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Virtual Machines in Operating System

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  • Difficulty Level : Easy
  • Last Updated : 26 Nov, 2019
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Virtual Machine abstracts the hardware of our personal computer such as CPU, disk drives, memory, NIC (Network Interface Card) etc, into many different execution environments as per our requirements, hence giving us a feel that each execution environment is a single computer. For example, VirtualBox.

When we run different processes on an operating system, it creates an illusion that each process is running on a different processor having its own virtual memory, with the help of CPU scheduling and virtual-memory techniques. There are additional features of a process that cannot be provided by the hardware alone like system calls and a file system. The virtual machine approach does not provide these additional functionalities but it only provides an interface that is same as basic hardware. Each process is provided with a virtual copy of the underlying computer system.

We can create a virtual machine for several reasons, all of which are fundamentally related to the ability to share the same basic hardware yet can also support different execution environments, i.e., different operating systems simultaneously.

The main drawback with the virtual-machine approach involves disk systems. Let us suppose that the physical machine has only three disk drives but wants to support seven virtual machines. Obviously, it cannot allocate a disk drive to each virtual machine, because virtual-machine software itself will need substantial disk space to provide virtual memory and spooling. The solution is to provide virtual disks.

Users are thus given their own virtual machines. After which they can run any of the operating systems or software packages that are available on the underlying machine. The virtual-machine software is concerned with multi-programming multiple virtual machines onto a physical machine, but it does not need to consider any user-support software. This arrangement can provide a useful way to divide the problem of designing a multi-user interactive system, into two smaller pieces.


  1. There are no protection problems because each virtual machine is completely isolated from all other virtual machines.
  2. Virtual machine can provide an instruction set architecture that differs from real computers.
  3. Easy maintenance, availability and convenient recovery.


  1. When multiple virtual machines are simultaneously running on a host computer, one virtual machine can be affected by other running virtual machines, depending on the workload.
  2. Virtual machines are not as efficient as a real one when accessing the hardware.
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