Virtualization applications Edit
Traditionally Virtualization technology was expensive, used only by corporations with big pockets. All this changed in 2006. MicroSoft purchased VirtualPC and released it for free. Expecting this, the market leaders also released VM versions (including server) for free. Not to mention the maturity of several open source projects. This together with the rise of application level virtualization that utilizes sandboxing and virtualization, has resulted in a lot of freeware in a space of 1 year.
File/registry virtualization for applications Edit
- Cameyo free application virtualization - http://www.cameyo.com
- Altiris Software Virtualization Solution - http://www.svsdownloads.com/
- SafeSpace Personal Edition - http://www.artificialdynamics.com/content/products/register-personal.aspx
- Sandboxie (nagware) - http://www.sandboxie.com/
- Spyberus Shield (betaware) - http://www.robotgenius.net/index.jsp
- VappWare (betaware) - http://www.vappware.com/vapp/
- Virtual Sandbox - http://www.fortresgrand.com/products/free/vsb_free.htm Only version 1.0 is free.
- VirtualBox - Sun & VirtualBox.org (free & open source) - http://www.virtualbox.org/
- See also Lists of freeware sandboxes
Partition virtualization Edit
- Shadowsurfer - http://www.shadowstor.com/download.html Offer no longer valid?
- Powershadow - http://www.powershadow.com/cn/product.htm . English version is http://powershadowsecurity.com/default.aspx . Freeware for Chinese version only
- Returnil Virtual System Personal Edition - http://www.returnilvirtualsystem.com/index_files/rvspersonal.htm
- Windows SteadyState - http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/sharedaccess/default.mspx
These software allow you to "freeze" the system partition (and sometimes other partitions). Once in this frozen stages (often called Shadow , virtualization or protected mode as well) any further file changes made to the partition during this period will only be temporary stored elsewhere (though it appears as normal to the user) and will be discarded once the system gets out of the frozen or protected state (typically at the next re-start).
Unlike VMware type software, this class of software does not really create a virtual machine though the effect is similar by allowing instant rollback of changes without the need to have a separate license for Windows. In some ways it can even be superior to using Virtual Machines to analyse malware, because the usual tricks used to decide if it is running on virtual machines won't work here. It is also more comprehensive and flexible than application level only virtualization like Sandboxie, because changes to the whole system partition is tracked instead of just a limited portion.
It can obviously be used for trialling software. If it happens to be a install you don't want, you can instantly discard all changes by restarting without having to worry about uninstallers that leave stuff behind. Note though many of the software (Microsoft's Windows Steady State is one exception), discard all changes on restart , hence making testing of software that require reboots (those that install drivers) impossible.
Shadowsurfer is somewhat more troublesome to use then either Returnil Virtual System Personal Edition or Powershadow because you need a reboot to go into protected mode (all three needs to reboot to remove changes). The former also claims greater security because any changes are held only in RAM instead of on the hard-disk.
Machine/hardware virtualization Edit
- VirtualBox - http://www.virtualbox.org/
- Virtual PC2007 - http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtualpc/default.mspx
- VMware server - http://www.vmware.com/products/free_virtualization.html
Allows you to simulate a complete new machine just using software although hardware specifications, particularly RAM, should be beefed up otherwise performance suffers. Very secure (although leaks between virtual and host machines are not unheard of due to vulnerabilities). Note: each virtual machine requires a separate licensed copy of Windows. VMware is the current market leader. Virtual PC is technology bought by Microsoft and is geared more for home users.
VirtualBox is new, free, and released as open source. It runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh and OpenSolaris hosts. VirtualBox supports a large number of guest operating systems, including but not limited to, Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4 and 2.6), and OpenBSD.
Information Sources Edit
- Steve Gibson series on virtualization - Episodes #53, #54 and #57 all from 2006. Episodes #172 and #174 from 2008. certification
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