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Virtualization applications Edit

Screenshots
Selection of Virtualization snapshots:
(Click to enlarge)
Svs

Altiris Software Virtualization Solution

Bufferzonefree

Bufferzone Single application

Sandboxie

Sandboxie

Safespace

SafeSpace Personal Edition

Returnil

Returnil Virtual System Personal Edition

Windowsteadystate

Windows SteadyState

Virtualpc2007

Virtual PC2007

Vmwareserver

VMware server


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

  1. Vista Cameyo free application virtualization - http://www.cameyo.comStar
  2. Vista Altiris Software Virtualization Solution - http://www.svsdownloads.com/ Star
  3. Vista SafeSpace Personal Edition - http://www.artificialdynamics.com/content/products/register-personal.aspx New
  4. Vista Sandboxie (nagware) - http://www.sandboxie.com/ Star
  5. Spyberus Shield (betaware) - http://www.robotgenius.net/index.jsp
  6. VappWare (betaware) - http://www.vappware.com/vapp/
  7. Virtual Sandbox - http://www.fortresgrand.com/products/free/vsb_free.htm Only version 1.0 is free.
  8. Vista VirtualBox - Sun & VirtualBox.org (free & open source) - http://www.virtualbox.org/ Star
  9. See also Lists of freeware sandboxes

Altiris Software Virtualization Solution is an application that is somewhat difficult to explain but is worth trying. Most of the other entries have already being commented in the sandbox sections.

Partition virtualization Edit

  1. Shadowsurfer - http://www.shadowstor.com/download.html Offer no longer valid?
  2. Powershadow - http://www.powershadow.com/cn/product.htm . English version is http://powershadowsecurity.com/default.aspx . Freeware for Chinese version only Star
  3. Vista Returnil Virtual System Personal Edition - http://www.returnilvirtualsystem.com/index_files/rvspersonal.htm StarRecommended
  4. Windows SteadyState - http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/sharedaccess/default.mspx StarRecommended


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.

See Virtualization comparison

Machine/hardware virtualization Edit

  1. Vista VirtualBox - http://www.virtualbox.org/ Star
  2. Vista Virtual PC2007 - http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtualpc/default.mspx Star
  3. Vista VMware server - http://www.vmware.com/products/free_virtualization.html StarRecommended

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

  1. Steve Gibson series on virtualization - Episodes #53, #54 and #57 all from 2006. Episodes #172 and #174 from 2008. certification

This article is part of the Lists of Freeware Security Software: Malware Control series.

Freeware Anti-Viruses | Freeware Anti-Spyware | Freeware Anti-Trojans | Freeware Anti-Keyloggers | Freeware Anti-Rootkits | Freeware Firewalls | Freeware Behavior blockers | Freeware Sandboxes | Freeware Virtualization | Freeware Security analysis tools | Freeware Hardening tools | Freeware Blocklists | Freeware security services (excluding virus scanners) | Freeware Anti-Phishing | List of portable tools | List of unclassified tools

Related : Lists of online scanners

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