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This might be a silly question. I use windows 7 99% of the time. I run linux 10% of the time and XP 5% of the time. I am thinking about getting a Intel® Core™ i7-2600 Processor which has hardware support for virtualization.

I dont think i want more than one partition. May have a swap partition. Which OS should I make my primary (and only) partition? I suspect windows7 if i am always using it as going through a linux layer would slow it down.

Does it matter much which OS i use if i have hardware support for virtualization? At the moment I am using VMWare player. I suspect software doesnt effect performance?

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3 Answers

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The hardware virtualization support you're talking about will not allow you to use a virtual machine with equal performance as a physical installation on the same host would.

They will, however, allow you to use a virtual machine at much higher performance than if you didn't have them. I would even go so far as to say, without these features, virtualization is pointless.

One of the core abilities of a hypervisor is to translate memory addresses from the virtual machine into addresses on the physical machine. Addressing memory is pretty much done all the time and lots of it. So every time the hypervisor has to translate a virtual address to a physical address, it costs time.
Remember, this is something that happens millions of times per second. So every overhead counts!

Newer CPUs and chipsets have hardware support to translate those addresses. Which works many times faster than doing it by hand.

For Intel CPUs this is part of the VT-x technology.

So, to come back to you question. If you use Windows 7 90% of the time, install Windows 7 on the host.
If you used virtualization before (on a system without VT-x or equivalent) you'll love your newly gained performance. But you will still notice the difference between your host and your VM client.

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I do not see what would be wrong with running VMware Player under Windows 7, since you use it most of the time. Then you can have 2 (Linux + XP) or more Virtual Machines (VMs) running on demand. One partition is fully supported as each VM will be represented by a directory.

Booting VMs from real partitions can also work but you will need to know what you are doing.

Regarding support for hardware: as long as your host OS supports a device (i.e. has drivers) then VMware Player can use/give it to VMs.

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a little note about the i7-2600 cpu: it's optional but obviously a cpu with virtualization instructions / acceleration will make your VMs snappier. –  Alex Mar 21 '12 at 8:46
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I run Ubuntu for three years now as primary OS at work, as this is the easiest for website development, with a local webserver running. This resembles the production server the most. Well I thought so...I don't dualboot or anything like that. I do use Virtualbox frequently to run XP. This works really fine for me.

On the other hand, I could have used Windows 7, with a local Linux VM as development server. I can't say that one option is better than the other, but that last one would have been closer to the server - no gui, exact version of linux, although it never will be identical. I've had my crashes with Ubuntu, different problems and issues. The guest OS has one big advantage: snapshots. I can use any software on my guest OS, and if I don't like it, I just restore an older snapshot.

So you have to make up your mind. Do you use many Windows specific tools? Ubuntu or Redhat just work differently than Windows, so that will take time. For me that was an extra reason, as I wasn't that familiar with Linux, this way I forced myself to get used to it.

I can't say that you should do this or that. Maybe if you were a colleague, working here, than it might be easier to use Linux, but even here colleagues just do what they want and some of them use Windows or a Mac.

And why only one partition? You can resize them if needed. Especially if you have a spare disk equal in size, you can make an image of the disk before you resize it, so you can go back if something happens while resizing.

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I actually meant i only want one system to boot from as i think its silly to boot from another partition instead of having it run in a VM. –  acidzombie24 Mar 21 '12 at 18:32
You can have more than one partition for the host, and most of the time I think that is much better, but with one OS. One for the OS, one for the data. If the OS is broken, it's much easier to reinstall, although with W7 I've found that you need to be careful because in my experience you can't simply move an entire user account to another partition. For the guest I always use one partition, as I don't keep data on the guest. I always use a (permanently) shared folder on the host. If you work with W7 90% of the time, I agree with Oliver that you should use W7 as host. –  SPRBRN Mar 23 '12 at 22:37
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