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Recommendations For Home Virtualization?

kdawson posted about 4 years ago | from the ganging-up dept.

Technology 384

An anonymous reader writes "I'll have to upgrade my home computers sometime in the next few months and I'm thinking it's time to swallow the virtualization pill. Besides the ease of switching between Windows and Ubuntu, I'm looking mainly for the ability to save machine state in order to be able to revert to a known working state. Googling turns up mostly guides from 2009 and earlier. Is VMWare ESX pretty much the way to go? Performance does matter — not for gaming but I am heavily into photography, so apps like Lightroom and Photoshop need to run well. Thanks for any insight."

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Well (-1, Troll)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about 4 years ago | (#33985572)

How much does one of those fancy Japanese sex/maid robots cost these days?

Re:Well (2, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | about 4 years ago | (#33985660)

That you want one that functions autonomously, or do you want a cardboard cutout?

See here for research [] ****

****Note: Sarcasm

Give VirtualBox a try! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33985602)

Re:Give VirtualBox a try! (1)

suso (153703) | about 4 years ago | (#33985658)

I second that. VirtualBox is pretty awesome.

Re:Give VirtualBox a try! (3, Informative)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 4 years ago | (#33986018)

I agree, VirtualBox is a lot easier to set up and run, is easy to maintain, and easy to move images between machines. It's what I've been recommending to everyone for a while now.

    He wants to run Photoshop and Lightroom in it though. I don't know how well that does with the virtualized video cards on any platform though. I know there are a lot of games I can't play in a virtualized environment, only for that reason. If I could, I wouldn't have a real Windows bootable partition at all.

Re:Give VirtualBox a try! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33986110)

Yea, I would claim he doesn't actually want to virtualize. It sounds cool, and it's fun, but running Lightroom and Photoshop on virtualized, consumer grade hardware is going to be an exercise in frustration.

Re:Give VirtualBox a try! (1)

wormwood_3 (1156915) | about 4 years ago | (#33985730)

I concur. I used VMware Workstation at work first, then tried out VirtualBox at home. It has served me well for easy creation and use of Ubuntu, CentOS, Vista and XP VMs. Doesn't include every possible bell and whistle, but does what I need and does it well. Also free!

Re:Give VirtualBox a try! (1)

Toe, The (545098) | about 4 years ago | (#33985776)

It is also evolving very rapidly. It was recently nothing. Now it is climbing up to at least as good as the commercial products, in a much shorter time-frame than they did.

Re:Give VirtualBox a try! (1)

risingfish (1386539) | about 4 years ago | (#33985866)

I concur. Been using VirtualBox for a couple years now. There's nothing better for a fully cross platform solution.

Re:Give VirtualBox a try! (1)

Klync (152475) | about 4 years ago | (#33985972)

Thread over. We have a winner. OP said s/he wasn't interested in 3d gfx, so the matter is settled. :D

Re:Give VirtualBox a try! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33986214)

Thread over. We have a winner. OP said s/he wasn't interested in 3d gfx, so the matter is settled. :D

And your point is...? A lot of folks (myself included), would jump at the opportunity to convert their Windows install to a VM if the 3D support for whatever games and apps was there. I've got a pile of games that are completely unplayable with the laughable 3D support in these VMs, and, no, dual-booting is not an option because having to reboot my computer to play a game and rebooting when I'm done is a kludge that I shouldn't have to live with in this day and age. Yeah, stuff like Crossover works to a point, but full-on virtualization will take care of a lot of the gaps in the apps they can support (of course, cross-platform apps would alleviate all of those problems, but that's another discussion for another thread).

Re:Give VirtualBox a try! (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 4 years ago | (#33986172)

Yep. About the only negative about VB is that its USB-emulation speed is pants. We tested that here at work and VMware is about 10x faster when accessing hard drives via its emulated USB.

Re:Give VirtualBox a try! (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 4 years ago | (#33986222)

Yup Go with VirtualBox. If performance is a worry solve it with hardware.
The new AMD G34 Opterons with 8 cores are under $300 and you can get a mother board for it for not much more. They will support high end video cards as well.
Before Anyone gets too bent over the price of hardware I am suggesting it is about the same as the price of the software he is using.
Also load it with RAM and you will be good to go. []
And for the CPU []
The price on the new G34 CPUs are so low now that building a workstation class machine is getting down right affordable.

One acronym: KVM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33985614)

KVM is the future for linux. RHEL6 is dumping Xen, and VMWare is OK if you can afford ESXi

Re:One acronym: KVM (1)

fsiefken (912606) | about 4 years ago | (#33985710)

There's a free VMWare baremetal hypervisor based on ESXi, works ok.

Re:One acronym: KVM (1)

jtdennis (77869) | about 4 years ago | (#33985924)

it's actually the full ESXi that's free now with the basic features. If you want things like clustering you can pay to enable those features.

Re:One acronym: KVM (4, Informative)

suso (153703) | about 4 years ago | (#33985738)

RHEL6 dumping Xen is actually a mistake. Not that KVM is bad, but Xen is actually really good and works well in production. The community is at fault for not trying to do more to integrate Xen into the kernel better.

