I've got a desktop that I use for gaming, I really love Linux but I love my games too much to abandon them for Linux. I'm very hopeful that in the not-so-distant future VGA-Passthrough technology will be better developed and easier to use so I could set up a Linux host and a Windows guest machine.

But right now that's not an option since even if I've tried a few times to do so, I always failed. I guess I'm just not proficient enough with Linux's under-the-hood stuff to get it right as is.

So I decided after a lot of frustration that i should just bite it and use Windows as a host and Linux as a guest.

With a Linux host I've learned that anyone with good eyes can see that VMWare-Player outclasses VirtualBox in performance for Windows guests. But now I've got a Windows host.

The work i intend to do on Linux is largely graphical save for programming (I intend to use MyPaint and GIMP a lot and I'm also an indie game dev so i'll probably test run a few games on it that are graphically easy (like Visual Novels).

For hardware passthrough, since I'll be drawing some I need the VM to access my tablet, i doubt this is a problem for either one of the programs.

Memory isn't a problem, I could split 12 and 12 gigs between the two systems and never run out on either one. (But i'd probably do a 16/8 split instead)

So which virtualization software performs better on a Windows Host with a Linux Guest?

My guess is that it's VirtualBox, but i really just don't know.

As a side question, since I've got an i7 processor with 8 logical cores, i'd like to know how i should divide the processors between the systems, should i go 4/4 or 6/2 or maybe even 5/3? (Do i really need a lot of processing power for what i'll be doing in the linux guest)

  • I've tried Linux virtualization with VMWare-Player once before, i remember i had some minor problems getting the VMWare-Tools working on the Linux guest back then. I also remember that VMWare-Player seemed to only be made to support up to kernel 2.6 whereas I'll be using like 3.12. – Cestarian Jan 29 '14 at 1:13
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    You should reconsider you question. Certain software like GIMP has native builds for Windows already, eliminating need for virtualization. – Steven Penny Jan 29 '14 at 1:17
  • It's not just the software i want to run, it's the linux environment that i'm after. And the programs i mentioned even if they have windows ports work better in linux than they do on windows. For example, MyPaint on windows is V 1.0 but on linux it's 1.1, and Gimp is known for having small issues with windows since both these programs were initially designed for linux, not windows. – Cestarian Jan 29 '14 at 1:21
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    Do you have a source for that claim? I doubt a virtualized Linux GIMP would outperform a native Windows GIMP. – Steven Penny Jan 29 '14 at 1:22
  • I don't have a source to support that claim except my own experience, Running MyPaint on windows i already hit a few minor glitches that i bet wouldn't be there in Linux, and i've used GIMP on both operating systems and it always felt better to use in linux than it does in windows, although it's perhaps not all too buggy in windows, it performs slower. To support my claims install GIMP and look at it's folder structure. There's a lot of linux mentality in there. As for whether a virtualized linux would run it better or not, there's no way to know unless i try. – Cestarian Jan 29 '14 at 1:25

I installed Arch-Linux on virtualbox, i've installed it on vmware player before and it was a pain to set up, but on virtualbox (although not easy, as is traditional for arch) it was much more straightforward.

The performance also seems slightly better than what i remember from VMware Player, and it should tell you something that when setting up a Linux VM in virtualbox it allows you to select a ton of distros, but in VMWare player it only has a handful of distros and "Other(Kernel 2.6.x)" or something like that. (Meaning that VMWare hasn't really been thinking much about linux guests for the past years I would assume)

Unless VMWare Player has some feature that VirtualBox doesn't that you want to use, I would go with Virtualbox. In some cases (arch for one) it's going to be easier to set up a Linux guest on it than VMWare, and there's a good chance it'll perform better too.

I didn't do any benchmarking or anything to support my theory, this is just based on my gut feelings, but no one else answered yet.

As a side note, to use a tablet on a virtual machine you need to disable mouse pointer emulation (if it's enabled) and passthrough the tablet (which means it cannot be used on the host OS unless you unplug it from the VM first, i imagine this can be done with a command easily)

Virtualbox supports 3D accelerated VMs, however you can only dedicate a small amount (128mb) of VRAM to it, this means that games (even something as simple as Visual Novels) are probably never going to run well in a standard virtualbox setup. I know VMWare beats Virtualbox in this area for windows, but i haven't tested it for linux so i can't judge which one is better if you want to do things like watch videos or play some low-end graphic games.

Short Answer: I feel that Virtualbox outperforms VMWare Player with Linux guests in almost all areas, but I didn't provide any proof (making this a rather mediocre answer, but better than no answer)

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