If you've ever wanted to setup a test environment on a computer to try out a new operating system or fool around with settings to figure out how a certain server or program works then VMware is just the thing you need.
What is VMware?
VMware in simple terms will emulate a computer for you. This allows you to install multiple operating systems on your computer without ever having to worry about messing up your current installation. You can download a free beta version of VMware Server
. It's unclear how long this will be free.
How It Works
After you've installed VMware Server you run the Server Console and then click on File, New Virtual Machine. The Wizard will ask you questions such as how much hard drive space and memory you'd like to allocate for the virtual machine, networking options, etc. Once the setup is complete then you will have a new virtual machine that basically emulates a computer.
For example, if you had a Windows XP Professional disk in the CD-ROM you could click on 'Start this virtual machine' and it would boot the virtual computer. The virtual computer would then boot off the cd-rom and install Windows XP. You can alter that installation of Windows any way you want without worry of destroying anything important. If you want to start over it's no problem, just delete the virtual machine, no harm done.
Of course you can create multiple virtual machines and run them at the same time if you have enough resources available on the host computer (which is your normal Operating System). You could have a Windows Server VM, a RedHat Linux VM, and a Novell Linux VM all running at the same time.
Download a Virtual Machine
It is also possible to download a Virtual Machine from somewhere and then just run it without having to set anything up.
For example, Novell offers a downloadable Virtual Machine of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 9. Once you download the file and unzip to a folder just go to the VMware Console, click File, 'Open Virtual Machine' and browse to the folder where you unzipped the SUSE Linux VM. Then start the VM and you have a fully functioning copy of SUSE Linux ES 9 that you can do anything you want with. It takes longer to download then it does to setup the Operating System.
Take a Look
There is much more you can do with VMware Server. As always, the easiest way to find out what it can do is to try it yourself. Don't be afraid, you won't hurt yourself.