I want to install Windows on VirtualBox on my Ubuntu laptop to be able to run some Windows applications. However, I'm not sure which Windows version I should install to get the best performances. I'd like the guest OS to be lightweight and fast booting. I hesitate between Xindows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8 (I have access to licences for all those versions). Should I install 32 or 64 bits version? What are the pros and cons for each choice?
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Your question is likely too broad for a one-size-fits-all answer. "Performances" vary based on input and desires for output. Optimizing for fast booting is only wise if you plan to boot often. I'm going to guess that's not a planned likely scenario for you. Asking for the pros and cons of each choice is asking a lot for not much gain. None of the choices are abjectly horrible.
For most situations, I would install XP for the general case of "to be able to run some Windows applications" in a vm. Newer versions offer more than you need for the task and KISS applies, as ever. 32-bit XP is still the most widely installed version of Windows in the business world. Things have a higher chance of just working how you'd expect. If you find you want something that another Windows version has, cross that bridge when you get to it. I doubt you're limited to one vm :)
Roll up your sleeves and dig in. Have fun!