You’ve decided you want to learn more about databases and SQL. And, it just so happens your course is utilizing the Oracle Database to demonstrate these topics.

Your class work requires that YOU get yourself an Oracle Database. And seeing that you’re all new to this, you need help!

What if I told you you could be ‘up and running,’ in just a few minutes? So take that red pill, and let’s jump into the world of Oracle!

Easiest ways to get started on Oracle

1. LiveSQL

LiveSQL is a hosted environment where you can submit your SQL and PL/SQL calls in a browser, we run those for you in an Oracle Database, and give you the results.

Zero configuration is required. If you want to SAVE your scenarios so they can be replayed later, you only need to sign-up for a free account.

Yes, that’s my real email. Yes, people email me. No, I won’t do your homework for you.

In my opinion, LiveSQL is your easiest path. If the point of the class is to learn how to design a table, how to get data out of your table, how to put application logic into your database (PL/SQL), then LiveSQL gives you everything you need.

I’ve talked about LiveSQL here in more detail if you’re still curious about how it works. However, it’s designed to be drop-dead simple. So feel free to jump right in, and start using it!


  1. nothing to install
  2. nothing to maintain
  3. you can save your work
  4. you can share it with others
  5. it’s the LATEST version of Oracle
  6. the site includes TUTORIALS and code samples to help you learn additional topics


  1. you won’t have a database to call your own, or hug at night
  2. you’ll need to spend a few minutes setting up an account if you want to save your work
  3. you’ll need Internet access

Always Free Oracle Autonomous Cloud Database Service

The name pretty much says it all. It’s FREE. It’s in the Cloud. Here’s what else you need to know:


  1. it can be created in just a few minutes, all in your browser
  2. you can connect to it from your developer/desktop tools
  3. you don’t have to worry about managing it – backups, upgrades, etc
  4. it comes with a browser suite of tools you can use to do your SQL and PL/SQL work if you don’t want to install ANYTHING
  5. you’ll be exposed to and LEARN general Cloud concepts
  6. you can have as many as 2 different databases, plus a LINUX compute node if you’d like to install something like a web server (or whatever you want) – again, for free
  7. if you end up building the world’s next best mousetrap, you can easily convert your free account to a commercial one, and get ALL the features/resources you need
  8. want to work with JSON, REST, XML, NoSQL, Machine Learning, AI, advanced analytics? All of these technologies and platforms are included!
Type in SQL, run SQL – nothing to install!


  1. you’ll need an internet connection
  2. you’ll be limited in terms of the amount of data and processing power you can use – but these limits are VERY generous, and should be more than fine for any class assignment
  3. if you stop using the database for a few days, we’ll turn the database off
  4. if you stop using it for a very long time, we’ll delete your database

I’ve been using my Always Free Autonomous Database since the service went online. I’ve had zero outages. I’ve had to restart it due to the service ‘going to sleep’ due to inactivity, maybe 6 time? …I’ll go on vacation or something, and it just takes a few seconds to get it back up and running.

Would you like to learn more about Always Free from an independent 3rd party, so you can know what’s it’s REALLY like? Then this 22 part blog series is for you.

VirtualBox Database Appliance

This is a virtual machine that will be running on your Mac, PC, or Linux desktop. It’s pre-built, meaning you only need to download, install, and hit the ‘Start’ button.

This is ideal for folks that want a physical database install they can get ‘their hands on’ and play around with it. You’ll have ROOT access on the underlying Linux OS. You’ll have SYS access on the database. If you want to change something, you can.

Everything is configured and created for you, the database is even pre-populated with test data!

I wrote this post that helps you get started using the system, but the main thing to remember is that ALL of the passwords are simply, ‘oracle’

From SQL Developer running on my Mac (or Windows or wherever you have installed VirtualBox), connecting to the Oracle Database running on the Linux image being hosted by VirtualBox –

USER: hr PASSWORD: oracle HOSTNAME: localhost PORT: 1521 SERVICE: orcl

If you’re wondering about the ‘localhost’ bits, and how that works – we have a virtual port forward defined in the virtualbox networking settings for your VM. We take all of the traffic on port 1521 of your machine and send it to port 1521 of the machine running the database. That makes connections EASY.


  1. it’s FREE for educational purposes
  2. you are in COMPLETE control, you have GOD mode
  3. everything will be on YOUR machine, no Internet access required once it’s downloaded
  4. exposure to the Linux OS
  5. a fully-working Oracle Database, but not requirement to install it
  6. you can easily restore it to a previous state if you ‘mess up’
  7. you can just connect to the database directly from your host environment, like your OS X Bash shell, and never even look at the Linux desktop if you don’t want to
  8. it’s ROCK-SOLID
  9. SQL Developer, APEX, ORDS, test/sample data, and hands-on-labs to learn this stuff is all included


  1. It’ll require a good bit of local resources, I recommend 4 GB of RAM for the VM
  2. If you want to upgrade it, probably easier to just download a new one
  3. It will take about 30 minutes or so to download, extract, and run for the first time – this obviously depends on your network bandwidth and disk IO capabilities
  4. You’ll need to manage disk space, if you fill up the linux volumes, you’ll get to learn how to be a Linux ADMIN and Oracle DBA right quick
  5. It’s on your machine, yes – but if you want to get rid of it, it’s very easy to delete it

I’ve personally been using the same VirtualBox appliance for more than 5 years. I’ve had ZERO issues with it. If your machine crashes, no worries, your DB will come right back up if you need it to.

