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Obviously I understand that running Windows/Linux natively on the hardware is faster than using any kind of virtualization software. On the other hand when using Parallels or Fusion I can use both Mac and PC applications side-by-side.

Since there have been quite some innovation in the area of virtualization and most modern processors (including mine) have special virtualization mode, I believe that the difference may not actually be that big if any at all. Please tell me, if you know, how much faster is Windows/Linux on BootCamp than on Parallels/Fusion virtualization software?

If this is use case specific, than I would like to know the answer for the following cases:

  • Software development (Visual Studio, Eclipse, Notepad++, Total Commander, Git Bash etc.)
  • Live TV (Windows Media Center with my USB DVB-T TV Stick)
  • Games (Quake III, Dragon Age, Unreal Tournament etc.)
  • Utility Software (Nokia Ovi Suite for my cell, Lingvo dictionary etc.)
  • Linux (Ubuntu 10.04 for testing and debugging software I develop)

I am running Mac OS X 10.6.4 on MacBook Pro 15" with Intel Core i7 and want to run Windows 7 64-bit.

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3 Answers 3

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Please tell me, if you know, how much faster is Windows/Linux on BootCamp than on Parallels/Fusion virtualization software?

It's hard to quantify without any kind of benchmarks to definitively answer your question. In my experience with both bootcamp and vmware fusion (or parallels/virtualbox) for me it was a convenience issue more than anything so I use vmware fusion on a regular basis. Performance was noticeable between dual-boot and virtualization but it depends on how you use your computer.

Software development (Visual Studio, Eclipse, Notepad++, Total Commander, Git Bash etc.)

I use Visual Studio 2008/2010 on Windows 7 Pro (64-bit) and KomodoEdit on Ubuntu. I don't see any real development issues other than a slightly longer build time. If I'm building an ASP.NET site, getting IIS to start up is a little longer than normal but nothing that is noticeably worse than usual.

I can't speak for VSS/TFS/Git/CVS/source version control, etc. etc. Basically, software development would be nearly identical but depending on the complexity of the code, libraries/assemblies, dependencies and such, the compilation process may take a little longer than normal. Again, benchmarks will really show the difference but in my experience it's close enough to non-virtual environments.

Live TV (Windows Media Center with my USB DVB-T TV Stick)

I've never watched live TV via USB or in a virtual machine so I can't say anything for sure. But even watching streaming video or video files over network share, the lag at times was noticeable. Anything I/O heavy you will notice more so using any virtual environment.

Games (Quake III, Dragon Age, Unreal Tournament etc.)

Unless you plan on playing solitaire, I would stay away from virtualized games. I tried playing Civ4 on Windows 7 with 2GB of RAM and it was too damn slow. I can't imagine Quake, Unreal Tournament being much better. Granted those games are relatively old, I just don't think serious gamers can expect virtual machines to perform on par to native hardware.

Utility Software (Nokia Ovi Suite for my cell, Lingvo dictionary etc.)

I think this will run as expected like a non-virtual machine.

Linux (Ubuntu 10.04 for testing and debugging software I develop)

It'll be close to non-virtual machine speed.


There's a way to virtualize a bootcamp partition which may be what you're looking for. If you create a bootcamp partition, install windows, and boot into OSX, VMWare Fusion has an option to treat the bootcamp partition as a VM so you could in fact run either native dual boot OR virtual machine instance. This might be the better way to go if performance is of the utmost priority.

Install all the software and games you want. If they perform poorly in a VM, then at the least it's on your bootcamp partition. If games/apps/tv run fine then you have the flexibility to use OSX and switch to Windows 7 whenever you need it. I do not know if this can work for Linux but it wouldn't surprise me if there was a way to do it. Here's a link to VMWare's info on doing such a configuration.

