Is there a way to virtualize such that applications can be installed in virtualization layers over a core system?

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Virtual lab
Virtual Machines
Virtualization
Sometimes I need to install a particular setup for testing... I've used virtual machines for this. The ease of compartmentalizing the installation of unstable software and drivers made me wonder if there is a straightforward way to generate a new virtualized layer of my own machine, whenever I want to install a collection of potentially risky or unstable apps. Essentially, stack the installs using only files that would be changed or created in the base system to define the VM. That way, unstable setups and complicated special purpose configurations could be turned on and off as if they were layers of a photoshop image.

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The closest you can reasonably get are snapshots. You can make a copy of the virtual hard drive for each test instance and overwrite the instance when you want to go back to it, but that takes more hard drive space and time; copying files of several GB takes a lot of time.

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