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I'm trying to setup a few CMS distributions on a linux box. And I have to do some serious development on it. But my main machine is running Win7 so I was thinking about virtualization.

But I do not want my main machine to be clogged with VM drivers and patches and whatnot.

So what's a good VM software considering that I care a lot about the host OS's general performance but not the VM's ?


NOTE: I'm caring for the host OS performance in the sense that if I am NOT running the VM, the host OS should still runs its full pre-VM-installation speed, VMware Workstation, for example, has a record of slowing down the host OS's startup time.

I don't care, however, about the performance of host/VM when the VM is running. I think my host OS is fast enough to handle them without a hinch. But I do care if installing VMware workstation will slow down my host OS boot up time (due to various VMware drivers).

Hope this clear things up.

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oh, that clears things up better. Edited answer. –  caliban Sep 15 '09 at 18:29
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5 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you can afford it - go for VMWare Workstation. It's fast, it's stable, and affects the host OS to a minimum.

If you want free - then go for Virtualbox. It's not as polished, but it is still fast and stable.

However, remember you are essentially running a computer within a computer. Your host OS will be affected definitely by the VM's processor usage, disk i/o operations, and memory usage. No VM software is going to cut that down significantly for you.

That said, if you really care about the host OS's performance - first things to do is to tweak your VM's for minimum disk I/O, and get more RAM for your system.

EDIT : OP wants a VM software that literally doesn't impact system when VMs are not running.

In that case, I highly recommend you go for Portable Virtualbox. It's portable, it's standalone, and by the nature of it being standalone, it doesn't dump junk all over your system. If you are not running it, your OS should be unaffected by anything too. Give it a shot.

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VMware Server is free, BTW –  wRAR Sep 15 '09 at 18:19
    
OK, thanks ... Giving it a shot now :) –  chakrit Sep 15 '09 at 18:32
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@wRAR: you are right, but VMWare is a solution for servers, while VM Ware Workstaion is better if you simply want to work with VM on your desktop. VMWare Workstaion has also "Player" free edition. –  smok1 Sep 15 '09 at 18:37
    
Cool that's what I was looking for! ... Guess there's a portable version for everything these days :) –  chakrit Sep 15 '09 at 18:49
    
@smok1, I've used both at work for running a Windows VM on my Linux workstation, and while VMware Workstation was also very good for my needs, I honestly don't know why anyone should pay for it anymore as VMware Server does everything it does (afaik), and is just as simple to use. Making Server free was a bit surprising move to me, but I guess they're making their money with other product lines. –  Jonik Sep 15 '09 at 18:50
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One option is to disable the following services:

  • VMWare Authorization Service VMWare
  • DHCP Service VMWare NAT Service
  • VMWare Registration Service VMWare
  • Virtual Mount Manager Extended

That should speed up the booting process. You could then create a simple batch file to start the VMWare services when needed, a simple .bat-file should be enough, something like:

net start “VMWare Authorization Service”
net start “VMWare DHCP Service”
net start “VMWare NAT Service”
net start “VMWare Registration Service”
net start “VMWare Virtual Mount Manager Extended”

Those services might be different depending on which VMWare product you might be using, just check the Services list and pick everything with VMWare in it.

Or if you don't ever want to forget to start the services, create a special user for VMWare usage and put that batch file into Startup folder.

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I'm using virtualPC and it's working pretty well on a somewhat weak system. As far as patches and drivers 'clogging' up the system, I haven't encountered such a thing.

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+1 Microsoft Virtual PC is new for Windows 7 and uses another architecture compared to the previous versions. It requires VT and is generally very snappy and doesn't seem to impact performance at all when off. Windows 7 XP Mode also uses this software... –  Oskar Duveborn Sep 15 '09 at 19:10
    
I used it in a training class - it was pretty nice. –  Sam Sep 18 '09 at 4:33
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VirtualBox will install an additional network controller with the host OS and that's about it. no difference in the host's boot time.

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I have had headaches with VMware drivers clogging my old laptop once... so I'm a little skeptic about anything network running on bootup/startup... but +1 anyway, glad to know –  chakrit Sep 15 '09 at 18:50
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If you want a VM package that's got no footprint other than itself- qemu might be worth considering. It isn't the best, performance wide, but it needs no drivers, and will run portably.

Boot-time wise, virtualbox seems to have less of a effect than VMware installed - rather significantly

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Interesting... but what I do like with VirtualBox is the easeness of use... I think wayy easier than VMWare maybe because it's also less sophisticated... But will try qemu out on monday anyway :) Thanks for suggesting –  chakrit Sep 20 '09 at 10:37
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