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I'd like to run Linux in a virtual machine on Windows 7 SP1 for the immediate goal of safe browsing. There are at least three aspects to it:

  1. Compatibility. The whole Windows-VM-Linux harness should be reasonably stable and not crash overmuch.
  2. Security. The VM should act as a security boundary not letting either a Windows virus get to my banking data in the Linux browser or a browser exploit to get to my Windows filesystem.
  3. Minimum hassle. It would be great to have the Linux distro update itself the way modern Windows does, at least in regards to security patches.

On the other hand, performance is not that important. Right now I'm thinking about VirtualBox and Fedora Workstation. Any better ideas?

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Vagrant is the way to go. It is not an actual virtualizer but a textual interface for defining a VM state. When you run your vagrantfile it can be deployed to VirtualBox, VMWare, Parallels, and many more including Docker. This way you can have one file defining your VM just the way you like and then deploy to all the options for virtual machines to see which works best for you.

Ultimately if you don't have much experience with virtualization, I would highly recommend sticking with VirtualBox. When you are ready, the effort to move to something else would be nominal with vagrant.

Vagrant + VirtualBox + Fedora === awesomeness

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