Run Linux in a virtual machine
VIRTUALBOX AND UBUNTU Time required: Two hours.
THERE ARE PLENTY of reasons you should want to try out Linux, but in keeping with our first tutorial this month (see page 64), one of them is to make it harder for your activity to be tracked online. If you want to make sure you can’t be tracked, our best advice would be to use a different PC. You can do this even if you don’t have a second computer by setting up a virtual machine on your computer, which behaves as though it’s an entirely separate device. If set up properly, nothing that happens on your virtual machine will impact your main Windows installation, meaning that any websites you visit won’t be able to identify you.
Here, we’re going to set up a virtual machine running Ubuntu, which is the version of Linux that Windows users will find most familiar. You can also do this with Windows, but that would require you to pay for a second license for the operating system.
The advantage of using Linux is that you can install it for free and, if you want to boost your security further, you can delete the virtual machine every few months and set up a new one at no cost. You don’t need to use your Linux virtual machine every day—just start it up when you want to browse a site you’re not so sure about, and shut it down again when you’ve finished. If you enjoy using Linux, you could even install it on an older PC—running Windows 7, say—to extend its working life. –NIK RAWLINSON
1 SET UP VIRTUALBOX
Visit VirtualBox ( www.virtualbox.org) and click Downloads followed by ‘Windows hosts’ to download the most recent version of VirtualBox. Once done, navigate to your Downloads folder in File Explorer and double-click the executable file.
» A Windows User Account Control window will pop up asking if you’re happy to run the software—click Yes, then click through the installation instructions, leaving all the options in their default states. When you reach the final screen, the option to start VirtualBox will be ticked. Leave it ticked and click Finish.
2 INSTALL LINUX
You now need to install a version of Linux to run within VirtualBox. As mentioned earlier, we’d recommend Ubuntu because it works in a similar way to Windows. Go to ( ubuntu.com/download/desktop) and click the green download button to the right of Ubuntu 22.04.1 LTS.
» While this isn’t the latest version—that is Ubuntu 22.10— the LTS at the end of its name stands for Long Term Support, which means it will be supported until April 2027 at least. Ubuntu 22.10, on the other hand, will be supported only until July 2023 (see wiki.ubuntu.com/Releases for all end-of-support dates). If you only intend to run the operating system occasionally, using
a version with an extended support period means you won’t have to carry out as many major upgrades relative to the number of times you use it.
» The installer is a fairly large file (3.6GB) and took just over 15 minutes to download to our computer. Once you’ve downloaded it, return to VirtualBox and press Ctrl+N to set up a new virtual machine. Type Ubuntu into the Name box, and make sure Linux is selected in the dropdown menu next to Type and that ‘Ubuntu (64-bit) is selected beside Version. On our system, these were both selected by default, but if yours shows anything different, click the menus and correct them.
» Now click the down-pointing arrow at the end of the line beside ISO Image and click ‘Other…’ [ Image A]. Select the Ubuntu installer you’ve just downloaded. Our download was named ‘ubuntu-22.04.1-desktop-amd64. iso’, but if there has been an update since we went to press, your filename may differ slightly. Click Open.
» VirtualBox can perform what’s known as an unattended installation, where it will take care of most of the configuration for you. This saves you time, but we want to manually set up our user account in the Ubuntu graphical installer so it has the necessary rights to
install software and perform other management tasks, without us having to configure it in Command Prompt once installation has finished. Therefore, tick the box next to Skip Unattended Installation [ Image A] then click Next.
» You now need to decide how much of your computer’s resources, such as processor cores and memory, Ubuntu should be allowed to use when it’s running. Whatever you give it access to will be temporarily unavailable to Windows, so unless you’re going to use Ubuntu on a regular basis there’s no point giving it too many resources.
» VirtualBox will make a suggestion which, in our case, was one processor core and 2GB of memory [ Image B], leaving three cores and 6GB of memory free for our main Windows installation. Once you’ve made your selection, click Next.
» Now, you need to allocate some of your hard-drive space to Linux. Again, if you’re not going to use it often, there’s no need to assign too much. VirtualBox recommends 25GB, which is Ubuntu’s minimum system requirement. Drag the slider if you need to increase this, then click ‘Next’, followed by ‘Finish’.
» Click ‘Start’ and VirtualBox will boot into the Ubuntu installer. When doing so, it displays a message containing four options. Leave ‘Try or Install Ubuntu’ selected and press Enter. It may take the interface several seconds to appear. When it does, select English in the sidebar, then click Install Ubuntu.
» On the following screen, click ‘English (US)’ in the panel below ‘ Choose your keyboard layout’, then click Continue twice. On the next screen, leave ‘Erase disk and install Ubuntu’ selected, and click ‘Install Now’ at the bottom right. This action isn’t as drastic as it sounds. The ‘disk’ referred to here is the file that will contain your virtual machine, not the hard drive in your computer that contains Windows.
» Click ‘ Continue’, then select your time zone by clicking on the map. Now click Continue again, then enter your name, a name for your computer, a username, and a password.
» You’ll only use the username and password for logging into Ubuntu, so make sure they’re different from the ones you use for Windows. Click ‘Continue’ again and Ubuntu will start writing the necessary programs to the virtual disk you created inside VirtualBox.
» When the installation completes, you’ll be prompted to restart the virtual machine. Click ‘Restart Now’ and, when Ubuntu has finished rebooting (Windows won’t restart), log in with the username and password you created during the setup process.
» Follow the instructions on the screen, then click the Show Applications button at the bottom of the sidebar dock. Type ‘fire’ [ Image C], then click on the Firefox icon to launch the browser.
3 FIX YOUR RESOLUTION
If the resolution of your virtual machine is too low and you’re not able to fit much in the VirtualBox window, click Show Applications, type ‘set’, and click Settings.
» Next, click Screen Display on the left [ Image D] and increase the number of pixels on your virtual display by clicking Resolution and selecting a higher setting.