I am looking at a new 15" MacBook Pro for development purposes. I am planning to run a Virtual Machine for about 50% of my work (Windows 7 x64, IIS, SQL Server, and VS 2010). The upgrade from a 5400 rpm drive to a 7200 rpm is only $45. From what I understand the faster rotational speed of the 7200 rpm drive will help virtual machine performance. However, I am concerned that additional heat and fan noise might be an issue. I will be running mostly on A/C power so decreased battery life is not a major concern for me.

Since I would be running with a Core i7 processor which gives off a fair amount of heat already I was wondering if it might be best to stay at 5400 rpm for the hard drive. What do you all think? Thanks!


Go for the 7200 RPM drive. It will help the VM somewhat but there will be otherfactors. We recently tried an Intel SSD for running VMs directly on the laptop and it was a great improvement. I would suggest running the VM on an external eSATA(fireWire) drive to get better performance. That way the OS and the VM won't be competing for disk I/O.

  • Any concerns with increased noise and heat with the 7200 rpm drive over the 5400 rpm drive?
    – webworm
    May 6 '10 at 13:04
  • We have not seen any significant difference in test systems but each machine may have different cooling (or lack of) Perhaps some MacBook users can chime in Our tests have been Dell and Lenovo systems
    – Dave M
    May 6 '10 at 14:05

Always, always, always (almost) go for the fastest hard drive you can get/afford. There will be some increase in heat and noise, but it is worth it. It won't just improve VM performance, but the performance of the entire system will benefit.

  • -1 for "always": sometimes speed is much less important than noise or battery life.
    – o0'.
    May 6 '10 at 12:42
  • I said almost... But I entirely disagree. Speed is the only thing that is important for anything other than casual use. If your only use is web browsing or creating Office docs. Fine, go quiet or long life. Otherwise, speed is life, speed is joy, speed...is...everything... Especially if, as Webworm says, the laptop is for development purposes.
    – BBlake
    May 6 '10 at 14:26

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