But such is the way with open source. Dump a working solution in favor of an up and coming newbie with its own set of problems.

Re:One acronym: KVM (2, Interesting)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 4 years ago | (#33985804)

KVM isn't perfect, and does lack some of the polish and features of products like Xen and VMWare, but in raw performance it kicks serious ass. However, it is not as easy as Virtualbox, so for home or desktop virtualization, VirtualBox gets my vote.

Re:One acronym: KVM (2, Informative)

Bert64 (520050) | about 4 years ago | (#33985966)

Take a look at proxmox (, it provides a simple to install distribution bundled with kvm and a gui to manage it from...

It's aimed at server virtualisation which doesn't seem to be what the original poster wanted, but then he mentioned vmware esx which is also a server oriented hypervisor so who knows.


GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | about 4 years ago | (#33985976)

Frankly, RedHat isn't Linux. They have never been, and they wont ever. RedHat is dumping Xen, ok ... But even if IBM (and a bit of RedHat) is working on KVM, so is Intel, Oracle, Samsung, Fujitsu and others working on Xen.

KVM is in mainline kernel? Well, so is domU support. And dom0 in mainline kernel support is slowly becoming a reality as well. Patches after patches, it's upstreaming.

RedHat is dumping Xen? Well, how long is this going to be sustainable when it's going to be directly available as an option to tick in your "make menuconfig"? Will they be so stupid as to REFUSE to integrate RPMs with the userland tools and hypervisor? What's going to say Oracle about this, when they recommend (and even ship) Oracle virtual machines?

Please stop cut/pasting things about RedHat dumping Xen, WE DON'T CARE ABOUT REDHAT (MISS-)COMMUNICATION !!!


geekoid (135745) | about 4 years ago | (#33986102)

You really don't understand linux.


armanox (826486) | about 4 years ago | (#33986180)

For many of the world Red Hat is Linux. Including Oracle.

VitrtuaBox (5, Informative)

mattver2 (1896634) | about 4 years ago | (#33985632)

I have used VirtualBox quite a bit and I find it completely satisfactory. I have run both Win XP on Ubuntu hosts and Ubunutu on Win XP hosts and it has always worked very well. [] I think it would do everything you want.

Re:VitrtuaBox (3, Insightful)

siride (974284) | about 4 years ago | (#33985684)

I've used a Windows XP VM on both Windows 7 as host and Linux. Works great in both, although it feels snappier in the Linux host. It's more than adequate for relatively recent hardware. It actually worked quite well back on my ThinkPad T43 (I have a T500 now) and that was without VT-x and friends.

Re:VitrtuaBox (3, Interesting)

prefect42 (141309) | about 4 years ago | (#33985688)

+1 for VirtualBox. Why you'd use ESX I have no idea. I'd probably second choice VMWare Server, which is also free and works equally well.

Re:VitrtuaBox (4, Informative)

MBGMorden (803437) | about 4 years ago | (#33985890)

If your'e looking to have a specialized server that ONLY hosts VM's, then there is some merit to running ESXi. It's free too, and the resource footprint is pretty small. Personally, I would only use VirtualBox or VMWare Server in cases where I still wanted to use the machine running the VM's as a desktop in it's own right. Otherwise, ESXi is the way to go. That said, I DO use my home desktop to serve VM's in addition to regular desktop usage, so it runs Virtualbox :). I use ESXi for virtualizing servers at work though.

Re:VitrtuaBox (2, Interesting)

jtdennis (77869) | about 4 years ago | (#33985968)

I use ESXi on a box at home to host about 6 VMs. the base OS is about 70MB so it's got a tiny footprint on the server and most of the resources go to the VMs. For a dedicated box it's a great solution. For running VMs on a computer that's doing more than that VirtualBox is great.

Re:VitrtuaBox (1)

prefect42 (141309) | about 4 years ago | (#33986034)

Absolutely, that makes perfect sense if you're talking about dedicated boxes, but that doesn't sound like it's the case here.

Re:VitrtuaBox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33985698)

With virtualbox one can not make USB devices visible to the guest OS (no atleast with the free version). If that is not required, I'd recommend VirtualBox also. Other alternatives are Xen, Vmware and KVM.

Re:VitrtuaBox (1)

gothzilla (676407) | about 4 years ago | (#33985756)

I use USB with virtual box all the time. If it doesn't work automatically just map it as a shared folder.

Re:VitrtuaBox (1)

GooberToo (74388) | about 4 years ago | (#33986140)

That's great if your USB device is a drive. There are many other types of USB devices than just drives.

Re:VitrtuaBox (1)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | about 4 years ago | (#33986156)

Not all USB devices are storage devices... I'm assuming GP might be referring to things like scanners, USB audio products, maybe gamepads... etc. Unless there's some way to map my audio interface as a folder...? (And yes I have had to do this, I run a Win 7 host, but there is some audio analysis software that I use for EQing live systems that won't run on anything higher than Windows XP. In order to grab the proper audio input and output (via my USB audio interface which provides, among other things, phantom power to microphones), I need to have it detected as a USB device in the virtual OS (in this case XP), install the drivers, etc. Of course "Windows XP mode" works good enough for my purposes... though it's insanely slow, takes forever to launch, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone doing anything more than once every 3 months.)

