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I need to virtualize Windows on my Linux laptop. At first I tried QEMU but found it too flaky. Then I was using VMWare server for a while and thought it was pretty good. Recently I tried VirtualBox and found it more responsive than VMWare.

In your experience, what works best for virtualizing Windows within Linux? I am after a free solution that is efficient and integrates well with the Linux desktop.

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migrated from Feb 9 '10 at 6:30

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I run my work-at-home Windows "machine" inside the latest VMWare Player under Ubuntu (I'm not dual booting just to perform administrivia) and have absolutely no problems with it.

VMWare have invested a lot of effort into making this a smooth solution. The earlier versions you had to manually recompile modules when you changed your kernel but no more. It all happens automatically.

I had a long play with both QEMU and VirtualBox but I was left with an impression that they're unfinished products when placed alongside VMWare.

And they're all beer-free, which is what I'm mainly concerned with (rather than speech-free).

But this is really a superuser question since it's not really programming related so I'm nudging it over there.

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+1 for VMware player as a starting point, it's a good free solution and if you need to do more then it's a seamless upgrade to VMware Workstation. – saschabeaumont Feb 9 '10 at 8:17
Long-time VMWare user, turned VirtualBox. Version 3.1+ now has arbitrary timeline snapshots, great for testing. Also like its integration and USB support. +1 for the intuitive UI, too. – invert Feb 9 '10 at 14:53

I use VirtualBox. However, you might want to try this question at Server Fault

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you should note that VirtualBox doesn't have very nice people working on it.. the OpenBSD project reported a bug in their emulation and they confirmed it but basically said "we don't see the point in fixing it since it's only broken for the OpenBSD OS" – Earlz Feb 11 '10 at 14:29

I've had good experiences with KVM on Fedora before.

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+1 I use it on Linux Mint 9 (Based on Ubuntu 10). It's simple and works great. By only qualm is, documentation still sucks. – Evan Plaice Jul 29 '10 at 6:10

Not sure why you found QEMU flaky. Maybe if you explained some of your specific QEMU problems you can get suggestions here.

Both KVM and VirtualBox as suggested by others are based off QEMU too. I've also found QEMU to be a very good general-purpose virtualisation solution. I've used it to virtualise servers for legacy commercial systems so that they can be run inside modern hardware because the old hardware is no longer available.

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KVM is based on QEMU but they're not the same. KVM provides 'native virtualization' meaning it can interact directly with processors that support virtualization whereas QEMU uses 'paravirtualization' meaning it emulates processor architectures purely in software. Because of this, KVM has the obvious performance advantage whereas QEMU is a great platform to run mission critical based on older processor architectures on newer systems. QEMU's role in KVM (and probably VirtualBox) is it supports the hardware virtualization facilities. – Evan Plaice Jul 29 '10 at 6:08

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