Want to build your OWN VirtualBox appliance? Well, we help you there as well with Vagrant. You can automate your VirtualBox machines and how they’re created.

I really enjoy reading Oracle-Base (Tim!)’s articles on Vagrant, but I will admit to never having used these myself.

Oracle Express Edition (XE) and/or Docker Containers

I’m going to mix things together here a bit. Everything I’ve listed previously requires pretty much ZERO previous experience or knowledge of how Oracle Database works. What I’m going to talk about now steps up the prerequisite IT experience up a notch or 3.

Oracle XE

Oracle XE is a version of the database that’s FREE FOR ANY PURPOSE – learning, commercial, whatever. So you could start using it to learn Oracle, and continue using it to build commercial applications with it.

You’ll need to download and install it – and that installation includes creating a database. There are wizards for this, but if you’ve never done it before, it can be a bit intimidating.

And if I’m being honest – MOST Oracle professionals don’t spend much time anymore doing installs and creating databases. It’s all been since automated. And if you JUST need a platform to do your database work in, I highly recommend the previous options.

That being said, if you want to do everything from scratch, this is the way to go.


  1. you’ll know exactly what it takes to take a system from ZERO to HERO
  2. no VMs to start, no Docker containers to maintain – this is now a core part of your machine


  1. higher learning curve, it’s going to take longer, so if you’ve waited till the last minute to do your big semester-end project…
  2. you’re going to have things all over your OS – Windows Registry for example, or required components will be installed, system tasks/jobs/etc. So removing it will take a bit long once you’re ‘done.’
  3. It’s only available for a specific set of Operating Systems, for example if you’re using Windows 10 Home Edition, it won’t work – but that’s OK, you can just spin up a Linux Docker Container!

Docker Container

We publish Oracle Database Docker templates, and there are TONS of articles out there showing how to get your Oracle Database up and going on Docker. The Pros and Cons here are simply the Pros and Cons of Docker.

If you do everything in Docker, then put your Oracle Database in Docker. If you’re brand new to both technologies, maybe now’s not the best time to tackle both…just saying.

Advanced, Bonus Credit: If you need to learn RAC, then you can pretty easily with docker containers, so that’s pretty nice.

What I’ve used over the years…

Mac Mini (2018) VirtualBox Oracle 19c & Windows 10 VirtualBox 12cR2 – each VM w/4GB RAM

I’m the ‘weirdo’ on my development team here at Oracle. Almost all of our developers use Docker Containers for their database, whereas I have a VirtualBox Appliance running on both my Mac (Big Sur) and Windows (Win 10) machines. If you want to spin it up on a lark and not worry about it otherwise, Docker is a great way to go. I always have my VirtualBox images running, and they have YEARS of data/projects/examples of data and code living in them.

I also have an Always Free Autonomous Oracle Database (Transaction Processing) Cloud Service in our Ashburn data center (East Coast, USA.) So with or without Internet, I’m always good to go – even if one of my two machines goes down. I chose the Ashburn data center because it was the closest to my home here in North Carolina. I honestly can’t tell that it’s any different than working with any of my other system in our corporate network over VPN in terms of network speed/access.

In 1998 when I first started learning Oracle (7), we had accounts on a UNIX box that we could access via Telnet VT100…and I’d do most of my work in our computer lab decked out with Macintoshes.

When I went to work and needed a permanent database, I would install and run local Oracle DB directly on my Windows work machine. Did that until about 2008 when I saw how much easier VMWare was. And then when I came over to Oracle, I switched to our VirtualBox Appliances.

Our DBTools team (we make SQL Developer, ORDS, SQlcl, Cloud interfaces and more) also has a DOCKER FARM of Oracle 11, 12, 18, 19, 21 database instances going, also all configured with ORDS + APEX, plus an extra with Tomcat and another on WebLogic, and finally one 2-node RAC. These are destroyed and rebuilt every night – making it SUPER easy to for me or anyone else on our team to test just about any configuration that one of my customers might be dealing with.

A nifty monitoring app that my boss wrote…

One final note

If your professor tells you you HAVE to have a database – find out what that REALLY means. I’m betting that the LiveSQL solution would work for most of you. If you’re going to be quizzed on how to create an Oracle Database, then you’ll need to graduate to XE.


I'm a Distinguished Product Manager at Oracle. My mission is to help you and your company be more efficient with our database tools.


  1. Avatar

    You forgot one very big “Con” for LiveSQL: you can not finish registration without providing Oracle your phone number. Nothing in the world will make me give Oracle my phone number, sorry.

    • thatjeffsmith

      No problem Hans, that’s why I listed several things for you take advantage of. That info is only used to confirm your identity, you’ll never be contacted for anything because you used it to sign up for LiveSQL.

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