virtual machines on OS X

I have a Windows XP virtual machine setup on vmware. Its a pretty basic build for when I need some specific Windows apps; it has an 8GB virtual drive, and 384MB of ram. Up until now I’ve run this VM on vmware on linux. I’ve tried quite a few incantations of vmware; Workstation, Server and Player. I think Server is marginally slower than the other two on the same host linux box.

This VM usually sits on my Debian etch box. This host system has 1GB of ram, a 1.8GHZ core 2 duo and a bunch of 7200rpm drives in a software raid5 setup. The VM runs pretty well on this setup. I also run the same VM on my T42 (archlinux). Again, I have 1GB of ram, but an old 1.5GHZ Pentium M, and a 100GB 5400rpm laptop drive. It runs just ‘ok’ on this setup.

And now I’ve tried it on my MacMini using Vmware Fusion. It too has 1GB of ram and a 1.8GHz core 2 duo, but with a 5400rpm 80GB laptop drive.  And sadly performance is pretty crappy. It just feels very slow. I’m thinking its just starved of ram. I tried killing the dashboard, but that didn’t seem to help. The t42 and the Etch box have reasonably lightweight linux setups so they probably have more free ram to throw at it. Obviously the 7200rpm drives on the Etch box make a world of difference too.

I would have tried Parallels except most reviews I’ve read say that Vmware Fusion is faster.

So I tried VirtualBox (beta 1.4.1). I’ve used older versions on linux and was reasonably happy, but couldn’t be bothered trying to convert all my VMs. So I installed XP from scratch, and so far performance looks good. But I’m realistic that XP often feels quite fast when you first install it and eventually becomes a slow slothful turd after a few months.