What is Type 2 hypervisor?

A type 2 hypervisor, also known as a hosted hypervisor, is a virtual machine monitor (VMM) that is installed on top of a traditional operating system. The key difference between a type 1 and type 2 hypervisor is that the type 2 hypervisor relies on the underlying OS for device support and physical resource management.

What is Type 2 hypervisor?

Main Features of a Type 2 Hypervisor

Some of the main features of a type 2 hypervisor include:

  • Runs as an application on top of the host operating system
  • Leverages the device drivers and hardware resources of the underlying OS
  • Examples include VMware Workstation, VirtualBox, Parallels Desktop
  • Typically used on desktop and laptop systems rather than servers
  • Allows multiple guest VMs to run in isolated environments

Meta description (250 characters): A type 2 hypervisor runs as software on top of a traditional OS, leveraging the underlying hardware resources and device drivers. VMware Workstation and VirtualBox are examples. Used often on desktops rather than servers.

Advantages of Type 2 Hypervisors

Some of the key advantages of using a type 2 hypervisor include:

  • Easier to install – simply install as an application on the host OS
  • Utilizes hardware and resources from the host OS reducing requirements
  • Compatible with more operating systems and hardware configurations
  • Often free open-source options available like VirtualBox
  • Development and testing environments for trying new operating systems
  • sandbox testing of applications in isolated guest virtual machines

Disadvantages of Type 2 hypervisors

There are also some disadvantages to running a type 2 hypervisor:

  • Performance overhead from host OS can impact efficiency
  • Not as secure – vulnerability in host OS could impact security
  • Host crashes can bring down all guest VMs running on top
  • Licensing costs associated for commercial options
  • Not optimized for production workloads on servers
  • Limited scalability since relies on host operating system

Common Use Cases

Some common use cases for type 2 hypervisors include:

  • Software development and testing – Run multiple operating system configurations on a single desktop for compatibility testing.
  • Application testing – Test version upgrades safely in an isolated VM environment.
  • Running older operating systems – Access older OS environments such as Windows XP on modern hardware.
  • Education and training – Evaluate operating systems without disruption to primary environment.

Technical Comparison to Type 1 Hypervisor

Some key technical differences between a type 2 vs type 1 hypervisor architecture:

Type 2 Hypervisor

  • Runs as an application within host operating system
  • Leverages hardware and drivers from host OS
  • Examples: VMware Workstation, VirtualBox, Parallels Desktop

Type 1 Hypervisor

  • Runs directly on the system hardware
  • Has native, built-in device drivers
  • Examples: VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer
Metric Type 2 Hypervisor Type 1 Hypervisor
Installation installed as application requires dedicated OS
Performance reduced by host OS overhead near-native with direct hardware access
Licensing often free open source options commercial options can be costly
Scalability limited, depends on host OS highly scalable across hosts
Security vulnerable if host OS is compromised more secure with smaller attack surface area
Hardware support inherits host OS compatibility requires verification of compatibility
Common use cases desktop, development, testing production workloads on servers

This table summarizes some of the key technical differences that infrastructure architects evaluate when selecting a virtualization platform.

Leading Type 2 Hypervisor Vendors

Some of the leading vendors providing type 2 hypervisor solutions include:

  • VMware – VMware Workstation and VMware Fusion
  • Oracle – Oracle VM VirtualBox
  • Parallels – Parallels Desktop for Mac
  • Citrix – Citrix XenClient
  • Microsoft – Windows Virtual PC

VMware Workstation and Oracle VirtualBox lead the market in cross-platform type 2 hypervisors for x86 systems that allow running guest operating systems like Linux, Windows and macOS on a single desktop system.

Many IT professionals leverage free solutions like VirtualBox combined with extensions like Vagrant for conveniently replicating production environments locally for development and testing purposes.

Architectural Overview

Below is a high-level architectural diagram showing where a type 2 hypervisor resides on top of the traditional operating system layer:

Show Image

As illustrated, the guest virtual machines access the underlying hardware indirectly with the help of the host operating system and hypervisor software abstraction layers. This is the key difference in architecture compared to the type 1 hypervisor model.

