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Thread: Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    31

    Question Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

    Hi. Long time since i posted here. I'm still using Ubuntu (now kubuntu 12.04) and i'm still dual-booting (now Win7). A couple days ago i rebooted 5 times just to switch OSs so i figured i would have to find a better option. I started looking at virtualization again. Years ago i decided it was a no-option because of poor performances. Now, things have changed with new virtualization options and better hardware.
    • I need as close to native speed as possible for Windows7 as well as it being able to use much ram. My most ressource heavy applications run in windows.
    • I'd like to re-use my existing windows install, or at least copy it entirely to the VM in a way that won't mess up with proprietary applications activation limits.
    • I would prefer to have Ubuntu be the host OS and win7 the guest. I don't like the idea of having Ubuntu depend on Windows to run.

    My hardware
    • Intell Core i5-2400 (quad core with VTx support)
    • 8 GB ram
    • 1 TB hard disk with several partitions
    • Asus P8P67-M PRO motherboard (i don't think it supports special virtualization features such as IOMMU but i'm not sure how to check it.

    I'd like to get the best possible configuration for running both OSs. I've already looked at several options. Probably i missed some :
    • Oracle VM Box running under Ubuntu : i fear Win7 will suffer from severe performance drops and i need power for Win7.
    • VirtualBox under Win7 (ubuntu as guest) : don't like it much.
    • coLinux based solution (andUbuntu & portable ubuntu). Ubuntu would depend on Win and those seem to be abandonware.
    • Cygwin : i would have to recompile Ubuntu. Ubuntu would run under Win7.
    • Hypervisor based install (xen, kvm, vmware vSphere). This is the option i'm most interested in. Xen claims for up to 95% native speed. However i have no experience with this sort of virtualization. Xen is currently my favorite as it's open source (unlike vSphere) and kvm looks like a strange beast running inside the linux kernell (i would guess it has lower speed but i may be wrong).

    Now, can someone tell me
    1. Is it possible to re-use an existing install of Win7 under Xen. If so, do i need it on a separate physical disc, or is a partitionned disc OK?
    2. If Win7 has it's own physical disc, is possible to use PCI passthrough to give direct access to this disc or is PCI passthrough limited to PCI cards?
    3. Is it possible to use GPU acceleration on Win without using VGA passthough? If i use VGA passthough i'll need a different graphic card for Ubuntu IIUC.
    4. Is it possible to share disc partition between virtual machines like i do for dual-boot?
    5. Is there a way to share the clipboard? Well, for this one i doubt it but i guess it would be theorically possible with some shared memory.
    6. Also, did i miss some better options?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Beans
    2

    Re: Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

    I have good experiences wih VirtualBox. I used W7 or XP to browse lame sites that required IE, Java or Flash, and re-set the VM after each use. As far as I remember, it can take disk partitions. If you want to share partitions between OS'es, you should mount them read only. Else, let one machne handle the partition, and then share it to the other(s). Clipboard works fine with VirtualBox and VmWare. (VmWare workstation 6 worked fine on Debian, but performance was so-so).

    Today I have mostely abadoned VirtualBox. I don't like the way Oracle run things, so now I use VmWare workstation 7 for full deskop virtualization. Under Debian, I was unable to run W7 smooth and flawless as a guest under VmWare. Curretly I use W7 as the host system (on my main laptop, a Thinkpad w520 / i7 quad core CPU / 16 GB RAM, SSD) and run Debian and Ubuntu as guests. They run at almost full speed - so I can easily develop relatively large projects in kdevelop, without noticing any overhead.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
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    Al Ain
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    7,899

    Re: Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

    Howdy,

    You can boot the present Windows partition using either Virtualbox or VMware. You don't actually need to re-install it.

    However, there are a few gotchas. For example, if you reboot into Windows, then the system activation may require you to register again. If you boot into Windows and suspend, then run it under Virtualbox, the file system will be corrupted, because the VM doesn't know that it was suspended (and vice versa), so you may lose some files. Therefore, in general, it is better to make a new VM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Nutley, NJ
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    551
    Distro
    Ubuntu 12.04 Precise Pangolin

    Re: Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

    The best practice would be to make a backup of your existing Microsoft Windows 7 partition as a safety precaution before you decide to do anything.

