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Guest Operating System

Guest Operating System definition

A Guest Operating System is an OS installed within a virtual machine (VM) or on a partitioned physical host. It operates distinctly from the Host Operating System, which executes directly on the hardware, facilitating resource allocation and management for the guest OS.

See also: host virtual machine

Technical specifics of a Guest Operating System:

  • Virtualization Environment: Within a virtualization framework, the guest OS functions inside a virtual space established by the host OS or a hypervisor. This hypervisor is a software layer enabling multiple OSes (the guests) to concurrently utilize a single hardware host.
  • Capabilities: While the guest OS mimics the behavior of an OS on physical hardware, it is actually functioning within a software-defined, isolated environment. It retains the capacity to execute applications and manage virtualized hardware resources, though these operations are intermediated via the virtualization layer.
  • Variety: Any conventional operating system, such as Windows, Linux, or macOS, can serve as a guest OS, contingent on the virtualization infrastructure and specific user needs.
  • Applications: Guest operating systems are extensively used in scenarios like software testing, allowing for multiple OS configurations on a singular physical machine, as well as in server consolidation, application segregation, and educational environments.
  • Resource Allocation: The guest OS indirectly manages hardware; it requests resources like CPU cycles, memory, and storage from the host OS, which then allocates these from the physical hardware.
  • Segregation and Security: Typically, each guest OS is insulated from others, ensuring a secure and stable setting. This separation is crucial to ensure that problems or failures in one guest OS do not impact others or the host system.
  • Operational Flexibility: The use of guest operating systems in virtualization enhances operational flexibility, simplifying the creation, duplication, migration, and alteration of virtual machines as compared to physical ones.