Optimizing Performance

There are a few techniques that can help improve performance when running guest VMs on a type 2 hypervisor:

  • Allocate sufficient RAM – Adding more RAM to the host allows assigning larger memory to guest VMs for better performance.
  • Use SSD storage – Virtual machines running on solid state drives see dramatic improvement to disk speeds.
  • Limit concurrent VMs – Don’t overwhelm the physical cores available by keeping guest VMs lean.
  • Update hypervisor version – Leverage optimizations available in newer hypervisor releases.
  • Tweak host OS – Reduce background processes and disable visual effects in the host OS.

While type 2 hypervisors cannot match native speeds due to the software abstraction layer, some tuning steps can help maximize efficiency. For workloads needing highest performance running directly on metal or via type 1 hypervisors is recommended.

Security Best Practices

Since type 2 hypervisors share resources with the underlying OS, it is critical to follow security best practices to minimize threats:

  • Maintain up to date patching on both host OS and hypervisor
  • Isolate and sandbox VMs appropriately via VLAN configurations
  • Limit what gets shared into VMs from host and between VMs
  • Verify hypervisor files and configurations have not been tampered with
  • Enable hypervisor logging and monitoring where feasible

A vulnerability, misconfiguration, or user error in the host OS could potentially impact hypervisor security. Treat both environments as trusted and follow hardening checklist recommendations from vendors.

Converting Standalone OS to Guest VM

Many users start by running an operating system standalone directly on their hardware. A common question is whether it is possible to convert and existing OS install into a guest VM under a type 2 hypervisor:

  • Tools like VMware Converter can perform physical to virtual (P2V) conversions
  • Disk imaging can alsocapture OS partitions to create VM using VirtualBox
  • Some limitations around drivers and locations of system files
  • Migration automated for OS like Windows and Linux to simplify
  • Typically need to sysprep and generalize Windows beforehand

With the right preparation and tools it is possible to P2V standalone OS installations to guest VMs under type 2 hypervisors allowing improved portability and isolation.

Container Comparison

Both hypervisors and containers provide methods for achieving compute resource isolation. Key differences:


  • Emulate underlying hardware
  • Requires separate guest OS in each VM


  • Share host operating system kernel
  • User space isolation achieved via namespaces
  • More lightweight and portable

Containers complement VM environments sharing the same physical infrastructure. Architects can determining optimal workload placement between bare metal, VMs, and containers.

Key Takeaways on Type 2 Hypervisors

  • Type 2 hypervisors run as software on top of host operating system
  • Rely on host OS for device drivers instead of direct hardware access
  • Leading vendors include VMware, Oracle VirtualBox, Parallels
  • Benefits include easy deployment, hardware compatibility
  • Drawbacks include reduced security, less performance
  • Typical usage scenarios are development, testing, training
  • Can optimize for better performance by allocating sufficient resources
  • Security hardening of host OS critical to minimize attack surface

Understanding the architecture and use cases helps determine when type 2 hypervisors may be the right virtualization fit. Their flexibility makes them a convenient tool for software development and testing.


In summary, a type 2 hypervisor runs as an application on top of a traditional operating system. This hosted architecture leverages existing OS device drivers and hardware resources to run virtual machines in isolated environments.

While there are some drawbacks around performance and security, type 2 hypervisors excel at use cases like development, testing, and training where convenience may outweigh running production workloads.

Leading solutions from vendors like VMware, Oracle and Parallels combined with tuning techniques allow optimizing desktops and laptops for efficiently running multiple guest operating systems simultaneously.

