What is a virtual machine? How does it work? What is it used for?

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 In the simplest terms, a virtual machine can be considered to be a computer within a computer. You can open a virtual machine as a window, just like how you call any other program. This virtual machine is digitally ‘sandboxed’ or separated from your physical machine. So you can test beta software, open virus infected files and perform risky operations without the fear of affecting your actual machine.

 There are a lot of other uses for a virtual machine. In this article, we will cover the basic uses of a virtual machine and how it works.

What does it do?

A Virtual Machine (VM) or a hypervisor when invoked, emulates an operating system within your computer. It is a self-contained unit and you can take any action you would take on a physical system. The only thing they need is the storage space in the hard drive. The concept has become extremely important in the modern times as the demand for servers and networks is exploding.

Anybody can set up a virtual machine for their needs. Let us say you have a piece of software that runs only on Mac. But you only have a PC at home. You can fire up a Virtual Mac on your PC and use the software. In theory, that is how virtualization can be used as needed.

Why is it used?

Security

Due to the level of safety provided, virtual machines are used often in the security industry to study the behaviour of viruses, ransomware and other malicious entities. When a virus is activated on a virtual machine, it attacks the operating system much like it would attack a physical system. By studying its behaviour, security researchers can find ways to neutralise them.

Testing

 Virtual machines are used to beta test new software for bugs, stability and other aspects of the new code. The advantage of using VM is that your actual system will not crash and you can test multiple versions of the OS from a single device. This way, a testing company can save money by buying fewer powerful systems rather than investing in every possible OS in the market.

Flexibility

Virtual machines make it possible for you to work from a remote location. Many high-security companies can offer work from home or other remote location, thanks to VPN and virtual machines.

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