Question Virtual machine software choices

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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I can't remember why I originally chose it, but I've been using VirtualBox for many years. My VM usage has gone up a fair bit since I switched to Linux as my primary OS (these days I have a Win7 VM for two apps, an old XP VM that I keep around just in case and was mostly superseded by the Win7 VM, a Win2k VM because I felt like it, and one or more Linux VMs for testing stuff out on before I try it on my main OS).

VirtualBox is doing the trick for my needs (and while I'm typing this I'm thinking "if it ain't broke don't fix it"), but are there any great advantages of alternative VM software over VB? If gaming was easy to do through Linux and a VM then I'd consider it, but I have a Win10 install for gaming. I also have Win10 as a native install for the data recovery software I occasionally use (GetDataBack).

Also, am I correct in my belief that for a USB device to work in a guest OS, it has to be working in the host OS?
 

Tech Junky

Diamond Member
Jan 27, 2022
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I've used VB over other options because it's just as good and free. It seems to get more updates than the others as well. I have the same issue with needing to have a native W install for a couple of programs I use enough to warrant not using a VM for. It's a PITA to fire up a VM and deal with less performance when running certain things. So, I live in a dual world with my server running Linux and laptop running W11. Seems there's just not much interest in developing anything for the linux environment when it comes to top tier apps / games.
 
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Also, am I correct in my belief that for a USB device to work in a guest OS, it has to be working in the host OS?
Do you mean that the USB flash drive should have compatible filesystem? Or a printer should have a driver working on the host OS? The answer to both is no AFAIK. The host system passes all the guest OS USB communication to the USB device and the USB device is essentially unavailable to the host OS until the guest VM release the USB device.

By the way, VMware Player's USB handling is a lot more stable than VirtualBox's crappy USB code. I've always been annoyed by VirtualBox's USB shenanigans whenever I have used it in the past. It almost always led to me having to restart the system to make things normal again.
 

Tech Junky

Diamond Member
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@igor_kavinski I think he's curious if you can run a guest from a USB. I don't see why not but, it would be agonizing to load unless using a fast USB drive like SanDisk Extreme Pro or a drive in an enclosure that can hit higher speeds. I can run W11 from a TB4 enclosure to make it truly portable to any system with a port.
 
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Seems there's just not much interest in developing anything for the linux environment when it comes to top tier apps / games.
Mostly coz of the distro hell. The Linux ecosystem tells me all I want to know about the world. We humans would rather suffer in our own isolated compartments than standardize on something to get the benefit of one size fits all.
 
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One thing I hate about VMs is the storage container (VHD/VMDK). Create an expanding one and it will keep ballooning. Create a fixed one and you get screwed by being unable to resize it later. It sucks, to be honest.
 

Ajay

Lifer
Jan 8, 2001
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One thing I hate about VMs is the storage container (VHD/VMDK). Create an expanding one and it will keep ballooning. Create a fixed one and you get screwed by being unable to resize it later. It sucks, to be honest.
You are doing something wrong. Anway, I run my on a seperate drive with plenty of space. I prefer VM Workstation Pro (16.2). Used to have weird problems popup with vBox and gave up.

Edit: Lol! Just got a popup for a patch to VMware while I was typing this.
 
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mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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To explain what I meant a bit better:

Let's say you have a USB device that only has working drivers for Windows XP (let's say for the sake of argument that it's a super-old webcam that requires proprietary drivers). You have a newer version of Windows that won't accept the drivers natively, so could you run VM software with an XP guest that can interact with that USB device?
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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Doesn't always work.

Works for me:

In guest (Windows) OS:

CD C:\
SDELETE C: -Z
DEFRAG C: /U /V

(sdelete IIRC is a free sysinternals utility to download)

host:
linux: vboxmanage modifymedium --compact /home/mike/VirtualBox\ VMs/win7/win7.vdi
windows: VBoxManage.exe modifyhd "C:\Virts\mybox-i386.vdi" compact

sdelete IIRC zeroes free space so the host OS will see that part of the data file as empty. defrag pushes all the free space to a single continuous portion, then vboxmanage can do its thing to maximum effect. It gets my Win7 VM down to 20-30GB, at worst it got to about 60GB IIRC.

I tried it just now; it didn't do a great deal, 31.8GB went down to 29.5GB. Not much gets written to the Win7 guest these days, a Windows Defender update, thumbnail data, that's about it. The rest goes out to shared folders with the host.
 