Their user-friendly nature makes type 2 hypervisors accessible even to non-technical users curious about evaluating different computing environments safely in a sandbox. Understanding the technical difference versus type 1 hypervisors helps IT administrators select the optimal virtualization platform.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common FAQs around type 2 hypervisors:

  1. What is a type 2 hypervisor?
    A type 2 hypervisor runs as software on top of an existing operating system, leveraging the underlying OS device drivers and hardware instead of accessing resources directly.
  2. What is an example of a type 2 hypervisor?
    Common examples include VMware Workstation, Oracle VM VirtualBox, Parallels Desktop for Mac and Microsoft Windows Virtual PC.
  3. Can you convert a physical machine to a type 2 hypervisor?
    Yes, physical to virtual (P2V) conversions are possible using tools like VMware Converter. Disk imaging can also be used capture an OS partition and import it as a guest VM.
  4. Is VirtualBox type 1 or type 2?
    Oracle VM VirtualBox is a type 2 hosted hypervisor that runs as an application on Windows, Linux, MacOS and Solaris host operating systems.
  5. Is VMware Workstation type 1 or type 2?
    VMware Workstation is a type 2 hypervisor that runs on top of Windows or Linux operating systems to manage guest virtual machines.
  6. Is Hyper-V type 1 or type 2?
    Microsoft Hyper-V is a type 1 native bare-metal hypervisor that runs directly on host system hardware for high performance.
  7. Which is better, type 1 or type 2 hypervisor?
    There is no universally “better” option – it depends on the use case. Type 1 hypervisors are more common for production workloads while type 2 hypervisors are used more often for development, testing and training.
  8. What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 hypervisor?
    The key difference is a type 1 hypervisor runs directly on the host hardware while a type 2 runs as an application on top of a traditional operating system.
  9. Does type 2 hypervisor provide full virtualization?
    Yes, type 2 hypervisors can provide full virtualization for guest operating systems and applications similar to type 1 hypervisors. The tradeoff is reduced hardware performance.
  10. Can you install software on a type 2 hypervisor?
    Yes, type 2 hypervisors function as an application on top an OS just like any other software so standard installers and packaging can be used for deployment.
  11. How do you access a type 2 hypervisor?
    As an application on the host machine, the hypervisor would be accessed via whatever interface it provides such as application window, system tray icon, command line or network remote access depending on the specific solution.
  12. Which type 2 hypervisor is easiest to use?
    Oracle VM VirtualBox is a popular open source option combining accessibility for non-technical users while allowing great control, customization and extensibility for more advanced configurations making it a versatile choice.
  13. Can Type 2 hypervisor do live migration?
    Generally type 2 hypervisors do not directly support live migration of guest VMs between host systems while running since they leverage the resources of a single host OS instance. Some may support offline migration capabilities.
  14. Do you need software for a type 2 hypervisor?
    Strictly speaking the hypervisor software alone would be sufficient. But to make use of guest VMs, additional software like operating systems or tools to access the VMs would need to be installed. Hypervisor vendors also provide management software.
  15. How do I choose between type 1 and type 2 hypervisor?
    Key considerations include performance needs, existing hardware and OS environments, required guest OS support, consolidation ratios, availability needs and licensing costs. Type 2 suits simpler use cases.
  16. Is ESXi a type 1 or type 2 hypervisor?
    VMware ESXi is a type 1 bare-metal hypervisor purpose-built for server virtualization workloads requiring maximum performance, isolation and scalability.
  17. What type of hypervisor does AWS use?
    Amazon EC2 runs on a proprietary type 1 hypervisor (Xen-based) to manage virtualized cloud compute instances allowing flexibility and strong isolation.
  18. Can you install Linux on a type 2 hypervisor?
    Yes, all the popular type 2 hypervisor options like VMware Workstation, VirtualBox and Parallels Desktop fully support installing Linux distributions as a guest VM OS.
  19. What’s the difference between a hypervisor and virtual machine?
    A hypervisor manages, controls and allocates resources for virtual machines. A virtual machine runs its own guest operating system sharing underlying physical resources with help of the hypervisor.
  20. Do Type 2 hypervisors need guest additions install?
    The hypervisor vendor may offer guest utilities or agents to add functionality, performance and integration conveniences. But strictly speaking these are optional add-ins, not core requirements.

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