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Ever since I saw a friend running Windows 7 inside Mac OS X with VMware Fusion, I've been trying to do the same on my laptop, in order to avoid having to reboot every time I have to use a Windows aplication.

However,it seems that it is not a simple task. I'd like to know what is the best software option to virtualize an existing windows 7 partition on ubuntu (10.10). I know that it is possible with VirtualBox, VMware Workstation and QEMU, but all the guides and tutorials I've seen seem to be pretty outdated (like 3 years old).

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Define "best option" please. What are you wanting to run in Windows? Is Windows already installed and you want to run that installation? Will be you be also wanting to run Windows native? – Majenko Apr 18 '11 at 12:56
Yes, Windows is already installed, and yes I'd like to run it natively sometimes. "Best option" would be the one with most stable and fast performance. – joaocandre Apr 18 '11 at 12:59
Are you trying to virtualize a win7 install while at the same time keeping the partition available to boot from? Similar to how Parallels can boot a BootCamp partition? – mindless.panda Apr 18 '11 at 13:39
Yes, that's it. Like Parallels or VMFusion for Mac's, I am looking for an alternative for ubuntu. – joaocandre Apr 18 '11 at 13:48

First off I wouldn't recommend running the same Windows installation both natively and virtually. The hardware differences between the VM and the real machine tend to throw Windows into a bit of a tizzy to put it mildly.

Keep your current Windows installation for native use, and create a new installation within a virtualization product for running within Ubuntu.

I personally use VirtualBox and would recommend it every time. I used to be a big fan of VMware, but VirtualBox has just got the edge because it is so much more open than VMWare. Even VMWare's "free" products seem somehow restricted and clunky by comparison. Ever since VMWare Server (which is what I used to use all the time) went to having a web based front end I have had no end of trouble with it, and it just refuses to work on some operating systems (you have to apply patches to get it working with Ubuntu).

QEmu I don't even place in the same class as VirtualBox and VMWare. While it has its uses (I use it to test-boot my software distro) the performance and usability is well below that of VirtualBox.

So, VirtualBox.

Make sure you use version 4, not the older version 3 that is in Ubuntu main. You will have to go to the VirtualBox website and add the repository to your apt sources file or download it manually. I prefer to add the repository as it does updates for you then.

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Yes, I've thought about that solution, but isn't running Windows 7 from a virtual image slower than natively? How would it perform demanding applications like games? – joaocandre Apr 18 '11 at 13:32
It will definitely be slower, but that's inherent trade-off to virtualizing it. – mindless.panda Apr 18 '11 at 13:37
The speed difference is only marginal, and only on disk access. In fact under certain circumstances using a virtual image can be faster. As for games, you want to run those natively. None of the virtualization systems handle games very well at all. – Majenko Apr 18 '11 at 13:38
Still, virtualizing from a physical disk would be faster right? From what I know, on Macs, booting from virtualization software or from boot camp doesnt cause any issues on Windows installation.. – joaocandre Apr 18 '11 at 13:56
As I said - in some situations it's faster, in some it's slower. With an image you get the host OS's cache which can speed things up. You don't get that with a raw disk. Also the image takes up less physical space, so seeking can be faster. Fragmentation can become more of an issue, but that can be got around by re-optimizing the image file. – Majenko Apr 18 '11 at 14:00

These two links will help you accomplish what you are trying to do, but you need to be aware of the caveats and potential problems.

I agree w/ Matt about sticking with VirtualBox.

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Yes, though I am not using Linux, virtual box is a good solution for having one partition and accessing it through your linux partition while maintaining the ability to reboot your computer into the other partition if you desire to. The on caveat this solution has is the fact that you have an activation that gets reset each time you switch partitions. I sat on the phone with customer service today insisting it was the same physical machine, yet they were unwilling to activate it on both hardware configurations. So that definitely is something to be aware of.

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