I’m not new to the virtualization scene, but I’m no expert either – I’ve been using VMWare Workstation since 1.0, VMWare Server since 1.0, and Xen since around 2.0. Well, I needed a Windows XP install on my laptop, and decided it would be a good time to see how VirtualBox compared. VirtualBox 2.0 was just released (changelog), so I went with the bleeding edge. Read on for my quick review of Virtualbox 2.0. My laptop was running Ubuntu Hardy, but your experience is likely to be the same no matter the distro you prefer.
Not much to say here. I clicked a link on the download page, GDebi popped up, and I installed the deb. Can’t get much easier!
Guest OS Installation
Anyone familiar with VMWare workstation should feel right at home here. Fire up the gui, click ‘New’, create a new Windows XP guest machine. I accepted the defaults of 192MB RAM and 10GB disk. Now, it’s been a really long time since I’ve installed Windows XP, but I swear that the installation went faster from within VirtualBox than natively. No metrics to back that up, just a gut feeling.
Worked out of the box. I accepted the default configuration of NAT through the host. Immediately I ran Windows Update after installation, and went to bed. The next day, everything had worked as it should have.
The changelog states that numerous performance improvements have been made since 1.0, but since I don’t have past experience, I can’t speak to how much better it performs. I can tell you that running Windows XP as a guest under Virtualbox 2.0 did not feel any faster, nor any slower that running Windows XP as a guest under VMWare Workstation on the same laptop. While installing SP3 for Windows XP in the guest, I noticed fairly significant host responsiveness degradation. However, my laptop still has a PATA drive in it, and my XP VM was using the “hard disk as a file” method instead of a dedicated partition. My hunch is that support for NCQ and dedicated partitions helps this quite a bit. Also, when using the XP VM under normal conditions that didn’t write to the disk so extensively, the host machine was still very responsive.
Below is the list of what I’ve tested under my XP VM:
- USB: I’ll get to this eventually, but I don’t need it yet.
- Sound: Worked flawlessly.
- CD/DVD Drive: No problems here either.
VirtualBox is an impressive product. Consider me a convert from VMWare Workstation, VirtualBox does everything I need it to and more, and the cost of zero is something VMWare Workstation can’t begin to compete with!