Re:VitrtuaBox (1)

hufman (1670590) | about 4 years ago | (#33986040)

Both editions of VirtualBox are free. The Open Source Edition doesn't come with USB or RDP support.

Re:VitrtuaBox (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | about 4 years ago | (#33986182)

Virtual box USB is specifically included in the free but closed source version. They also have an open source version you can compile yourself, but that doesn't include the USB sub-system.

Re:VitrtuaBox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33985800)

Seconded - it's great for running networking/security laboration. Supposedly it has support for HW graphics accelleration using guest tools, but I've not tested that.

Re:VitrtuaBox (1)

Megahard (1053072) | about 4 years ago | (#33985814)

Me too. You will want a 64-bit host with plenty of memory, no matter which VM program you use.

Re:VirtualBox (2, Informative)

SunSpot505 (1356127) | about 4 years ago | (#33985818)

Second Virtual Box, however..... OP may want to note that there is limited graphics drivers support. I am able to run Photoshop CS3 in my Win XP VB install, however I would caution recommending it if you (both) use it professionally and do things that rely on GPU acceleration. VB does support pass-through 2d and 3d support, but I'm not sure how to enable that, the option has always been grayed out for me. I run AMD, you may need nVidia drivers. I have heard rumblings too that Windows after XP doesn't work so swell due to the way windows validates its key at startup. Do your research, but this may be a problem for you too.

Hardware wise, I recommend a quad core and at least 6-8 gb of RAM. You can get by with a dual-core and 4gb, and I did for years, but the price of an amd quadcore is so low these days, there's no excuse not to.

Re:VitrtuaBox (1)

the_rajah (749499) | about 4 years ago | (#33985828)

Me, too... I use Virtualbox both ways, as well. XP hosted on an Ubuntu machine so I can run Quickbooks for my home business and, here at the office, I run Ubuntu hosted on XP so I can have Linux goodness for my web browsing safety.

I'm posting this reply using Ubuntu 10.4 on XP Pro SP3 running on a Core2Duo with 3 GB of RAM. It works on Win7, too.

Get as much memory as you can for best performance. The minimum machine I've run it on is a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 with 2 GB of RAM shared evenly between the host and hosted OSs.

Re:VitrtuaBox (2, Informative)

jandrese (485) | about 4 years ago | (#33985832)

I've been pretty happy with VirtualBox too, however, there is one big caveat: The 3D support is really fragmentary and doesn't really do much of anything useful yet. For Photoshop and Lightroom you might be able to get by for now, but those are the kind of apps that are on the cusp of using CUDA and related technologies to speed up processing in the future.

There are a couple of other caveats to it as well. It doesn't handle USB devices as nicely as VMWare (I was able to run USB EVDO cards from inside of a VM with VMWare for instance, and VirtualBox doesn't appear to have anything similar to that at all), and anything that requires a lot of I/O is going to suffer because that's where VMs always suffer.

Re:VitrtuaBox (1)

houghi (78078) | about 4 years ago | (#33986080)

I use VirtualBox as well on my openSUSE. Nice thing is that when I install a new openSUSE on the Virtualbox, it will install all extra guest stuff to have everything integrated already with standard installations.

workstation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33985636)

ESX is for server virtualization. Go with VMWare Workstation.

VirtualBox and/or KVM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33985662)

Just swallowed the virt pill myself. So far, as far as free as in beer goes, i've tried VirtualBox and KVM. Both seem to do the job, but VirtualBox has a handy no brainer gui, a "seamless" mode that shows only app windows, and some other tricks that I'm not sure KVM has. Performance on both is good to excellent.

Don't do it (5, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 4 years ago | (#33985664)

You won't be happy scrolling around a big image within a VM - the graphics performance just isn't there. It will work OK, but you'll always wish you were running natively.

I use VMWare Workstation for much of each day to run MS Office Apps, and it's very useful - but no VM performs well graphically.

Re:Don't do it (2, Informative)

davidbrit2 (775091) | about 4 years ago | (#33985722)

This. If you're doing heavy photo manipulation, virtualization isn't for you. Just put all your data on a separate drive so if you need to wipe/reinstall the OS, you won't lose anything important. Then you can also use the Previous Versions feature in Windows 7 to roll back any data files you accidentally hose.

Re:Don't do it (1)

chomsky68 (1719996) | about 4 years ago | (#33985780)

I use VMWare Workstation for much of each day to run MS Office Apps, and it's very useful - but no VM performs well graphically.

I agree. If you want to run Lightroom and Photoshop properly, then go native.

Re:Don't do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33985792)

I've setup a VM machine in my house an I love it. How often do you scroll around a big image? Obviously you can't play games or watch HD video, but for the majority of stuff I do it's been great and makes my life a lot easier.

Re:Don't do it (3, Informative)

bsDaemon (87307) | about 4 years ago | (#33985888)

You're right in principle, however if he uses Windows as the host OS, then he can run his image software natively, then run Linux in the VM.

