Home : Software Terms : Virtualization Definition


Virtualization can refer to a variety of computing concepts, but it usually refers to running multiple operating systems on a single machine. While most computers only have one operating system installed, virtualization software allows a computer to run several operating systems at the same time.

For example, a Windows computer with VMware Workstation installed can run Linux within the Windows interface. Similarly, a Macintosh computer can use Parallels Desktop to run Windows within the Mac OS X interface. When another operating system (OS) is running on top of the main system, it is called a "virtual machine." This is because it acts like a typical computer but is actually running on top of another operating system.

Virtualization software acts as a layer between a computer's primary OS and the virtual OS. It allows the virtual system to access the computer's hardware, such as the RAM, CPU, and video card, just like the primary OS. This is different than emulation, which actually translates each command into a form that the system's processor can understand. Since Macintosh and Windows computers now both use the "x86" processor architecture, it is possible to run both OSes on the same machine via virtualization, rather than emulation.

Another type of virtualization involves connecting to a remote computer system and controlling it from your computer. This is commonly referred to as remote access.

Updated: November 30, 2009

Cite this definition:


TechTerms - The Tech Terms Computer Dictionary

This page contains a technical definition of Virtualization. It explains in computing terminology what Virtualization means and is one of many software terms in the TechTerms dictionary.

All definitions on the TechTerms website are written to be technically accurate but also easy to understand. If you find this Virtualization definition to be helpful, you can reference it using the citation links above. If you think a term should be updated or added to the TechTerms dictionary, please email TechTerms!

Subscribe to the TechTerms Newsletter to get featured terms and quizzes right in your inbox. You can choose to receive either a daily or weekly email.

Sign up for the free TechTerms Newsletter

How often would you like to receive an email?

You can unsubscribe at any time.
Questions? Please contact us.