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My department doesn't have the budget to upgrade my ailing Dell D620 laptop. However, I do have the option to buy my own personal computer, then use my company-issued ISO image to run Windows XP as my guest os using virtualbox or vmware.

Therefore, last month, I bought an Acer AX3910-U3012 desktop that had Windows 7 as the host os (and 8G RAM). In short, I was disappointed with the performance while trying to run WinXP as the guest os. (It didn't perform much better than my laptop.)

Just wondering what the optimal host os would be for running Windows XP as the guest os? (No, I can't use my company-issued ISO image to build the os for my personal computer.)

FWIW, I'm willing to spend up to $2k if it's REALLY worth it, but would prefer to spend no more than $1k. Also, in an effort to cut costs, I'd prefer buy a desktop instead of a laptop.

Thanks for any/all feedback.

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Linux x86_64 on i7 and at least 8GB RAM. Make sure you enable VT-x on the BIOS, since many MB have it disabled by default. I use Gentoo, all compiled with gcc 4.x -march=core2 -mcx16 -O2 -pipe. Only thing is the latest VMware version in portage is 6.5.

Also give the guest 2 CPU cores and at least 2 GB memory.

However, the biggest limiting factor in VM performance is Disk IO. Now you have two (or more) OS competing for Disk access which can slow things down for disk-IO intensive operations. If you expect a lot of disk IO, I would recommend a good (but doesn't have to be expensive) RAID controller and at least two disks (mirrored).

Also make sure you install the VMware tools in the guest. That makes a big difference in performance, since they also supply paravirtualized drivers for VGA, NIC, etc. VMware also supports directX 9 (to some degree) if you have recent openGL in the host.

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Why not use Windows XP Mode ?

It is free if you already have Windows 7 and runs like a charm. It will even map drives corresponding to the ones mapped on the host OS. You can bump up the resources allocated to the VM as well, since it is really just Microsoft's Virtual PC.

One caveat is the emulated S3 Trio GPU. It isn't the best and has it's limits, so if you plan on doing anything graphically intensive inside the VM then forget it.

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Fortunately, I have no need to do anything graphically intensive for work. Unfortunately, my Acer only came with Windows 7 Home. Also, I already returned the machine. – user61132 Jan 1 '11 at 23:33
If you're buying another machine, look for hardware-assisted virtualization support and plenty of memory + CPU horsepower. – John T Jan 1 '11 at 23:34

buy a SSD disk for hundred bucks, move Win 7 and the image there, leave the original HDD for storing your data

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Acctually, RAID 1 (mirroring) is for fault torrerance, not for speed. It can be even slower than a single drive solution, especially low budget ones, because they use CPU to process it. If you go with this route, use RAID 0 (striping), much faster, because it writes and reads from to multiple disks simultaneously. Also I want to point out that RAID can be complex to configure, and many disk manager do not support it.

You should invested in SSD (Solid State Drive), much much faster than RAID or anything else at the moment, because it's flash memory; instant access.

I used RAID 0 set up for many years and had been happy, but since I changed to SSD about an year ago, I never looked back!!!

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