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mv2devnull

Golden Member
Apr 13, 2010
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are there any great advantages of alternative VM software over VB?
Can't tell for I've used only KVM. More precisely libvirt/KVM that is included in RHEL-like distros. I've had VMs in cloud too, where provider had OpenNebula or OpenStack for management, i.e. those were KVM too. The "it works and I know how to use it" is a benefit and if you have that with VB, then you are good.
 

TheELF

Diamond Member
Dec 22, 2012
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You are doing something wrong. Anway, I run my on a seperate drive with plenty of space. I prefer VM Workstation Pro (16.2). Used to have weird problems popup with vBox and gave up.

Edit: Lol! Just got a popup for a patch to VMware while I was typing this.
Maybe VMware Pro has good tools to manage VMDK files. Haven't experienced Pro yet. I look at the price and go, nah!
The trick here is using a whole disk "on a seperate drive" for your VM so it's just like any normal OS installation on a drive and not a simulated filesystem.
You don't need the pro version for that, just right click and run as admin and you can select a whole disk as your VM drive.
Extreme caution is advised, if you give it full access to a drive that has important data on it you might lose it all.
To explain what I meant a bit better:

Let's say you have a USB device that only has working drivers for Windows XP (let's say for the sake of argument that it's a super-old webcam that requires proprietary drivers). You have a newer version of Windows that won't accept the drivers natively, so could you run VM software with an XP guest that can interact with that USB device?
Yes, you have of course have to give the VM access to the USB ports and make sure to connect the device to the VM and not the host, VMware will give you a message with an option anytime you connect something to your USB ports while it is running.
 

Ajay

Lifer
Jan 8, 2001
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Proxmox might be worth looking at too. KVM/Libvirt on it's own is kinda tedious to use, Proxmox is basically a wrapper that gives you a web interface.
Yes, I tried it for my NAS. Not fun. But I'm still a linux newb. Amazing how complicated Linux/Open Source stuff becomes when you have to dig into the guts.
 

Tech Junky

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Linux is only complicated if you don't take it at face value and follow the breadcrumbs. It will tell you exactly what the issue is and when you google it you'll find a fix for the issue..

Windows on the other hand will tell you it's a power issue when it's actually a driver issue with one specific update that was applied.
 

mv2devnull

Golden Member
Apr 13, 2010
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Amazing how complicated Linux/Open Source stuff becomes when you have to dig into the guts.
1. Almost nobody has to really dig into the guts. That is, those are really deep
2. You can dig into the guts. That is not an option for proprietary black boxes
 

Ajay

Lifer
Jan 8, 2001
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Linux is only complicated if you don't take it at face value and follow the breadcrumbs. It will tell you exactly what the issue is and when you google it you'll find a fix for the issue..

Windows on the other hand will tell you it's a power issue when it's actually a driver issue with one specific update that was applied.
1. Almost nobody has to really dig into the guts. That is, those are really deep
2. You can dig into the guts. That is not an option for proprietary black boxes

Well, I was having a problem and I followed the breadcrumbs left by the wrong ultra linux geek. His 'tutorial' had me neck deep in the weeds. Live and learn I guess. A few other issues with what appeared to be pretty easy ended in flames. I finally put Win10 on my NAS (boo hoo). Later on, playing with one such product in a VM, I finally discovered that the problem was a bug in windows file sharing that caused samba on linux to break. It was fixable in Win10, but I'd had enough at that point.
 

Tech Junky

Diamond Member
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@Ajay Yeah, falling down the proverbial rabbit hole is easy to do with Linux since they don't put bump guards on the sides like W and Mac. Samba for me though works just fine and haven't touched it since setting it up initially. Windows on the other hand is a PITA when something freaks out. If there's a file sharing issue it's mostly likely Windows not Linux. Testing with another device like your phone should prove that pretty quickly. I run a program on my phone to move files around on the "NAS" called Cx File Explorer when I don't feel like going to the laptop to move files.

Earlier I applied an update to Windows and post reboot ended up with a black screen but could still open task manager with Ctrl / Shift / Esc and everything looked fine. Ended up going into safe mode-ish and rolling back the last W update to recover and then upgraded from 21H2 to 22H2 since I was monkeying around with things and there's a good improvement in performance / temps so far. I think the BS was due to something other than a W update though but, the rollback at least got me back to the desktop with icons to run some other functions and upgrade.