I'm taking a hands-on lab course for information security. It requires VMware player and I have to create one virtual machine each for CentOS and Windows 8. The software applications are all free licenses. My native OS is Linux Mint 18.

I have an Intel Core i3 with 3.7 Ghz dual core
7200 rpm 500 GB SATA drive
16GB RAM
Intel integrated graphics.

I'd really like to keep the host OS (Linux Mint 1 on the SATA drive, and put the virtual machines/hypervisor/guest operating systems on an external USB solid state drive. I'm new to virtualization. How to people normally set up VM's? I did some research on this. But it looks like there are a few different options for this.