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Thank you. So far this is the most detailed and clear answer. Also I didn't know that I can run Windows from BootCamp partition under Parallels/Fusion. I will definitely give it a try. This may basically solve my problem of combining the possibility for side-by-side usage during software development and running efficient games on native. –  Sergiy Byelozyorov Aug 6 '10 at 5:33
    
As for Software Development I am currently involved in huge solutions (e.g. Chromium), which consists of over 300 projects and takes about 40-50 minutes to build on a quad-core processor. Even smallest change in the code requires the rebuild of about 3-4 minutes. Therefore building times could be an issue. Can you please quantify how longer building times actually are, please? –  Sergiy Byelozyorov Aug 6 '10 at 5:36
    
My build times are usually for .NET based projects so I don't know how well that will translate into your work. I also don't have numerous projects within a build (at most maybe 5?) so when I say it seems a little longer than normal, I'm estimating around 30 sec - 1 min. I'd have to say for Chromium, my best guess is to add about 10-15% more in terms of build time. Now, I am guessing so I could be very wrong about this estimate. That's why I think the bootcamp partition is the way to go. You can try it out as if it was a VM and see the performance in both VM and non-VM situations. –  osij2is Aug 6 '10 at 13:31
    
As it turns out Parallels Desktop does not let you install Windows 7 from Boot Camp (not legally at least). The problem arises when one tries to activate Windows. BootCamp and Parallels are two different hardware configurations and therefore after every reboot Windows will ask for activation. After call to Microsoft they said that even if I have two licenses I can't install two of them onto single Windows installation. Therefore booting Windows 7 from BootCamp is fake and can not be done legally. I have ended up with two systems installed: virtual (Parallels Desktop) and physical (BootCamp). –  Sergiy Byelozyorov Aug 25 '10 at 21:53
    
Sorry to hear that. I never tried using bootcamp with Parallels, but I've done successfully with VMWare fusion. –  osij2is Aug 31 '10 at 0:37
  • Software development (Visual Studio, Eclipse, Notepad++, Total Commander, Git Bash etc.)

For software development I wouldn't see a big difference, though there are many Mac varients that are fully native (TextMate = Notepad++, Eclipse is multiplatform, git is multiplatform).

  • Live TV (Windows Media Center with my USB DVB-T TV Stick)

I would expect a very noticeable hit doing that. 30-50% slower I would guess.

  • Games (Quake III, Dragon Age, Unreal Tournament etc.)

Again, graphics are a huge deal. 30-50% slower.

  • Utility Software (Nokia Ovi Suite for my cell, Lingvo dictionary etc.)

Probably no difference.

  • Linux (Ubuntu 10.04 for testing and debugging software I develop)

Probably no difference. Linux is light, and surprisingly low memory.

I large amount of the performance in a VM is RAM related. Give it a big enough chunk of RAM and you're fine.

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I have to do software development on Windows, since I mostly develop for Windows. But I use Mac and Ubuntu for testing/debugging of my software. Nevertheless the priority is always Windows, so the fact that Eclipse and git are multiplatform doesn't really give me any advantage. –  Sergiy Byelozyorov Aug 6 '10 at 5:29
    
I was surprised that Live TV can be that slower. I have been watching it yesterday and have seen no noticeable performance difference. Can you please explain what is your opinion based on? –  Sergiy Byelozyorov Aug 6 '10 at 5:30
    
@Sergiy: Running Windows Media Center to process video. I've never done it though, so it's just a guess. –  Josh K Aug 6 '10 at 11:28

In most cases it makes no difference. The only things that tend to suffer under virtualization tend to be things like graphics and file I/O. For pure computation though performance is identical.

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Thank you for the constructive response. Can I avoid file I/O overhead by using pre-allocated drive rather than dynamic one? –  Sergiy Byelozyorov Aug 5 '10 at 20:12
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No. The overhead will still be there. Also, under virtualization, you are practically running two OSes worth of processes. –  crazysim Aug 5 '10 at 21:04
    
crazysin, you are right, but I think Paul meant that if we could imagine that the host operating system would be doing nothing and would take no memory, virtualized operating system would be running very close to native, except for the graphics and i/o. –  Sergiy Byelozyorov Aug 6 '10 at 5:40

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