Re:Don't do it (1)

deviceb (958415) | about 4 years ago | (#33985998)

I second that.
Photoshop CS5 on 64bit Windows 7 ftw! As stated above, even with hardware acceleration enabled in VMWare, you still will not attain that pure smooth scaling/moving around of large image works. DirectX 9.0c is available but will not run-

VMWare Server is free and will run your VMs like services -auto load, boot order and all that.
WMWare Workstation is the easiest to use many machines at once. drag & drop in and out of VMs.
Virtualbox i prefer if the host OS is linux
ESXi with vSphere is great for servers.. but you will miss your choice OS sitting on the hardware vs the hypervisor..

Re:Don't do it (1)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | about 4 years ago | (#33986020)

Bullshit. Virtualbox translates d3d calls into OpenGL, and it's really fast. You can play video in fullscreen on a 1080p resolution, and if your video board is good, it's going to be fast in Virtualbox too.

Re:Don't do it (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | about 4 years ago | (#33986104)

Run the video/RAM/CPU intensive graphics application on the host OS. Suspend the VMs first; then restore when you are done with the graphics work. Then the choice of VM platform is irrelevant since you won't require specialized hardware support for applications in the VM.

Use the VM for all those other dangerous apps such as Web Browsing, email, Facebroke, Flitter, hosting a web server, etc.

Re:Don't do it (1)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | about 4 years ago | (#33986124)

I have tried photoshop in a VM with large images and it is awful to work with. I also process video and rendering in a VM is pathetic. VM has it's place, but not in any serious media production environment.

Re:Don't do it (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33986134)

VM->Settings->Display->Accelerate 3D graphics

This will enable all sorts of DirectDraw/GDI+ and Direct3D APIs that (I'm assuming) your "big image" programs are using.

If you have a decent video card then performance should not be an issue. Even 720p youtube clips are smooth.

Re:Don't do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33986208)

This is exactly what I used to think. But nowadays I do quite heavy graphics work (150mb+ tiff files) at the office in a virtualized environment. It works alsmost as expected on a decent workstation, sometimes doing extremely detailed work at 1600% zoom level can be tricky (noticeable mouse lag), but the overall performance is quite nice.
I don't know the details behind the system, but I believe they are using some kind of xen combined with thin clients. I heard the servers are pretty ridiculously fast, but there are always a bunch of active clients. With a decent server it must be possible at home.

tl,dr; it can be done.

Your budget? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33985668)

I only have to do the things you mention occasionally. I use VMWare Fusion on my MacBook Pro (running OSX) and it works well for me. YMMV.

ESX is Not for Home (1)

dgower2 (1487929) | about 4 years ago | (#33985670)

ESX is what an enterprise uses to have mass virtualization of many servers. For a home user, you only need Workstation and the hardware will determine the performance. Or you could just go with Microsoft's free virtualization software.

Re:ESX is Not for Home (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | about 4 years ago | (#33986072)

On the other hand, last time I checked, ESX was free, also, VMware Server was free too.

Why would server virtualization not work for home? I use WMware Server, but for, well, virtual servers and it works OK. I don't see why desktop use would be a problem.

A few suggestsions (3, Informative)

pehrs (690959) | about 4 years ago | (#33985700)

For stable server virtualization vmWare ESXi is pretty much the king at the moment, unless you want to pay an insane amount. It's free (as in beer) stable, easy to manage, fast and scalable. Sadly the management tools are windows only, I highly recommend it, if you have suitable hardware.

For workstations it's a bit less clearcut. Generally you want a primary OS in your workstation where you do most of your work, and secondary OS that you boot up in a virtualized environment. The three primary choises are KVM, XEN and OpenVS. They all have performance penalties, and I am not aware of any clear cut advantage for any of the three. I would suggest you go with what is default in your favourite linux distribution, as maintaining virtualization infrastructure isn't an especially fun task.

Re:A few suggestsions (1)

codepunk (167897) | about 4 years ago | (#33985826)

"Sadly the management tools are windows only"

I would not know about the windows management tools I only use the command line tools so your statement is not entirely true.

Re:A few suggestsions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33986000)

it's getting old fast to manually set up vnc in the .vmx files for every single vm, so managing it from windows is highly desirable.

Re:A few suggestsions (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 4 years ago | (#33986036)

How do you configure the system initially, and actually get a console on one of the guest OS?

Re:A few suggestsions (1)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | about 4 years ago | (#33986118)

For stable server virtualization vmWare ESXi is pretty much the king at the moment

As in, "others aren't stable" ??? COME ON ! Have a try with Xen and Virtualbox (I know KVM less), and see how stable they are. vmWare isn't more stable, it can't be, as others are so stable AS WELL. We (at GPLHost) have some Xen servers that have been running for YEARS without a single blip (we only reboot them when we see a kernel issue that could affect the dom0, which is pretty rare).

IMHO, Xen is not adapted to workstation. It works best in server environment. Virtualbox, with it's very nice GUI, feels nicer on the desktop (pointers to a good Xen GUI anyone?). Also, the Virtualbox seemless mode is just so great ! No issue with mouse clicks and the like anymore, resolution changes in windows on the fly, d3d calls redirected to OpenGL, etc.

