I am setting up a multiple machine environment on my Vista box to save additional H/W cost. And I plan to use Microsoft virtualization technologies. I am using Windows Vista x86 Enterprise as host machine, and I want to install some virtualization machines on this host machine.

My questions are,

  1. What is the differences between Hyper-V and Virtual PC?
  2. For Vista x86 as host machine, which Hyper-V (or Virtual PC) version should I download? I searched the web, but find various informations...

thanks in advance, George

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    I use VirtualBox as my VM wrangler of choice, it's cross platform and stable as hell. Course that's just my opinion. – skitzot33 Jun 2 '09 at 11:30
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    Are these prod VM's you're going to run off your box or are you just looking to tinker? For playing around and learning virtualization VMware Workstation (pay), Virtual PC (free) or VirtualBox (free) are the way to go on desktop. – SQLChicken Jun 2 '09 at 13:29
  • @skitzot, is VirtualBox works more like Hyper-V (which does real virtualization to access H/W directly) or more like Virtual PC (which is not doing real virtualization to access host OS, which indirectly access H/W)? – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 16:03
  • @SQLChicken, How does WMWare workstation works? More like Virtual PC (which is not doing real virtualization to access host OS, which indirectly access H/W) or more like Hyper-V (which does real virtualization to access H/W directly)? – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 16:04
  • You can create two boxes. One box for full virtualization in which you would put VirtualBox, Virtual PC and VMWare. Another box for paravirtualization (hypervisor-based virtualization) in which you would put Xen and Hyper-V. – Antoine Benkemoun Jun 3 '09 at 16:52
  1. Hyper-V is a hypervisor solution only available with Windows Server 2008. It puts an hypervisor in between your hardware and the OSes which leads to modification of the kernel of the guests OSes. With a hypervisor solution, everything is virtualized except the hypervisor itself. This results in far better solution in exchange of a higher complexity. Virtual PC is a standard virtualization that virtualizes an OS in an application. It's more simple but performance is not as good.

  2. Hyper-V is only for Windows 2008 server on the "host OS"

  • What is hypervisor? Could you describe in some alternative words which is more easy to understand? :-) – George2 Jun 2 '09 at 13:54
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    A hypervisor is a little piece of software stuck in between your hardware and all of your OSes. It has direct access to CPU/RAM and then redistributes it to the other OSes. More info on wikipedia. – Antoine Benkemoun Jun 2 '09 at 14:13
  • How does WMWare works? More like Virtual PC or more like Hyper-V? – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 15:43
  • Totally like Virtual PC. VMware has an "hypervisor" but it is definently not an hypervisor in the sense of Hyper-V or Xen. It is more of a minimal Host OS. VMWare emulates a host hardware and catchs every interrupt which makes it less efficient. – Antoine Benkemoun Jun 3 '09 at 16:50

If you absolutely have to use Vista x86 as the host machine, then you're stuck with Virtual PC, VMware Server or VMware Workstation. All of them have pros and cons, but here's your bigger challenge: how much memory are you putting into the box?

Since you're using Vista x86 as the host, you're going to be limited to under 4gb of total usable memory. When you divide that between Vista, a virtualization program, and one or more guest operating systems, the end result is going to be worthlessly slow. You might be able to run two servers with 1gb of ram each, and even that will be pushing the limits when using Vista as the host.

You should seriously consider switching to a 64-bit host operating system and using more than 4gb of memory.

  • Thanks for your advice Brent! A further question, what is the differences between WMWare server and WMWare workstation? – George2 Jun 2 '09 at 13:56
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    Sure, here's a comparison grid: virtualization.info/2007/05/… – Brent Ozar Jun 2 '09 at 16:44
  • I read the comparison you recommended, but still confused. Looks like WMWare Server provides similar functions (or even more) as WMWare workstation, but VMWare server is free? And normally how should we choose whether to use Server or Workstation -- appreciate if you could provide simple/clear rules to make the judgement between the two choices, the document you recommended is not very clear how to choose between the two choices for a beginner. :-) – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 16:02
  • If you want to run permanent servers, run VMware Server. If you want to run machines for testing, and quickly revert them to snapshots, use Workstation. – Brent Ozar Jun 3 '09 at 17:23

What is the purpose of the virtual computers?

Testing stuff? Running another server?

Basicly your options: Virtual PC - Microsoft - Free, works well for doing testing, very clean quick setup, nice interface. No USB support

Virtual Server - Microsoft - Free, never used it, because I could never it the configuration right.

Virtual Server - VMWare, - Free, using it now, will allow 64bit guest on 32bit host os, includes USB support, managed though a web interface which I find kinda slow and clunky but works ok. Allows you to take 1 snapshot which you can revert back to. This is good if you are testing something and need to role back your OS if it doesn't work or for other tests. This is a good starting point to try stuff out.

Virtual Workstation - VMWare - Not free but only a few hundred $$$, ideal if you are doing a lot of testing, nice tabbed interface (last time I checked) allows multiple snap shots which is awsome for trying out different configurations for testing.

