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  1. #1
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    Virtual Machine questions

    Hi,

    Recently, I did a clean install of Windows 7 Home Premium x64 (from a downloaded Win 7 SP1 ISO) onto my (pre-installed) Dell OEM machine (I used the 'ABR method' http://directedge.us/content/abr-act...up-and-restore to reactivate the clean install). I have now set up this clean install as I want it (drivers, security, windows settings and a few essential programs) - and I have imaged it.

    I would like to explore the use of a virtual machine, and wondered whether I could please get feedback on some of the ideas I am working with.

    1. Use of snapshots
    Firstly, the idea I have is to have another copy of Windows Home Premium, on the virtual machine, with various snapshots:
    - Basic system snapshot: serving as a backup of the VM Win 7
    - Basic system + testing snapshot: a snapshot for testing/trialling programs
    - Basic system + Games snapshot: for playing (not resource intensive) games - and keeping these separate from the host system (because these can cause messes, especially when uninstalled)

    Q1. Will I be able to boot up and use these alternative snapshots (individually, only one at any time) as envisaged by me; is my concept of using a VM in this way possible, and coherent?

    2. System requirements
    Microsoft gives memory requirement for Windows 7 as: 1 GB RAM (32bit) or - 2 GB RAM (64bit).
    My system at present, when in use, usually shows (in the Windows Task Manager/Resource Monitor) physical memory use, something, as follows:
    Total: 4095MB; In use: 965MB; Modified: 65MB: Available: 3065MB; even under normal use, like now, the available memory is 2759MB (I have excluded 'standby' memory since this can be reallocated for VM use).

    Q2. Will I experience slow downs due to memory issues? or am I OK for a Win 7 guest? [I am reluctant to get into installing more memory because I have never opened up a computer - and don't want to, however easy and simple it is - it is simply not something I would want to get into] If more memory is needed, would a Readyboost solution do?

    3. Windows 7 Licence
    I gather I will need another licence for installing Windows 7 in a VM. Am I right in thinking:
    Q3a. An OEM licence could be problematic for VM use
    Q3b. it is inadvisable to buy and use an OEM licence in a VM, because if the VM is updated/upgraded at some point and its configuration changes, the OEM licence will stop working - being tied to the original VM configuration
    Q3c. I need to buy a new retail version of Windows 7 Home if I am to use Windows 7 in a VM.

    I am really new to the use of VMs. These are the only questions/considerations which occurred to me while reading up on their use. If there is something else...

    Thank you.

    Dell XPS Studio 7100: AMD PhenomII X6 1045T/2700 Mhz; Installed Physical Memory RAM:4.00 GB; HD: 500GBx2; Graphics: Radeon HD 5670 1GB

  2. #2
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    1) Yes to all. This is one of the things that makes VMs so cool. Your only limit is disk space. We do this all the time with Windows servers at work. Take a snap shot before making any changes, revert on the fly if anything goes wrong. Create a back up from the snap shot and build up a second new VM based on the original. Many possibilities. I recommend Oracle Virtual Box. Its very easy to use and has "enterprise" type features that the other free products don't, or aren't implemented as good.

    2) You'll probably be fine unless you intend to run resource hungry apps on both the host and guest OSes at the same time. I know you are adverse to installing memory, but go to 8 GB. You'll wonder why you waited so long to do so. Ready Boost is kind of cool but its a band aid. The large number of reads/writes involved can wear a thumb drive down pretty quickly. Best to upgrade the RAM.

    3) Licensing virtual workstations is pretty ugly. Microsoft treats them differently than OSes installed on physical hardware. Suffice to say that they would probably never harras a home user. It really doesn't matter what license you have, for all practical purposes, any change in hardware on Windows 7 will require re-activation.

    Something else to consider if you decide to rebuild the host system is Citrix XenClient. Its a free bare metal hypervisor that gets installed first, then the VMs on top of it. If you check this out it looks like you can only get a trial, but the core XenClient is free to use because its open source.
    http://www.citrix.com/English/ps2/pr...tentID=2317057

    I'm sure a few others will chime in. There's a lot of knowledge on this forum with running VMs on a home machine.
    Last edited by Doc Brown; 2011-11-15 at 16:41.
    Chuck

  3. #3
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    You will definitely experience slowdowns with that memory installed. My laptop has 4 GM RAM and runs Windows 7 32 bit. On the laptop I do not usually run mem intensive apps and running a VM will still exact a performance penalty. I can second Doc Brown's advice on 8 GB RAM. That seems a sweet spot, memory wise, for Windows 7. Less than that you can still experience issues, but it also depends on the memory you configure your VMs to use.