ESXi (1)

broKenfoLd (755627) | about 4 years ago | (#33985702)

ESXi is free these days, it seems like a good option. If you are just looking to virtualize desktops, though, look elsewhere.

Desktop virtualization? (5, Insightful)

hjf (703092) | about 4 years ago | (#33985712)

You mean desktop virtualization? Do you need to run 2+ OSes at the same time? That's what virtualization is for. Or do you need to just suspend and restore states? You can get away with hibernation for that. Or do you mean go back in time to a known working configuration? Windows can do that (System Restore), but I don't really see why you would need that on your main machine. If you're trying stuff out, you should try it inside the VM anyway (you use Workstation or VirtualBox for that).

ESX is nice, but it's not what you think. You don't get a local console (last time I checked, anyway), you're supposed to access it from SSH or VNC. It also designed for datacenter stuff (like SAS disks and controllers. It doesn't support IDE for example). You're looking for VMWare Workstation (Paid) or VirtualBox (free for non-commercial use), which are pretty fast. Paravirtualization (ESX or XEN) will give ~98% speed on Linux (on a PV kernel) and Windows only works well if you use GPLPV drivers, otherwise is slow as hell.

I'd just recommemd you stay away from virtualization if you're just a desktop user. Unless you're trying out shareware/malware/stuff that can break your install. If you're upgrading, why not use the old machine to try ESX, XEN and other stuff and figure out yourself how you want to use it? Stick to dual-boot for now.

Re:Desktop virtualization? (2, Informative)

powerlord (28156) | about 4 years ago | (#33985882)

I'll second ESX being a SERVER VIRTUALIZATION ONLY. We use it at work, and it doesn't give you a "Desktop". You need to use RDC, or SSH (or direct connect through their Windows client) to get a desktop on the Virtual Machines.

As far as DESKTOP VMs solutions:
I just did a migration of my wife from her XP machine to a new Windows 7 machine (hey, she wants/needs it for her work, I'm happier with Linux/OSX, so to each their own :) ). As part of the migration I turned her old XP laptop into a VM, and installed it on her new Win7 machine w/VMWare Player which is FREE (as in beer), (although I hear VMWare Server is also now).

I've been using VMWare Fusion on my OSX installation and its been great (running both Linux and Windows), but I haven't done anything in terms of Photo work.

Since VMWare DOES have a FREE option to try it (their Converter and Player), you might want to give it a shot and see how well/poorly a VM will do what you want (I'd also suggest Converting the image to a USB drive so the image doesn't need to include a copy of itself :) ).

Re:Desktop virtualization? (1)

Ash Vince (602485) | about 4 years ago | (#33986186)

I'll second ESX being a SERVER VIRTUALIZATION ONLY. We use it at work, and it doesn't give you a "Desktop". You need to use RDC, or SSH (or direct connect through their Windows client) to get a desktop on the Virtual Machines.

ESXi 4.02 seems to have a console tab in the vSphere client that contradicts this statement unless I am misunderstanding you.

The only problem I have with ESXi is its piss poor handling of USB disks. For me this would rule it out as desktop virtualisation platform.

Re:Desktop virtualization? (1)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | about 4 years ago | (#33986160)

Windows only works well if you use GPLPV drivers, otherwise is slow as hell..

Actually, you can now use the Citrix paravirtualized drivers for windows too, which are of better quality (they are now open source as well).

the new ver's of Photoshop does use video cards (2, Informative)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 4 years ago | (#33985714)

the new ver's of Photoshop does use video cards for speed up. You can make images and save the VM over head and have the easy fall back.

Re:the new ver's of Photoshop does use video cards (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 4 years ago | (#33985870)

I got go with the dual boot as well. I have some graphics customers and the penalty for using heavy apps like PS in a VM just ain't worth it. The new PS as you said does GPU offloading, and losing that via VM slows the process down enough it would be quicker to simply reboot into Windows and do the job.

After trying VMs with several graphics apps my customers chose dual booting (one even deciding to keep two machines and just had me set up a KVM and file sharing between them) simply because VMs just aren't made for graphics intensive apps. Maybe in the future they'll have it down, but even then I doubt it'll work with Windows apps, as they don't pass out custom paravirtualized kernels for desktop stuff.

Re:the new ver's of Photoshop does use video cards (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 4 years ago | (#33986084)

Modern versions of KVM allow you to pass through PCI devices to a guest OS, would this work installing a secondary videocard in the host system and passing it to the guest?

Experience with IOMMU? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 4 years ago | (#33985728)

I'd like to run a virtualized copy of windows with direct hardware access (passthrough) to my video card - for games and bluray playback.
I've seen a couple of messages talking about it, but not much in the way of a guide or a list of gotchas.

In my experience, don't. (2, Insightful)

BobMcD (601576) | about 4 years ago | (#33985732)

Your question gives me pause on a few different levels:

A) You're not familiar with this technology. This is probably not the best way to get indoctrinated with VM's.

B) Other options for 'ease of switching' exist, like a KVM, Wubi, etc. These are likely to give you a more satisfactory result.

