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In disk partitioning, a guest OS is simply another instance of the same operating system that can boot up for controlling a certain partitioned memory set. A virtual machine (VM) process is much different, in that a guest OS can be a different OS alternative. In VM setups, a guest OS is delivered through a virtual machine environment through a tool called a hypervisor. Again, the machine will typically have a host OS, where the guest OS will operate "within" the host OS. This can lead to limitations on file saving and other operations within the guest OS, depending on whether the guest OS is said to be "persistent."
Part of the emergence of guest operating systems in VM systems has to do with the benefits provided by virtualization. These revolutions in computing coincide with the more general concept of cloud computing, where resources are delivered, rather than hosted, in physical local hardware setups. In addition, a guest OS often takes advantage of a lean OS build, where memory requirements are further alleviated. VM setups can help with licensing issues, system requirements and more, making these an attractive part of an outsourced computing service.