Design & UX
By Sean P Aune

11 Virtual Machine Solutions To Ease Your Cross-Platform Checks

By Sean P Aune

At one time or another, just about every designer and developer has wished that they could have more than one operating system (OS) at their disposal, but not all of us can afford multiple computers due to money constraints or physical space restrictions.

That is where virtual machines come in handy as they allow you to run more than one OS on your current desktop at a fraction of the cost, and sometimes even for free, without having to buy a separate machine. We’ve gathered up 11 solutions that should cover all of your bases.


Virtual Machines For Running Multiple Operating Systems

Bochs: Bochs is a handy virtual machine that can run on numerous systems down to ARM-based IPAQs. The guest operating systems are too numerous to list, but they includes all of the usual suspects including some off-the-wall entries like OS/2 and QNX.

Parallels: Parallels is probably the best known virtual machine out there simply because it is one of the easiest to use, and got the most attention for it being the first Mac host to work with the Intel chips to bring Windows to the Apple systems. While it is best known for its ability to run Windows, Parallels is also capable of supporting Linux, FreeBSD, OS/2 and more.

Parallels Desktop: While Parallels is most associated with Macs, there is a version for Windows and Linux systems. With Parallels Desktop you can run Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, OS/2, eComStation, MS-DOS and Solaris on your systems.

VirtualBox: VirtualBox is an x86 virtualization solution from Sun Microsystems that is free and open source. It can run on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts. Guest operating systems include DOS, just about every flavor of Windows, Linux, Solaris, OpenSolaris, OpenBSD and more.

Virtual Machine Manager: Virt Manager, as it is more commonly known, is a virtual machine manager that allows you to run both local and remote virtual machines with multiple operating systems on your Red Hat Linux install.

VMWare: VMWare as a company is considered an industry leader in the system virtualization market, and as such the company makes so many different solutions for OS virtual machines that it would almost be impossible to list them all. Suffice it to say, if you have one OS, they probably have a solution for you to run another one on your system.

Xen: Xen runs on NetBSD, Linux and Solaris systems to emulate FreeBSD, NetBSD, Linux, Solaris, Windows XP, Windows 2003 Server and more. The program is released under the GPL license.

Virtual Machines For Running Microsoft Operating Systems

Boot Camp: Boot Camp is an included utility in the past few versions of Mac OS X that allows Intel-based Macs to run Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 inside of the Macintosh environment or to reboot the system into.

DOSBox: DOSBox is built around running DOS games, but some people have had success with getting Windows 3.1 to run inside of it. Due to the architecture of the program, DOSBox has been ported to many different operating systems including Windows, BeOS, Linux, Mac OS X and more.

Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC Images: Ever wondered what your new design looks like in Internet Explorer 6 running on Windows XP SP3? Don’t have that installed? No problem! Microsoft provides you with numerous images that let you see how things look in various versions of Internet Explorer running on Windows XP and Vista. Should be quite handy with Windows 7 coming at us at full speed.

Microsoft Virtual PC: Formerly known as Virtual PC, Microsoft Virtual PC is a new feature in Windows 7 that will allow you to run a licensed version of Windows XP SP3 in a new feature called “Windows XP Mode.” Older versions of the program on various system configurations are capable of running numerous versions of Windows, and in some cases you can even convince it to run Linux.

  • ChrisH

    I find is a great site to do preliminary browser testing and for testing virtually any browser.

  • Peter is handy to see your design on nearly any browser out there. Virtual machines are a must if you want to test css menu’s or interactivity as a static shot can not show you this. I’m using only one virtual machine which is running XP and IE6.
    I’m running Opera, safari, Firefox, IE8 and Chrome on the same OS.

  • tonetheman is also a way to do testing with virtual machines all online.

  • webdesignr
  • kingkool68

    I wrote up a walkthrough about converting Microsoft VPC images to something VMWare can use -> Certainly makes debugging easier when you can cut and paste between all of your test machines.

  • Al Alderson

    I have been using virtualbox for some time with different OS and webservers as well as browser versions. Virtualisation is also good for testing potential software that you may not want on your main work system.

  • Ali Baba

    vmware server pretty good. Didn’t try MS Virtual PC but it looks good

  • gigi

    For cross browser testing the easiest would be to use:


  • For cross-browser testing, I prefer to use browser screen capture services listed here (many of which are free). You submit to the service an URL of your page, and they run that URL in their browser and give you a screen shot.

    The benefit is that I don’t have to install anything or run any Virtual machines. The limitation is that many of the services just takes a screen capture of a URL. So you really can not do any testing user interface interactions or animations, or other complex user scenarios.

  • biswa

    Hello All, I agree with you all reader,but what about functionality testing,here you all pointing out about look & feel ,but what about functionality part.Which is most important in web.

  • kdhamric

    CrossBrowserTesting gives you both access to its live testing lab via vnc and a automated screenshot system (ala BrowserLab, Browsershots). You can run a set of screenshots across all the platforms and browsers, then directly launch a live test of any of the platforms that do not render properly. The live test allows you to check functionality, browse your site, etc.

  • Mal Curtis

    I think they changed it to Windows Virtual PC not Microsoft Virtual PC.

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