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I just bought the latest MacBook Air. I'm running Parallels with Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010. Since I'm running out of disk space, I want to move the VM to an external drive. Since I will be developing in Visual Studio 2010 within the VM the performance of course needs to be good. I assigned 2GB memory to the VM, but now I need to decide what hard disk I need.

I though it might be wise to go for USB3.0, since the MBA supports this. But I can't decide whether I need an SSD drive (which is way more costly) or just a regular drive.

Does anyone have any experience or intelligent thoughts on this?

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Really close to a shopping question... – hydroparadise Jul 31 '12 at 19:53
So, you want to put your VM on an external HDD, which you want to connect via USB3, and you want to know about possible performance differences between using an SSD or a regular HDD as the external drive? – Oliver Salzburg Jul 31 '12 at 20:33
up vote 0 down vote accepted

Give Visual Studio the SSD.

Visual Studio is pretty intensive on the disk and the single most important performance improvement you can make is giving Visual Studio an SSD. If you are doing anything other then a little bit of hobby development, then this will improve your life hugely. See Jason's recent experience here.

If I were using an MBA, then it would have to be BootCamp all the way so I get the dbest performance from my main tool, Visual Studio. To Hansleman's article here may help to keep the size of Windows down, then it's just down to keeping Visual Studio as small as possible. Use the options in the installer to remove the things you don't need. I'm always leave the C++ options out when installing, also things like Dotfuscator that I don't use. You can always add them back later. (Remember that VB is needed for macros, if you use them.)

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Loading performance is related to your hard drive. As per compiling, debugging, and other developing tasks, this is more related to your CPU/RAM resources. Unless you need your VM to start lightning fast (usually restricted by the OS anyway) a regular 7200 RPM drive should be plenty fine.'

Now, if you plan on developing around a database (we're talking tables with 100,000+ records), THEN you might have some considerations as the speed of hard drive.

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Ah, thanks. So the only time I would really notice the difference between SSD and HDD would be at startup of the VM and starting applications such as Visual Studio? Only problem left then is that there don't seem to be too many small 7200RPM external HDD's out there, just the 5400 :( – Flo Jul 31 '12 at 20:45
Precisely...... – hydroparadise Jul 31 '12 at 20:49
I will admit that there is a noticeable difference between 5400 and 7200 RPM drives. The smaller/portable externals HD usually have laptop hard drives that is powered by the usb port. I have a 7200 RPM laptop hard drive in my laptop right now, so at the very least, you can use a USB to SATA cable using to make an internal hard drive do the same thing. – hydroparadise Jul 31 '12 at 20:54
Wait! Are you saying I can have a USB powered external drive that connects via my MBA USB3.0 port through a USB3.0->SATA convertor cable to a SATA external drive? If so, that would be great and I didn't know that was available :) – Flo Jul 31 '12 at 20:58
No, I am saying that you can purchase an INTERNAL SATA 7200 RPM laptop drive where you only option is SATA. They make USB to SATA cable if you are unable to find an EXTERNAL USB HD that is better than 5200 RPM. – hydroparadise Jul 31 '12 at 21:04

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