C) "Performance does matter" - yeah, no. Nobody uses VM's to increase their performance. They use them to save money, increase density, etc.

The tech is cool and has a number of really novel applications, but 'home use' and 'performance' are probably not among them unless you're some kind of super nerd. And if you were, you'd be too busy trying things out to spend time asking slashdot... :)

Re:In my experience, don't. (1)

hsmith (818216) | about 4 years ago | (#33985950)

I absolutely use VMs to increase my performance. It allows me to develop on my laptop, have two VMs running doing server tasks - anywhere at anytime, a connection or none. I can be writing iPhone/Android code on OS X - be developing my server component in Windows on a 2008 VM and using a SQL Server VM to store the data, just like my production environment.


Re:In my experience, don't. (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 4 years ago | (#33986032)

Homonyms are fun! 'Your performance' is not equivalent to the performance of your hardware, and I assume you well know that.

Re:In my experience, don't. (1)

cduffy (652) | about 4 years ago | (#33986086)

If you read the parent the way their statement was clearly meant, it would have been more like the following:

"Nobody uses VMs to improve their systems' performance" ...and it would be true. Your comment is interesting and useful, sure -- but accusing someone of "hogwash" based on a clear misreading is going a bit far.

Re:In my experience, don't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33985964)

This is probably not the best way to get indoctrinated with VM's

A n00b wanting to get into virtualization, using their own home hardware, is not the best way to get indoctrinated? Please, tell me what is in that case. Putzing around with technology at your own leasure at home seems the best way to go about it.

Re:In my experience, don't. (1)

BobMcD (601576) | about 4 years ago | (#33986054)

I guess I just didn't read it that way. Again, though, if he was 'just putzing' then why ask. Just do it. No, it seemed more important to the poster than just a throw-away hobby project. But again, maybe I read that into it.

Re:In my experience, don't. (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 years ago | (#33985990)

One example of where VM might "improve performance" is if you are trying to share one very powerful box rather than having a less powerful box run your other OS. In this situation, it's quite possible that even for computationally intensive tasks that you would be better off running in a VM. It all depends on what the landscape looks like.

Ultimately, you will have to try it out for yourself and see how it works.

Unless someone here has already done what you're asking about, they're just shooting in the dark with any suggestions they might make.

Re:In my experience, don't. (3, Insightful)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 4 years ago | (#33986042)

A) You're not familiar with this technology. This is probably not the best way to get indoctrinated with VM's.

Quite the opposite. its how I always learned the ins, outs and plain 'don't do this again-ness' of various computer systems. The alternative is to read the documentation and find out what the manufacturer wanted you to learn.

Still, IO and Gfx performance is not something a VM is good at. Did I mention I also learn a lot by reading slashdot? :)

Re:In my experience, don't. (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 years ago | (#33986122)

Getting current information on a subject is how a nerd should start any endeavorer. That way you move on instead of repeat discoveries.

VMWare rocks for video (2, Interesting)

FranTaylor (164577) | about 4 years ago | (#33985740)

I'm running 64-bit linux host with VMware Workstation and a Windows XP guest.

Performance all around is very very good. If you full screen the guest, you can't tell that it's running virtual unless you check for the VMware icon.

Video performance is OUTSTANDING, essentially native. Netflix videos play full screen with very little CPU overhead.

Suspend and resume can be slow if your guest has lots of RAM.

I recommend using XFS for the filesystem containing your VMware images. I've tried other filesystems but nothing can touch XFS when it comes to handling those enormous virtual disk files.

Re:VMWare rocks for video (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 4 years ago | (#33986206)

Its true, but only with the latest VMWare Workstation (7.1), which is not one of their freebie offerings. Its not too expensive though. []

VMware Workstation was the first to support 3D graphics in virtualized environments and is now the first to support Windows Aero in Windows Vista and Windows 7 virtual machines. Run even more 3D applications with support for DirectX 9.0c Shader Model 3 and OpenGL 2.13D graphics in Windows virtual machines.

Virtualbox (3, Informative)

mejustme (900516) | about 4 years ago | (#33985744)

More specifically, the PUEL edition of VirtualBox directly from the VirtualBox web site. Don't bother with the version available through the app repository. VirtualBox is great at releasing bug fixes every 1 or 2 months, the PUEL edition will give you all the extra bits like USB and 2D/3D acceleration. I left the various VMWare products behind many years ago and migrated to VirtualBox both at home and at work, and today I still think I made the right decision.

Linux, KVM and virt-tools (1)

Richard W.M. Jones (591125) | about 4 years ago | (#33985796)

I've been writing a lot of documentation for Linux virt-tools here [] .


ESXi is cool, Consider nComputing too (1)

d2tw4all (1440861) | about 4 years ago | (#33985812)

I use ESX to consolidate different servers and test environments at home so I don't have to pay a huge power bill for lots of boxes. The issue you may encounter there is performance, and with ESX the backend is dedicated to VM's and you can only access them from a different device as a frontend. VMWare workstation is fine if you are looking to do everything locally on a machine. The other thing to consider is nComputing's zero client solutions, I have used them for both business and home use, the L300 is a pretty sweet solution and will work on both windows and linux platforms. You can also combine nComputing and VM's on ESX which is how I've done it, it's a pretty sweet setup.

