You have probably heard the buzz words more then once, virtualization, Virtual PC, virtual environment, VMware, and probably wondered what exactly do they mean? In the world of computing, one has the almighty PC to help with everyday tasks such as Internet surfing, word processing, email, and tax preparation, but at the same time having these wonderful machines connected to the Internet means the possibility of being infected with spyware, malware, adware, and yes, viruses!
What if one could use the PC to do all of the things mentioned above and not have a care in the world if the PC were infected by any one of those pc diseases. What if the system could be turned off and one could basically start again fresh and clean without having to reformat or re-install the OS. Well, that's were virtualization can help, so what is virtualization? There are two terms to be aware of in virtualization, Virtual and Emulation. Virtual means to extend with the use of software, in the PC world it means to take the hardware and extend it to virtual clients, in this setup a Virtual PC can run at the same speed as the actual PC. Emulation on the other hand means to emulate the hardware for a virtual system to run on, this type of setup allows the Virtual PC to run at maybe a 1/3 or of what the actual physical processor can run this happens because the processor has to emulate certain code for the Virtual PC to work. These definitions are at best simplistic, for more in depth definitions please use an online encyclopedia or technical dictionary.
How can virtualization help to minimize the impact of spyware, malware, adware, and yes, viruses? To put it in the simplest terms running your internet surfing sessions within a Virtual PC that has been placed into "undoable" mode. This particular mode allows you to start your Virtual PC normally, however the primary hard drive for the Virtual PC is placed in this "undoable" mode, this mode allows you to use the Virtual PC as you normally would, however the system keeps a redo log for the Virtual PC, if the system becomes infected and the infection causes major headaches, you simply turn off the Virtual PC. As the Virtual PC shuts down, the system will prompt you to either "Commit" the changes you have made to the Virtual PC, or "Discard" the changes. Committing the changes obviously saves any malware, adware or viruses that infected the Virtual PC; however, discarding the changes keeps the Virtual PC in an unchanged form. All of the changes that occur to your Virtual PC are written to this redo log, so when you select to discard the changes, this redo log is deleted. Next time you start the Virtual PC, it will create a new redo log, and you will find a fresh clean Virtual PC to work with. Imagine saving hundreds of dollars on software that helps battle viruses and spyware, just by using this virtual technology to surf the web.
So how do you get your hands on virtual software, easy companies such as Microsoft and VMware offer free versions of their virtualization software, creating a Virtual PC is easy. And takes minutes, if you have ever built your own PC, then this will be no different aside from actually putting physical hardware together. You will be able to choose from items such as how much memory to add to the virtual system, to how many hard drives and what size. You will be able to select items such as CD-ROMS, Floppy drives and Network Cards. Keep in mind that you will need a copy of your Windows OS to complete the build of a Virtual PC. Once the virtual system has been completed, surf on, worry free. VMware offers VMware Server, Microsoft offers their Virtual PC 7 for free.