Sunday, December 13, 2015

Virtual Machine Emulators

I have finally retired my 7-year old Dell Studio XPS desktop, and got myself an off-lease Lenovo D20 ThinkStation. One of the reasons for getting a workstation is that I need a computer with lots of RAM, space for drives, and dual processor configuration.  My D20 came with 2x Xeon X5650 6-core CPU, 64GB of RAM and space for 8 hard drives.  The other reason is reliability.  I do not want another computer that will blow up the power supply, killing my hard drives.  The painful experience is still fresh in my mind.

You may ask why 64GB of RAM?  I know it's an overkill for most applications, but I indent to run multiple VMs within this workstation.  Beside, it was only $80 to upgrade the 32GB to 64GB so why not?  ECC RAM is expensive and $80 is a good deal.  But, back to Virtual Machine Emulators.

I had good experience with VirtualBox from Oracle.  It ran really well on my MacBook Pro running Windows 7, and I could have 5 VMs running at the same time on 16GB of RAM.  It was slow but stable.  But, when I ran the latest version of VirtualBox on my D20 with Windows 7, I have had a lot of crashes with Blue Screen of Death.  Just wondering if anyone has this issue.  I don't have other hardware on it, other than the video card, and my system drive is a 240GB SSD (SanDisk).  At one point after the crash, the VM was missing completely and had to be added again.

I also tried the free Microsoft Virtual PC, but it's a single threaded application and the maximum amount of RAM I can assign to the VM is 3.7GB and runs on a single CPU.  It was just too slow for my needs.

Now I am trying the VMWare Workstation Player.  It will take a few days to install, update and test the OS.  I have the OS installed and now running updates.  So far it's stable and seems quite fast.  I have my fingers crossed.

If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear from you.  I really like VirtualBox, if I could get it to run more stably.


  1. Hey Yu-Lin,

    I used Virtual Box but stopped using it after one of the vm's got corrupted and wouldn't work. Isn't Virtual PC old? I tried Microsoft's Hyper-V, it worked well and is free but getting some of the networking configuration setup was a PITA and confusing. I ended up shelling out for VMWare Workstation. It works and is easy to configure and workstation gives you snapshots so you can easily undo things if you need to. Expensive but saved time in getting things setup and running quickly. If you go for VM workstation wait for sales they usually have 30% off during major sales or new releases.

    I stopped buying the gargantuan workstation class systems. Using a mac mini and lenovo latop quad core i7 with 16GB each. Storage needs are done through a decent synology NAS and works well over the network. The vm's are copied to the laptops SSD when needed and run pretty good. Maybe not ideal for everyone but so far is working for my needs.

    1. Thanks Ian. Appreciate your experience and information. I will be running the free version of the VMWare Workstation Player and see how it goes. If it's stable and works well, I will probably buy the VMWare Workstation.

      For me, I still love big machines :) Laptops are no substitute for me.

      Hope all is well with you.

  2. I'm a big fan of VMware Workstation too. I have VMs running Windows XP, Windows 10, Ubuntu and more from my Windows 7 PC without a problem. I agree about full size machines, need space to cram in more storage. Keep up the good work with the blog, the photographs and of course the lens obsession, I mean collection!


    1. Thanks for your vote for VMWare Workstation. So far the player version is running very stable and that's a good sign!

      Yup. I love big machines :)

  3. Hey, long time reader here. I have to say I was surprised to see a post about VMs from Lens Bubbles on my RSS feed :)
    I'm a computer science student. I only use VirtualBox for some research stuff in Linux, sorry I can't be of help.
    Congrats on that massive machine you got.

    1. Thanks Juan. So far VirtualBox is a no go but VMWare Workstation Player seems to work well.

  4. Hey Yu-Lin,

    I use virtualbox in conjuntion with vagrant in some projects and I have no problem, but I have usually only one VM started at the same time. It runs on a Windows 8.1 machine. But for serious working with VM, at work I use VMWare ESX (I think that actually is named vSphere Hypervisor). It runs directly on bare metal and support as Virtual Machines as your memory can hold. You can fix priorities and limit resources fro each VM. I run a mix of Linux and windows servers on the same machine with 0 problems in the last 3 years. And if you don't need services to migrate VM between hosts or advanced services, there is a free version.

    The drawback of this solution is that you need another PC to connect to the servers (via terminal client i nwindows). Probably this solution doesn't works for you if you don't want to have 2 machines, or if you need a powerful machine to edit photos, which is probably the case.


    1. Hi Manel,

      Many thanks for the information. I am only using VMs for learning other stuff, so it's for personal use and VMWare ESX is overkill for me and I think it only runs on server OS :)

      So far VMWare Workstation Player is working out beautifully. I might just use this, unless I could get VirtualBox to run without crashes.

      Thanks again for your information!