Imagine this: you are using a Linux distribution and you want to quickly deploy a virtual machine of another Linux distribution for testing purposes or to have a secondary operating system to use for tasks such as development, training or just to have a little fun trying out different distros.
One way to do this that’s considerably easier than other options is to use Boxes, which is part of the GNOME desktop ecosystem and can be used to spin up virtual machines (VMs). You can create as many virtual machines as you want (as long as your local storage has enough space).
These virtual machines behave like guest operating systems on your host, so you can use them to log in, install applications, and do just about anything you do with your host operating system. The good thing about these virtual machines is that they can be created and destroyed easily, so if something goes wrong, you can delete the virtual machine you are working on and start another one. Suppose, for example, that you want to install an application but you are not 100% sure how the application will interact with your host operating system (or if it is safe enough to install on the host, where your personal data resides); spin up a virtual machine, test the application and destroy the virtual machine without damaging your default operating system.
Let me show you how to do just that. We are going to launch an instance of Endless OS as a guest on Pop!_OS running as a host.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, you first need to make sure your hardware is virtualization capable. To do this, log into your Linux desktop, open a terminal window, and run the command:
In the output of this command, you should see something like this:
If this line appears, you are good to go.
Installation of boxes
Boxes may not be installed by default, so you may need to install it first. You can do this in two ways. The easiest way to install Boxes is to open the Software Center (such as GNOME Software on GNOME or Discover on KDE) and search for Boxes. Once you locate the entry, click it, then click Install (Figure 1).
If you prefer to take the command-line approach, open a terminal window and run one of the following commands.
For Ubuntu-based distributions:
sudo apt-get install gnome-boxes -y
For Red Hat-based distributions:
sudo dnf install gnome-boxes -y
Once the software is installed, you are ready to start your first virtual machine.
Create a virtual machine with Boxes
Open Boxes from your desktop menu. In the resulting window (Figure 2), click + in the upper left corner.
In the resulting popup window (picture 3), scroll down and locate the Linux operating system you want to use for the virtual machine.
In my case, I’ll be using Endless OS Basic x86_64 (Live). Make the selection and Boxes will automatically create the virtual machine (this may take some time, depending on your internet connection speed). When the download of the necessary ISO is complete (which Boxes does automatically), configure the memory and storage limit options according to your needs and click Create (Figure 4) to finish.
The boxes will automatically start the new guest operating system, where you can then follow the installation process (Figure 5).
The course of the installation process will depend on the Linux operating system you have chosen for the guest. Once the installation is complete, you will need to reboot and then you can log in to your guest.
When you are done using the virtual machine, you can click the left-pointing arrow (Figure 6) to pause the guest, then close the boxes.
You can then click on your VM’s launcher to start it at any time.
And it’s that easy to spin up a Linux virtual machine with Boxes. If you ever need it and your host OS is Linux, Boxes is a great option that requires a lot less setup and management than some competitors (like VirtualBox).
Try Boxes and see if it becomes your go-to VM solution on Linux.