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    discs,
    Hello ...If your interested you can have your PC scanned and your "Memory" and "Motherboard" checked out Crucial Scan they will tell you how much (and type) of RAM that you can use for your "Combo" Regards Fred
    PlainFred

    None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free (J. W. Von Goethe)

  5. #5
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    http://www.pcworld.com/article/20517...r_formats.html

    Don't know exactly how many licenses you have available right now OR if the above is still free but if you really like how your install is setup right now, you can virtualize it as use that as a VM. Something to keep in mind if you don't want to build another OS up from scratch. It doesn't always work perfectly but for a OS in "initial image' condition its a good bet.

    Whereas it otherwise doesn't really show up performance-wise, W7 does get in the way a bit as host OS. Both Ubuntu and XP work better as host for me though that's only when running 2 VMs at the same time along with the host ( I also only have 4 gigs, less in actuality when in 32-bit Ubuntu and XP).

    Still, I don't have any issues with W7 (64-bit and 32-bit) as host on 4 gig running only one VM. I did develop one slowdown but that was traced to the SSD drive being too full (quite a bit less than the recommendations--hmm so that's why!), since I up-ed capacity there, no problems.

    The absolute crux, key,... linchpin, to making it all work for me was getting the VMs on a fast SSD (with enough space ) because that is where the performance hit was for me. Sure you can prefetch/retain more things in RAM with more RAM but as soon as it hits the disks for anything, the difference between mechanical drive and SSD access times is like the difference between taking the train to Seattle and flying there. It made the difference between using VMs as a kind of testbed-ish, not too serious tool, to number crunching, side by side performers comparable to the host OS (minus a couple things like non-USB hardware access and intense video gaming and such).

    6 cores are excellent for running the host and 2 VMs concurrently, I found that 4 cores were buried to much of the time at 100% and multi-multitasking was a bit herky jerky, again, one VM, no problem.

    And the final thing that runs cohesive with VMs is that once licensed and working well, you don't have to image, just copy the VM folder(s) as backup, and, you can transfer and run those VMs on another system (same platform family, i.e., Windows, LINUX) and they will work there no problem (same virtual interface) so what I've ended up doing is installing my other paid for and licensed software on the VM instead of the host and getting the option therein to run it on more than one system. Your thoughts about possibly violating company EULAs may vary, but I think as long as its only me using software I purchased, I should be able to use it on any of my systems I want to.

    So that's my experience to date, I had always been looking for a way to make VMs a viable, performance oriented tool to take advantage of 6 cores of processing power (think Peterbuilt, not Ferrari), for my money there was always too many CPU cycles going to waste with just one OS, but VM performance was not even close to par with the host so it was always, ALWAYS disappointing, but since the incorporation of SSDs... Yahtzee!!! I don't even set up multiboot systems anymore if I can use a SSD...seems like the stone age to me now.
    Last edited by Infinicore; 2011-11-15 at 20:42.

  6. #6
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    My laptop has 4 GM RAM and runs Windows 7 32 bit. On the laptop I do not usually run mem intensive apps and running a VM will still exact a performance penalty.
    Agreed, if running on a laptop, there are many compromises being made for the sake of mobility, more RAM there may help but there will still be other un-addressed compromises. All my references are to full scoot desktop systems with lots room, power, capacity, cooling and the like.

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    Slowdowns with a VM running are maily caused by memory swapping. If you have an SSD, that will be less an issue. If you don't have an SSD, with 4 GB on Windows 32, even on a desktop, you are bound to get some memory swapping and slowdowns.

