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My company needs to test a windows application across different operating systems.
So we would like to have different operating systems that resides in a single machine.
Among those VMs, I have heard about

  1. Virtual PC by Microsoft
  2. VMware Workstation

Are there any better ones than those mentioned above?

My questions are

  1. Which is the best VM available now?
  2. Can one simulate a 64-bit OS on a 32-bit machine using these VMs?
  3. Which will be a good configuration for machines that installs VM?
  4. Are there any better alternatives?


P.S: I have also posted the same question on stackoverflow since i couldn't figure out exactly where this belongs to.

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I can't edit here yet; here's a link to the SO question: – T.J. Crowder Feb 10 '10 at 10:40
Do NOT post the same question on multiple trilogy sites - this belongs on SF. – Neil Butterworth Feb 10 '10 at 10:44
up vote 3 down vote accepted
  1. VirtualBox from Sun is awesome, free, and open. It's the best for my needs, but you should evaluate each option in light of your needs. VMWare ESX is excellent for getting the most out of VMs on a box, I hear.

  2. I've never heard of one doing that; I bet you could do it the other way around, though.

  3. You mean the machine on which the VMs run? That will depend entirely on whether you need to run them simultaneously, what product you're using, etc. But certainly lots of RAM, you want to ensure that each VM has plenty of RAM, which means the host has to be a bit loaded when you get into running more than one VM at a time. If you get a multi-CPU machine and set up the VMs as single-CPU machines, you can get great performance in the VMs.

  4. Virtualization has just so many advantages in terms of making it dead easy to try things out, save previous copies of entire machines, etc. But just throwing it out there, nowadays there are very cheap little computers that consume very, very little power -- the Asus B202 comes to mind. [I have a couple of them running Windows Server 2008 as VM hosts (I don't need much oomph from the VMs I run on them).]

Answering your follow-up question: Yes, configuring VirtualBox on Windows is quite easy. Just install the software, fire up the UI, and away you go. (You may read outdated posts saying that certain networking options are a major pain, but in VirtualBox 3 that got sorted out.) But one of the fantastic things about VirtualBox is that anything you can do with the UI, you can do from the command line, which means it's totally scriptable. I find that invaluable. Attach/detach devices, start/stop VMs, create VMs, modify their configuration, etc., etc., all from scripts.

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We went from VMWare on Debian to VirtualBox and have never looked back. Actually got the vms converted although it was a major paint because Windows doesn't like that :) – Anders Rune Jensen Feb 10 '10 at 10:32

As alternative, you also have VirtualBox from Oracle (Sun) - free and much lighter than VmWare.

Concerning the config of the host machine, I suppose that you will test OS one by one (well, in fact, depends if the software you want to test is a server or not - I assume a standalone apps), then there is no specific needs. About the 64bits: look here

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Are there any better ones than those mentioned above?

IMHO your use case perfectly fits into VirtualBox features. VirtualBox is open source, is fast, lightweight and easy to use.

You can run 64 bit guests on a 32 bit VBox installation, only provided your CPU has virtualization extensions (VT-x).

As of question 3, it depends on what you exactly need to do with your virtualized boxes.


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  1. I happen to use VMWare Player. The latest version (v3) gives you much of the basic functionality of the Workstation edition in terms of creating simple virutal machines and tinker with their settings. I've heard very good things about VirtualBox and I've also had a bad experience with Microsoft Virtual PC (though that was back in 2005).

  2. I believe you can run a 64-bit guest on 32-bit hosts so long as you have a 64-bit CPU in the physical hardware. VMware supports this to my knowledge, though I'm not sure which edition (player, workstation, ESX) you would need.

  3. Plenty of RAM + some more RAM for good measure. Also make sure the physical CPU has virtualisation extenstions (Intel VT or AMD-V) to get the best performance.

  4. Not really, virtual machines are the most cost-effective way of doing this sort of thing.

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If you need to do this regularly, or have different people using the VNs also consider server solutions (VMWare, Virtual Server/Hyper-V, ...).

Which is the best VM available now?

The different products have different prices, hardware requirements, complexity, functionality,.... There is no single "best" solution. It will depend on the details.

Can one simulate a 64-bit OS on a 32-bit machine using these VMs?

In some cases, yes. Depends on the product.

Which will be a good configuration for machines that installs VM?

I would try and baseline the installs of each VM, and then use differencing disks to allow them to be updated. Again "it depends": if you need to support WinXP SP2 and SP3, in multiple languages you might need many VMs. Don't forget that the VMs will need to be maintained (anti-malware, patching, ...).

Are there any better alternatives?

The old way was either lots of machines, swapping hard disks, or lots of OS installing. None were ay better.

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