VirtualBox 5.0 tested

Snapshots

Many users like to test new programs, functions, or configurations on virtual systems. To avoid the need to reconfigure the system if something goes wrong, VirtualBox has a snapshot function. In contrast to legacy VirtualBox systems, this now works on the fly.

If you want to freeze the system state, click on Machine | Take Snapshot in the virtual machine menu. A prompt pops up asking for a name and an optional description.

VirtualBox manages the snapshots in the main window below the Snapshots button on the top right. The hierarchy is designed to help you organize your snapshots (Figure 6).

Figure 6: The snapshot management tool is still slightly confusing.

The software was only capable of backing up and restoring idle systems in the past, but virtual machines now restart at precisely the point at which they were frozen. However, the procedure is somewhat complex: To restore a snapshot, you have to right-click the name of the snapshot you want and select Restore Snapshot in the context menu. VirtualBox then creates another entry with an additional snapshot and starts the system.

If you are considering making regular use of this feature, remember that VirtualBox snapshots are extremely large – you can expect 10GB or more per freeze. In the course of the tests in our lab, the disk space needed for Windows 7 grew to a huge 38GB.

Conclusions

VirtualBox 5.0 inspired mixed impressions. In many cases, you can't help thinking that Oracle has not paid sufficient attention to programming for Linux guests; Windows guests worked better in many situations. On one hand, the many configuration options are useful for many users; on the other hand, they do come with a risk of faulty configurations. To compensate for this, the software wraps the setup up in an attractive and carefully considered interface.

The drag and drop function is still very much experimental. In our lab, I only managed to transfer files from the Linux host to the Windows guest without problems; the shared clipboard worked well in all variants, however. Oracle has added a very useful function in the form of the ability to encrypt the virtual machine, and this worked perfectly in our lab. The implementation of the USB stack was less satisfactory: If you choose the wrong settings here, your Windows guest will just ignore the USB port.

All told, Oracle can be quite proud of this major release; it offers far more than its predecessor, although some rough edges need a little polishing.

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