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    I'm sure you're right when making all sorts of unanticipated calls, I monitor my pagefile when under heavy use and it will stick steady as a rock in the 1.15 gig range so its definitely hitting it but memory management seems to be brilliant as well. As I mentioned earlier I'm interested in "Peterbuilt" performance not "Ferrari" performance. I have some database folders/files that are in the 33, 69.8 and 81.5 gigabyte range and feed the system other linear stacks of files that are 27 to 35 gigs so I want to see the processor needle bend toward the red and hold there and still be able to conduct everyday menial computer tasks without sensing any significant slowdowns.

    I didn't get enough time to experiment with my 8 gig system before the PS went down but I got the sense that if performance was increased it was an incremental thing, better but not a whole lot better, again because good memory management helps smooth out that difference.

    I have had enough time to experiment with SSDs now and for me that was like hitting a home run over the moon when I integrated that into the whole package, nothing else in my whole life of using computers has made even a small fraction of difference by comparison. Again, I was not interested in faster starting programs or operating systems, those things were trivial to me, I wanted super performance over extended periods of time and I hadn't heard a lot about those aspects...so I was so pleasantly surprised by SSDs that I had purchased 5 of them in very short order to put in my muscle systems and haven't looked back. The RAM I bought for them (8 more gigs) is just sitting next to the computers still in the packaging.

    I'll do some more experimenting with my 8 gig system when I get it repaired and maybe I'll start to notice the CPU use is more steady to the upper side of the range I notice on my 4 gig systems, which currently fluctuates about 16 percentage points when single tasking on each VM and multitasking on the host (or any combination of single tasking on two and multitasking on the 3rd). If I notice the usage sticking more constantly at say 88% and not dropping to 72% as much, that might be a good reason to upgrade to the fatter host and her 64-bit richness.

    That however is not hitting it over the moon, just one more incremental improvement, which is good but....yawn.

    Edit: So, my only contention is that 8 gigs is not a big enough difference in overbuilt systems, especially only running one VM with the host, two is marginal and three quite impossible on just 4 gigs in my opinion. For me I think a VM would be crap on either 4 or 8 gigs without the SSD. Now if I could go to 32 gig or 64 gig of RAM and everything was still stable and well managed, that might be another world changer. Of course it takes more than 6 cores to run 4 OSes at the same time so such a system develops other bottlenecks that need to be addressed as well. I like balance.
    Last edited by Infinicore; 2011-11-16 at 09:50.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Infinicore View Post
    And the final thing that runs cohesive with VMs is that once licensed and working well, you don't have to image, just copy the VM folder(s) as backup, and, you can transfer and run those VMs on another system (same platform family, i.e., Windows, LINUX) and they will work there no problem (same virtual interface) so what I've ended up doing is installing my other paid for and licensed software on the VM instead of the host and getting the option therein to run it on more than one system. Your thoughts about possibly violating company EULAs may vary, but I think as long as its only me using software I purchased, I should be able to use it on any of my systems I want to.
    I have frequent need to bring up a backup VM server in tandem with a production server. Can't have two identical names/IPs on the network. So where I've run into activation issues is deleting the NIC and later recreating it. A new MAC is generated and Windows interprets this as being a new machine. Internally we run a KMS server (Key Management Server) so activations are managed in house, not through Microsoft's clearing house. But that's not an option for a home user. However in the scenario you describe, it should never be an issue, and in theory the OP should be fine also.
    Chuck

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    Before the initial run of the new (copied) VM, I set the virtual network adapter to host only.
    The VM usually needs to reboot anyway, so its at the moment I take the opportunity to change the computer name of the VM and then switched back to bridged network adapter mode after the restart and let DHCP do its thing.

    So I think that gets around both the potential name and IP conflict as well as not disturbing the underlying virtual network adapter. I didn't even think of how the MAC is handled in such cases.

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    I have been led to understand that one would need a separate license for each Windows VM. Is this incorrect? Would I be able to construct a Windows XP VM on my Windows XP box without needing another license?

    Chris

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    Quote Originally Posted by wartaaids View Post
    I have been led to understand that one would need a separate license for each Windows VM. Is this incorrect? Would I be able to construct a Windows XP VM on my Windows XP box without needing another license?

    Chris
    You need a separate activated licence to run the virtual XP.

    The only exception to this is if your host is Windows 7 with XP Mode, which gives you a pre-activated XP licence. Since your host is XP, you need a second XP licence for the guest OS.

