Safe Surfing using a Virtual PC

An article on how to surf the internet safely using a virtual PC


This article provides instructions on how to create a virtual PC on your real PC in order to use it to surf the internet safely without fear of infecting your PC or leaving a browser history behind.

Safe Surfing virtually

It's a sad fact that today's internet can be a dangerous place. There is malicious software and computer viruses out there just waiting to infect your PC. There are also people that want to track the web sites that you visit in order to sell that information on to third parties. So wouldn't it be great if there was a way that you could surf the internet without putting your home PC or laptop at risk, and without needing to run numerous anti-virus and anti-spyware scans afterwards? Well this article aims to tell you one way of doing just that.

What we are going to do is create a PC within a PC, known as a virtual PC, and then use that virtual PC to surf the internet safely. It might sound complicated but it's actually very easy to do, and what's more you can do it for free!

Creating the virtual PC

First we need to create a virtual PC. To do this we will download and install the virtualisation software (VMware), then we will create a virtual machine and choose an operating system to use with the virtual machine to complete the process.

For the purposes of this article I am assuming that you do not want to purchase any software so we will use a version of the free open source operating system: Linux. In the example below I have chosen Knoppix as this is one of my favourite versions of Linux, popular with computer security professionals, but you can choose any version that offers a bootable iso.

  1. First download VMware Player. The software is free to use but you do have to register to download a copy and to receive updates. Make sure that you select the correct version for your real PC's operating system (i.e Windows).
  2. Install VMware Player. You may have to reboot during the installation.
  3. Once installed start VMware Player and accept the license agreement.
  4. Next you will need to download a bootable Linux disc image (known as an ISO file). The web site is a good place to find out which versions (distributions) of Linux are the most popular. I am going to select Knoppix but you are free to choose any Linux that offers a bootable ISO version.
  5. Next in VMware Player we need to create our virtual PC as follows:
    • Select "Create a New Virtual Machine"
    • Select "Installer disc image file (iso)" and locate your downloaded ISO file
    • Click Next
    • Select Linux as the Guest Operating System and select the version of linux from the drop-down list that best matches the one you downloaded earlier. (For Knoppix select CentOS)
    • Click Next
    • Give your virtual machine a name
    • Click Next
    • Ignore hard disk size and click Next
    • Un-tick "Power on this virtual machine after creation"
    • Click Finish
    • Select "Edit virtual machine settings"
    • Select the Hard Disk and click Remove
    • Select the Floppy and click Remove
    • Select Network Adaptor and select the option on the right that starts "Bridged"
    • Click Ok
    • Select "Play virtual machine"

Your virtual PC should now boot. You can change the screen resolution to suit. To do this in Knoppix select the Monitor Settings on the Knoppix taskbar at the bottom of the screen and select your resolution.

To surf the internet just select the start button, then Internet followed by Iceweasel web browser, which is a version of Firefox with NoScript included.

When you are finished surfing just shut down the virtual Operating System and then close VMware Player.

If you wish to download anything from the internet using your virtual PC then you can do so using a USB memory stick. Insert the USB memory stick into your real PC and in VMware Player select Virtual Machine from the top of the window to activate the drop-down menu. Then select Removable devices and find your USB memory stick and select "Connect (disconnect from host)". You should now be able to read and write to and from your USB memory stick. Just remember to scan it before you use it again in your real PC!

So there you have it, you now know how to create a virtual PC within your real PC so that you can use it to surf the internet safely.

Article last updated: 16th October 2010