Experiment with software using virtual machines. This is how.

Petr Kout
13 min readNov 13, 2020

Virtual machines are powerful pieces of software that offer a plethora of use cases for everyone ranging from those of us who use computers for “office” work to software and hardware engineers who employ deep knowledge of software engineering and computer design. Chances are that if you are an IT professional, you are already familiar with virtual machines and probably use them in some form on a daily basis. This article will focus on the readers who either don’t know what a virtual machine is, how to use one, or both. Further, this article focuses on setting up a virtual machine on macOS. If you are on Windows or another operating system, the idea is the same, but the installation steps differ.

A video form of this write-up is available here if you prefer.

What are virtual machines?

Virtual machines allow you to essentially create another computer within your existing computer. Look at the picture at the top of this post. You can see the default macOS Catalina desktop with an application window open. That application is a running a virtual machine using Parallels software. Just like you can have Microsoft Excel or Apple Pages or any other application running in its own window, a virtual machine is an application that lets you run a whole operating system within a window just like shown in the picture, effectively giving you a virtual computer within your computer to work with.

Why use a virtual machine?

Like I said at the beginning, there are many potential uses of virtual machines, but let’s explore two practical uses for macOS users.

Testing out software you are not sure is entirely safe

Say that you need to install some software that you download from a website as opposed to from the Apple App Store. Downloading from such a source might be insecure. You don’t know the company or the developers who wrote the software and Apple didn’t vet their product on your behalf like they do in the App Store. Consequently, there is a higher risk that the software might do some form of harm to you computer. Sure, it might install a virus, but there are other risks as well. For example, the software might change…

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Petr Kout

Software and hardware engineer, tech entrepreneur (https://petrkout.com, @petrkout)