    Quote Originally Posted by Inifincore
    ....so what I've ended up doing is installing my other paid for and licensed software on the VM instead of the host and getting the option therein to run it on more than one system.
    That's also what I do on one of my VM's in the office:

    I have the need to run more than one instance of a particular software package. This package comes with different licence options: a single licence option for around £50 and a multi-desk licence for around £250. By purchasing and activating a separate licence I save a packet - even after taking into account the additional Microsoft OS licence cost. I can run both instances simultaneously as long as the second one is inside the VM. It has been verified by the software vendor as being within the terms of the licence.

    Use this method with caution however, as some vendors may not consider virtualised CPU's and disks as separate from the physical hosts. In my case, it was not specifically excluded in the licence T's & C's and I think they were happy that I was paying for another licence & had found a way to stay with their software rather than go to a competitor.

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    You need a separate activated licence to run the virtual XP.

    The only exception to this is if your host is Windows 7 with XP Mode, which gives you a pre-activated XP licence. Since your host is XP, you need a second XP licence for the guest OS.
    Correctomundo as Dr. Who would say. Therein lies the method to the madness; if you also have a W7 Pro or above box (or a conspiratorial friend with W7 Pro or above), install XP mode and VMWare Player. After XP mode is up and running, shut it down, fire up VMWare Player and import the XP mode installation into VMWare Player and when that is up and running, shut it down and copy that virtual installation folder and run it on any other XP or later Windows platform as often as you want.

    I think that's ok to do since Microsoft no longer sells XP (unless there is still some quiet large corporation licensing going on) and its only a virtual install, implying the current host of whichever system it ends up on IS licensed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Infinicore View Post
    Before the initial run of the new (copied) VM, I set the virtual network adapter to host only.
    The VM usually needs to reboot anyway, so its at the moment I take the opportunity to change the computer name of the VM and then switched back to bridged network adapter mode after the restart and let DHCP do its thing.
    That's a pretty good solution. Its not an option with Citrix XenServer I'm afraid.

    Quote Originally Posted by wartaaids View Post
    I have been led to understand that one would need a separate license for each Windows VM. Is this incorrect? Would I be able to construct a Windows XP VM on my Windows XP box without needing another license?

    Chris
    You need a license for each if you run them all at the same time. Since licensing allows for backing up your OS, you can shut down the original VM and fire up one of the copies without the purchase of additional licenses. With volume licensing (corporate) Microsoft does not count test systems or training systems. I'm not sure if that same idea can be applied to personal use with W7 Home, but I should think W7 Pro might have a little wiggle room.
    Chuck

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    2) You'll probably be fine unless you intend to run resource hungry apps on both the host and guest OSes at the same time. I know you are adverse to installing memory, but go to 8 GB. You'll wonder why you waited so long to do so.
    Been trying out a VM of XP for the better part of a week now with 4 GB assigned and running on a mechanical drive with the host (W7x64) doing "nuthin." While it is definitely better and more responsive than 2 gigs on a 32-bit system, there is still a noticeable hesitation in the simple tasks like browsing an online photo slideshow (an extra one or two mississippi). When it comes to firing up and running something like PaintShopPro X4 and running through a workflow of images for edit, again it was better than my experience with 2 gigs assigned, but it was still very slow, verging on unusable (at 2 gigs it pretty much was unusable), unless one if very patient.

    To make sure I wasn't imagining things I just opened a VM of W7 on XP Pro host that resides on a SSD...OMG OMG OMG!!! It only has 1.5 gigs assigned but it is flying! Almost no noticeable difference between the VM and the host (running on a mechanical drive).

    Conclusion, 4 gigs instead of 2 helps a little, but for me personally there is only one method I've discovered that gets me over that all important inflection point in a sinusoidal curve of usability for VMs; and not just "over" the inflection point but waaaay up top, very comfortably on the shallow part of the curve.

    I've even been able to add a VM to a smaller media type PC, with no SATA ports available, via a SSD, USB 3 dock and card... essentially a remote external OS...works like a charm!!

    Tons and tons of RAM might help but I'm beginning to think that no matter how much RAM is added, the critical factor is still going to be sustainable disk I/O speed.

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