ESX, ESXi & Hyper V are designed for production level servers and basicly don't have a host & guest OS, all the OS's run within the hypervisor. Of this ESXi is free if you wanted to try one.

And you can never have too much memory, you need as much for each machine as you would normally have for that machine if it wasn't a VM.

IE if you have 3 VM's and you want each one to have 1 gig of RAM, you should have a computer with 4 gigs since you need 1 + 1 + 1 + something for the host too.

  • Thanks! 1. I am using Virtual machine for test purpose because some software can not be installed on my host OS (Vista). 2. What is the Virtual Server do you mean? Differences between a virtual server and virtual pc? 3. Confused about what are the different roles/functions from end user point of view between VMWare server and WMWare workstation? – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 15:56
  • VMWare has 2 products, virtual server is free and can run as a service. But is morelimited in how it can be "controlled" from a snapshot/roleback point. Virtual Workstion is not free but better for testing if you need multply setups of the same system like a cloning option, with branching, etc. You can download both and try them out, the VM's you create in one, you can use in the other as well. VirtualPC is the microsoft product, also free, and very few extra features, but I really like it. Try it out as well and go with which one you like. – SpaceManSpiff Jun 4 '09 at 12:07

Note that Virtual PC or Virtual Server does not support x64 Virtual machines. Hyper-V does. In your case your runnin 32bit os so it doesnt matter for you. Hyper-V has to run on 64-bit OS as i recall..

With your enterprise OS there is 4 Virtual instances of the OS licenses included for each computer you buy Enterprise licenses for(Included in MS SA Agreement). Same as server 2003/2008 enterprise servers (No SA needed for server OS)

Virtual server runs your VM's when even when you are not logged on and you can control it trough http. Virtual PC is just an app you start then run whatever virtual machine you want.

Hope that helps.

  • @MrTimpi, 1. "Virtual PC is just an app you start then run whatever virtual machine you want." -- could I understand in this way -- Virtual PC app is just a controler for Virtual Servers (guest OS)? Without Virtual PC app, Virtual Servers (guest OS) can not start? 2. "With your enterprise OS there is 4 Virtual instances of the OS licenses included for each computer you buy Enterprise licenses for(Included in MS SA Agreement)." -- I am confused, do you mean if I buy Vista Enterprise license, I will automatically have other 4 licenses? But I only have one license key for Vista. :-) – George2 Jun 2 '09 at 14:00
  • What is the differences between a Virtual Server and a Virtual PC? – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 15:57
  • Virtual Server is run as a service on the computer(no need to be logged in). Virtual PC is an app(like notepad or whatever) that you start when logged in. Virtual Server also gives you an webinterface to manage your virtual machines from an other desktop. – MrTimpi Jun 5 '09 at 7:30

Hyper-V is only available on Windows Server 2008, so that's not an option.

You can use Virtual PC, but its a bit long in the tooth in my opinion. I suggest using Sun's Virtual Box software. Its a free download and has support for all the Microsoft OSes you may want to run. It has the added benefit of being able to host a 64 bit VM on a 32 bit host (* see package for details)


  • Thanks Matt, I will consider that. A further question, is VirtualBox works more like Hyper-V (which does real virtualization to access H/W directly) or more like Virtual PC (which is not doing real virtualization to access host OS, which indirectly access H/W)? – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 15:49

You might want to make your host system x64 to enable more RAM capabilities. 3.x gig of RAM won't get you too far...


  • Sorry, my H/W is x86, how could I make it 64-bit? – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 15:47
  • @George2: You'd have to purchase an x64 OS. I'm sure your hardware can handle the 64-bit OS, most hardware these days are built to use it. If your motherboard can handle more then 4gb RAM, then it's x64 capable. – JFV Jun 3 '09 at 21:28

Duplicate. See virtualization question

  • Duplicate for what? It is the same URL? – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 15:45
  • This question is a word-for-word duplicate of the linked question. – David Mackintosh Jun 3 '09 at 16:21

Well, I won't suggest you run multiple VM instances on your Vista machine. One of the annoying thing if you do so is that every time you reboot your Vista machine you have to reboot all these VMs as well, which is kind pain sometime.

You really should look at Hyper-V or ESXi on a dedicate machine. If the VMs are just for test purposes, the host machine doesn't need to be decent. Just huge space with tons of RAM, and that should do it.

Hyper-V runs on Windows 2008, and ESXi runs on Linux. However, you can simply treat these two as another OS that hosts all the VMs.

  • I think for Hyper-V, I still can not avoid the issue that when host OS reboots, guest OS needs to reboot as well? – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 15:46
  • BTW: decent you mean what? I think huge space with tons of RAM is already very decent. :-) – George2 Jun 3 '09 at 15:47
  • the chances to reboot a Vista machine is very higher than a windows 2008 machine that hosts Hyper-V because I am assuming you will be using Vista for other tasks as well. Agree, for testing purposes, huge space with tons of RAM is already decent. :) however, if you plan to test the performance to get the benchmark as well in lab, you may need the real server instead of workstation. – kentchen Jun 4 '09 at 5:38

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