What are a host, guest, and virtual machine?

by The Editor [Published on 2 June 2008 / Last Updated on 2 June 2008]

A comparison of the differences between a host system, a guest system, and a virtual machine within a virtual infrastructure.

A host system (host operating system) would be the primary & first installed operating system.  If you are using a bare metal Virtualization platform like Hyper-V or ESX, there really isn’t a host operating system besides the Hypervisor. If you are using a Type-2 Hypervisor like VMware Server or Virtual Server, the host operating system is whatever operating system those applications are installed into.

A guest system (guest operating system) is a virtual guest or virtual machine (VM) that is installed under the host operating system. The guests are the VMs that you run in your virtualization platform.

Some admins also call the host & guest the parent and child.

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