VirtualBox for Free, VMWare for fee (1)

Fusione (980444) | about 4 years ago | (#33985860)

VMWare ESXi is a fantastic free product for server virtualization, but since it needs to go through the network, graphic performance will leave something to be desired.. you need a seperate dedicated machine to run it as well. While you have many options, in my experience the best ones for desktop virtualization are: VMWare Workstation $$ Polished Oracle/Sun VirtualBox Free Fast graphics performance (my subjective experience) They're close to each other in terms of performance, with VirtualBox feeling a bit more snappy.. but VMWare is more mature and polished. Little things like copy/paste sync between the guest virtual machine and the host that make working with it much more pleasant. I have both setup, and I end up using VMWare 95% of the time due in a big part to the copy/paste sync. I'm running Windows 7 on all machines, both Guest and Host.. so YMV under ubuntu.

Virtulize what? (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 4 years ago | (#33985904)

Servers or desktops are very different. There are plenty of server virt bits out there but for exporting desktops you pretty much looking at vnc or rdp screens so a pretty basic frame buffer, I don't think any of them will provide much performance in pushing the pixels.

Google tip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33985912)

Googling turns up mostly guides from 2009 and earlier.

Click on "More search tools" and then click on "Past year". You're welcome.

linux KVM ftw (1)

bl8n8r (649187) | about 4 years ago | (#33985918)

I tried vmware and it just pissed me off everytime there was an OS kernel update. Would have to recompile the vmware modules and half the time they wouldn't work. The last straw with vmware was clock skew problems on the guests. I had to practically sync the clock every *minute* in order to keep the guest clock from getting out of whack. Even using Chrony didn't keep it synced well. VMware had a lot of messages on it's forum about the problem but never did anything about it.

I use Linux KVM now and will never go back to closed source crap. They can keep their black boxes, I don't want them. If you install Linux virt-manager, you get a nice gui for managing your guests (if GUI is your gig) and if you are CLI crackhead, then you can use virsh or numerous other command line utils to manage things.

Frankly, there's no reason I can see to use closed source virtualization. It's just too much of a headache.

Recommendations For Home Virtualization? (1)

human-cyborg (450395) | about 4 years ago | (#33985934)

I tried living in a virtualized home once, but I found the insulation to be quite insubstantial. Made for some particularly chilly winters.

Now chili winters on the other hand, those are nice.

Depends on your hardware and guest OS's (1)

Dishwasha (125561) | about 4 years ago | (#33985936)

I heavily use virtualization both at work and home. I originally had an ESXi 3.5 server at home but my RAID controller was an Areca ARC-1170 which is not on the VMWare Hardware Compatibility Guide [] so after reviewing the off-the-shelf community [] help I learned how to roll my own oem.tgz to include the drivers. The system worked for a while but I then started to experience a lot of stability issues so I switch to KVM running on Fedora.

Unfortunately KVM on Fedora has had a lot of issues with the virt-manager being stable. Right now I'm on Fedora 13 and every time I open the console on virt-manager for a specific VM it causes X to crash and reload. If I boot the VM up from scratch with the console open it's less buggy. I actually had this problem originally on Fedora 11 and am still experiencing it with 13 even from a fresh reload. Fortunately it's not really an issue for me because I can just ssh or use XMing [] to send my X related apps.

The biggest issue with virtualization is that host memory is your most precious resource. To solve this problem, OS drivers can be installed to support memory ballooning. What memory ballooning does is make sure the guest OS frees up memory resources it is not using to the host. If you're running a lot of Microsoft Windows I definitely recommend ESXi since there are no good memory ballooning drivers available in KVM or Xen and really no roadmap for it. If you're running a lot of Linux I highly recommend KVM since current distros already have the kernel features that make memory more efficient. In fact, it is advantageous to run a homogenous distribution (i.e. all distro-X version Y) because the latest kernels have memory deduplication which will cause memory pages that are the same to be only stored once.

Think about a Mac (1)

Yrrebnarg (629526) | about 4 years ago | (#33985996)

If running photo manipulation apps and snapshots/continuous backups are your goal, give some serious thought to switching to a Mac. Time Machine works relatively well, especially when you're doing it to a NAS sitting on your network. Backups happen frequently without any involvement from you, and restoring to a more civilized time is painless. Virtualizing Windows or Ubuntu is easy with Parallels and VMWare and performance is fairly good, but you can go native if you need/want to. If latency is important (and it is if you're doing GUI interaction), you really don't want to use a VM for everything.

a simple answer (2, Informative)

carlosap (1068042) | about 4 years ago | (#33986014)

Dont do it. And dont ask. Photoshop will always use all avaiable power, and thats good, fast rendering, etc. If your time is like gold dont vm it

Best thing I ever did (3, Informative)

digitalhermit (113459) | about 4 years ago | (#33986094)

I'm running multiple VM systems including VMWare Server, VMWare ESX, VMWare Workstation, xen, KVM and VirtualBox.

