additions with old 3D support enabled try restoring original Direct3D files
- Linux guest: improve resize and multi-monitor handling for VMs using VMSVGA (known remaining issue: do not disable a monitor "in the middle", causes confusion)