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Is it viable to run (i.e. reference the vmx/vhd directly from the mounted drive) a VM (vmware running Windows Seven) off of an external HD via USB? I mean, I know it's possible, but I guess I'm asking if USB provides enough bandwidth for normal usage...

If so, are there any particular brands that may be better or worse? I know that ESATA would be a more viable setup, but my laptop doesn't have an ESATA port.

Currently I use the VM to segregate all of my work development servers and software from my main machine; so I will be running all development servers and tools on the VM directly.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

It is viable, it simply depends upon the load.

I would recommend a USB with the highest RPM. Most will peak at about 5400 RPM, but you may be able to find a 7200 RPM, especially if you buy the HD and your own external enclosure.

If you are running multiple VMs on the USB at the same time, you will likely have some slowdown. One thing to consider is if you have a laptop, you can typically buy a hard drive enclosure bay that replaces a DVD drive and you can put a 7200 RPM SATA drive in there. I do this with a Thinkpad T61

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That would be a great solution - I have a T500 and I almost never use the optical drive. I guess I would end up having to purchase another external optical drive for the rare occasions I may need it... But it would be awesome if I could find an adapter for this. – nlaq Apr 20 '10 at 22:16
I don't think RPM will matter. The bottleneck with most USB harddrives is the limited bandwidth of USB. – Earlz Apr 20 '10 at 22:31
Nelson, for what it is worth, check eBay for the adapter. I bought mine there (shipped from China) and it works great as a VM drive as well as a doc backup – RussellW Apr 20 '10 at 22:37
After so many months, I have finally purchased an SSD for my system drive, and moved my old HDD over to my optical bay. This works really rather nicely, and I would highly suggest it to anyone for which this is an option. – nlaq Nov 15 '10 at 7:11

This question isn't an exact duplicate, but it covers the some of the same area. The answer is really about seeking, latency, and bit about throughput. 48MB/s isn't a ton of speed for a modern hard drive so you will see some slow down, but not a lot.

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