VMWare Server is going away and sort of a pain to manage. However, it was free and worked decently. I have since replaced it with VMWare Workstation on my desktop and laptop systems. I use VirtualBox on my Mac laptop because it's free and was the easiest/cheapest to get going.

On my servers I am running VMWare ESX, xen and KVM on AMD systems (mostly dual core, but a couple quad core systems in the mix).

VMWare ESX was the most finicky as to installation but has been pretty simple to manage. The remote console options are simple. The VSphere management client is Windows only though. There is support for command line administration, but it's somewhat of a bear. You can script around it though and many people have done so and provide scripts online. Check out the VMWare community pages. Support is so so..

Xen was my workhorse for the longest time, but since my primary OS is RedHat/CentOS and RH is moving towards KVM, I've also been moving to KVM. The GUI management tools work fine, but are not as polished as VMWare ESX. However, it very much makes up for it in being able to do just about everything from the command line. I can deploy an image with a single command and this works wonderfully for testing. Performance is awesome with both xen and KVM. Well, the caveat is that some network intensive stuff seems to be bottlenecking somewhere, but it only has a single gigabit NIC across 8 VMs. I'll be adding another NIC in the next couple weeks and either bonding the adapter or just splitting them up.

Be aware that client/guest images generally do not have video acceleration so many games will fail to load. If you're running VMWare Workstation on a laptop, or the more recent KVMs then there is some measure of acceleration, but not 100%. Also, sound can be finicky especially across the network.

+1 for VirtualBox (1)

Bretski (312912) | about 4 years ago | (#33986096)

Now if I could just find a way to virtualize my mom's Mac OS X 10.3. Her 10+ year-old G4 is going to die some day. I don't think the hackintosh will work on an OS X that old, will it? Needs to keep compatibility with OS 9/Carbon for PageMaker. She doesn't like change.

Oh - G4 - no hackintosh - duh. (1)

Bretski (312912) | about 4 years ago | (#33986188)

Oh - G4 - no hackintosh - duh.

Tips based on my experience (2, Informative)

maxxjr (1926944) | about 4 years ago | (#33986106)

I have done something similar. Some points. 1. First pay attention to what CPU you get. Some Intel CPU's do not support VT extensions. Most AMD CPU's do. 2. I have always found better performance if the VM virtual disks were on their own disks vs. the OS, and then vs. each other, if possible. 3. I have used Photoshop on a Windows VM with VMware Workstation, and did not see graphics performance issues as described. VMware workstation is not free, but is not too $$$, and has some nice features vs. the free options from VMware. 4. Lots of RAM!!! 5. If you use an option like VirtualBox or VMware workstation that runs on top of an OS, I preferred and went with a Linux Host over Windows, mainly due to stability and CONTROL. Once installed, I did not do ANYTHING with or to the host OS. If I needed Linux, I would run a Linux VM. I also used a lighter window manager (XFCE) for host OS, removed unneeded services, etc. 6. I did run Samba and NFS on the Host OS to share files between.

KVM, its the future. (1)

inhuman_4 (1294516) | about 4 years ago | (#33986126)

I have been using KVM [] on my home workstation for a few months now and I can highly recommend it. I typically use it for testing different linux distros, files systems, server configurations, etc.

If your system supports VT-x or the AMD equivalent the performance is very impressive, almost no noticeable difference. The virt-manager [] produced by Red Hat makes creating and configuring virtual machines a snap with its friendly user interface.

It supports many useful things like, headless VNC mode (defaut), start on boot, cloning, virtual networks, and so on. However if you are using it for graphics you may want to use the virtualbox style display for faster mouse response, just select it from the list.

It's opensource so it costs you nothing to try it and the current Ubuntu kernels have support for it built in. For me it was a simple apt-get to get started.

Yet another fan of vbox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33986142)

I run VirtualBox on my server, where I use NX to bring up the main (server's) desktop and then the various VM's I have running. Most importantly to me this offloads the VM's from my laptop in an organized fashion. Nothing stops me from running NX/ssh on the VM's themselves, but I like doing things this way.

I'll second what most have said, but also mention (1)

nizo (81281) | about 4 years ago | (#33986184)

...Acronis. You can use it to image a machine, so that you can easily restore it to a known working state again later, even on different hardware. I'm a big fan of trayless disk caddies too, so you could have something like this: [] that would let you swap disks in and out easily. I like it because not only can I upgrade my machine on a new disk with no chance of thrashing my currently working machine, but I can also use the additional tray slots for imaging my machine as well.

That said, I've used an older version of photoshop in a virtual machine running under ubuntu with VMPlayer and it worked great. Virtualbox is an apt-get away and so far has been working great running Windows 7, but I haven't tried running Photoshop on it.

One option ... (1)

tgd (2822) | about 4 years ago | (#33986210)

If you are doing it just for OS state reasons, and you're using Windows, is to just run Windows 7 and boot from a differencing VHD, keeping your data files outside of it.

Its no more complex than safely using virtualization to do what you want (and ensuring you don't lose data on a revert) but you're running bare-metal. Virtualization doesn't buy you much if you're just doing a single OS.

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