Running Virtual Machines with virtualisation software
How to use Oracle VirtualBox or UTM to run other operating systems on your device
Introduction to Virtualisation
Virtualisation is a technique for running more than one operating system on a single physical computer. These virtual computers are typically called Virtual Machines or VMs for short.
If you have previously used VMware under a WIN site-license, you will need to move to an alternate platform. Contact email@example.com to discuss options for migrating to an alternate platform.
Why might I want to do this?
As a WIN researcher you will find VMs most useful when you have a piece of software you need to use that is only available for an operating system you don't have ready access too. The most common example would be some Windows software when you have a Linux computer on your desk, e.g. IDEA programming (if you are a Physicist) or Presentation development (if you are an Applications researcher). Some software is unsuitable for running under virtualisation software, for example high-performance 3D graphics software or tools requiring accurate timing.
What software do I need?
On Intel/AMD CPU devices we recommend the use of Virtual Box. If you wish to install and use the Virtual Box extensions (which add support for USB 2/3, encrypted VM amongst other non-essential features) then you may only do so if you are using this software in the context of the University's educational program (i.e. you must not use it for commercial purposes).
On ARM devices (Apple M1/2), options include UTM and the commercial software offerings Parallels, VMware Fusion 13 (Virtual Box is available in a preview release). These can only virtualise ARM operating systems, so at present are limited to Linux OSes. Windows on ARM is an official option with Parallels only at present (March 2023), although other virtualisers will add this as an official option shortly. This version of Windows supports the running of most Intel software via an in-built emulator, however some features (such as 3D graphics) and Windows Subsystem for Linux are not available.
UTM can emulate other platforms, so you may be able to run Intel/AMD OSes.
Software Usage Notes
With UTM, if you are using the FMRIB VPN service (FortiClient SSL) then you may find the default networking options do not work. Shut down the VM and then in the VM settings change the networking mode to 'Emulated VLAN'.
What can I run in the VM software
Before you can run the program you want you will need to obtain or create a VM. Some software is available pre-packaged in a VM, for example Freesurfer.
Other software will need you to create a VM and install an OS within it:
For University owned macOS computers the Microsoft Campus agreement allows us to install Windows OSes within a VM under the site-license at no cost to yourself, e-mail the WIN IT team to arrange installation.
Personally owned computers of staff members are entitled to upgrade through the Campus agreement by purchasing a Work at Home license from IT Services' Microsoft Store. NB You must destroy this VM when you leave the University.
Students are not entitled to copies of Microsoft software under the Campus agreement, so you will have to purchase your own copy of Windows if you wish to use your own computer.
Linux is freely available, eg http://www.ubuntu.com, http://www.linuxmint.com or http://www.fedoraproject.org
Apple computers are entitled to run up to two VMs running macOS.
Once you have an OS you should be able to install the software you require, a few points to bear in mind:
- 3D graphics support may be incomplete/slow
- Presentation timings will not be accurate. You should only be using this for developing an experiment, the actual runs should be carried out on a native Windows install.
- Make sure you have enough RAM to run both the VM and your host OS efficiently. Allow at least 8GB for your host OS and 4GB for your guest (for Linux)/8GB for Windows 10/11. Consequently if you intend to run virtualisation software on a laptop you should aim to have a minimum of 16GB of RAM in the machine.