    The other best practice would be to install Microsoft Windows 7 in a guest virtual machine on the same PC. This will avoid many problems especially with suspend or hibernation or encryption.

    For your purposes, I would recommend that you purchase and install the latest version of VM Ware Workstation 9 64 bit. VM Ware Workstation 9 is compatible with Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, and 7 and GNU/Linux including Ubuntu 12.04.1 64 bit Long Term Service. I have VM Ware Workstation 8.0.4 64 bit installed on my Ubuntu 12.04.1 64 bit Long Term Service. VM Ware Workstation 9 will offer you near native performance on your PC for Microsoft Windows 7 32 or 64 bit in a guest virtual machine and it fully supports Aero features with 3D graphics hardware acceleration. It also supports USB, Firewire, eSATA, and PCI pass through. Finally, you can make backup snapshots of your guest virtual machines and you can encrypt them using AES CBC mode 256 bits 14 rounds for additional security.

    Oracle VM Virtualbox 4.1.22 64 bit is a good free and open source alternative and I use it for my Microsoft Windows 7 64 bit Ultimate Edition Service Pack 1 even though I have VM Ware Workstation 8.0.4 64 bit. One thing that you need to know is that VM Ware Workstation 9 supports Ubuntu 12.04 32 and 64 bit as both the host and guest operating system. You won't need to download a third party patch to compile the Linux kernel in order to get the VMNet driver to compile properly which you have to do so with VM Ware Workstation 8.x 64 bit with Ubuntu 12.04.1 32 or 64 bit Long Term Service.

    In the end, VM Ware Workstation 9 will offer you the most amount of hardware and software compatibility and it will offer you long term support if you purchase a support contract. It is suitable for enterprise production environments so it is super stable. I have found that Oracle VM Virtualbox and the free and open source Virtualbox OSE within the standard Ubuntu Software Center to be slower and support for the Microsoft Windows 7 Aero is experimental.

    If you plan to work with 3D hardware accelerated graphics such as PC games and you do graphics intensive computations such as video editing, photo editing, gaming, or 3D graphics modeling or if you use your AMD or Nvidia GPU as a second processor for say mathematically intensive computations such as trying to crack encrypted, salted, and hashed data, then you must use VM Ware Workstation 9 64 bit for the most speed and performance for your guest virtual machines. Oracle VM Virtualbox does not offer these features or capabilities or performance.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Australia
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    Hidden!

    Re: Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Morane View Post
    I need as close to native speed as possible for Windows7 as well as it being able to use much ram.
    The ram won't be too difficult, but how to slow VirtualBox or VmWare down to native speeds?
    from The Desk

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    31

    Re: Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

    Quote Originally Posted by Welly Wu View Post
    The best practice would be ...
    Thanks Welly Wu, that's a detailed post. I didn't think "traditional" VMs could run near full speed but last time i tried one was several years ago.

    Quote Originally Posted by bra|10n View Post
    The ram won't be too difficult, but how to slow VirtualBox or VmWare down to native speeds?
    Should i laugh or cry?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
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    2

    Re: Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

    Quote Originally Posted by Welly Wu View Post
    The best practice would be to make a backup of your existing Microsoft Windows 7 partition as a safety precaution before you decide to do anything.

    The other best practice would be to install Microsoft Windows 7 in a guest virtual machine on the same PC. This will avoid many problems especially with suspend or hibernation or encryption.
    + 1 to this especially when you are doing it seriously. And trying it on Windows 8 would have been better idea.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    92

    Re: Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

    im kind of in a similar situation. im running ubuntu 12.04 as host and trying to install win7 home premium as a guest OS. i have the .iso i downloaded after i lost the original disc and have the valid cd key that came with my laptop originally so verification etc isnt a problem. the issue im having is how to even get it going as i cannot seem to figure out how to get the .iso usable. please help!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    31

    Re: Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

    You can burn the .iso to a CD/DVD-rom disc or mount it as a disc image. Probably burning it is the best way to go.
    As for myself, i never got a disc as Win7 was pre-installed on my PC. I have the sticker with the license number so it's a legal install but i'm not sure i can reinstall from an iso

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Beans
    6

    Re: Virtualizing Windows7, what would be the best option?

    Is there an option that works correctly with windows suspend/hibernate?

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