Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I will be getting a Windows 7 machine at work soon. I want some of the software that Windows offers (i.e. Office, iTunes), but I develop software in Linux. Should I install Linux on a virtual machine with Windows 7 as the host (either via Windows own software or VirtualBox), or should I install a Linux partition and run Windows 7 in a virtual machine, with Linux as the host (assuming I have the Windows 7 disk)? Is the latter even possible?

On the Linux side I'll be running OpenSuSE 11.2 and above, and the software I'm developing uses OpenGL and the Qt SDK.

As mentioned earlier, on the Windows side I'll be running Office and iTunes primarily.

I can do web-browsing on either.

share|improve this question
To save people time, I am looking at answers specifically addressed toward virtualization. I don't want answers addressing suitable alternatives in Linux for Office, iTunes, etc... – Chance Apr 18 '12 at 22:47
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Your best bet is to run Windows in the VM - Office is not resource consuming, and iTunes if you are only using it for music (not videos!) runs perfectly fine in the VM.

On the other hand, your development needs means you need straight on access to the OpenGL layer without going through another VM layer, and compiling will definitely be faster if it's done on the host layer.

So, based on your needs, it's definitely a Windows VM on a Linux host.

share|improve this answer
I think you are right. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I found out we aren't getting actual media for the Windows OS. – Chance Apr 20 '12 at 16:09
@Chance Partition your HDD, boot into Linux, and virtualize Winodws straight off the disk. qemu and most other virtualizers can do this. – new123456 Apr 20 '12 at 22:30
You can download a copy of Windows 7 from… – caliban Apr 21 '12 at 8:41
Downloading the Windows 7 iso and installing that in Virtualbox works great. Thanks! – Chance Jun 12 '12 at 14:56
@Caliban, "compiling will definitely be faster if it's done on the host layer", I've seen the opposite. My Ubuntu VMWare VM on Windows 7 rebuilt a Qt project consistently in ~102 seconds as opposed to ~134 seconds on the host; yes, the Linux VM was much faster. – pixelgrease Jun 20 at 17:26

The host OS has:

  • access to add-in (PCI) cards; the guest does not
  • better/easier access to plug-in (USB) devices than the guest
  • well-defined screen edges and corners, which might matter for certain desktop interactions, like in the upcoming Windows 8

One OS might have better overall performance due to drivers; that would be a better choice for the host, as the guest would benefit indirectly.

Using Windows as the guest is certainly doable, but there might be a hiccup reactivating it on virtualized hardware. You might have to call in and plead your case.

share|improve this answer
Activation isn't really an issue. The worst case is you have to call an 800 number and get a key from the automated system. – JOTN Apr 18 '12 at 23:09

The answer is "it depends". What you lose is the drivers of the VM having direct access to the hardware which usually creates the most problems in graphics. If you're doing low performance graphics stuff, I find it doesn't really matter.

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .