I'm looking to deploy several virtual machines for users. They need access to both Windows and Linux.

They also need to use the computers graphics card (for Photoshop, modeling, etc) under Windows.

My question is, will an Ubuntu host/Windows guest or a Windows host/Ubuntu guest be faster? I'm somewhat worried about Windows getting a cluttered registry and slow, but on the otherhand, a Windows host would have direct access to hardware (Unless I'm just unaware of how to grant hardware access to a guest).

Does the choice of software (VMware or VirtualBox) effect the choice?

6 Answers 6


You'd need to go Windows host and linux guest for photoshop performance. I'm not sure what issues with the registry you'd be concerned about since the guest OSes would be in a different environment. Vmware would be the virtualization layer of choice. You might also look at seeing if they even need to use the linux portion. There may be ways to eliminate the vmware portion altogether.


In my experience, if you need to utilize advanced hardware fully (especially graphics cards) you should do so with the host OS. While some virtual machines have the ability to "pass through" pieces of hardware for use with the guest OS only, I've only seen it done with USB ports - not sure it's workable with the graphics card.

  • Parallels Workstation Extreme will do this - specifically it leverages Intels VT-d and SLI Multi OS from Nvidia. ESX 4 also allows you to do some level of directed IO hardware reservation under certain conditions but graphics isn't one of them AFAIK. That said these are very much bleeding edge and your answer is right - if you need high performance graphics or any IO that isn't disk\network then you need to do that in a host OS and not in a VM (today).
    – Helvick
    Jun 29, 2009 at 21:59

Agreed with everyone else, and also slightly puzzled about your "cluttered and slow" registry comment. Whatever are you or your users doing that could cause this? "Cluttered and slow" registries died out with Windows 98, if they ever even existed in the first place.


VMware workstation on a Windows host. This is going to give you the best Guest OS graphics performance. The other "server" virtualization solutions aren't going to do much for running Photoshop in the guest other than give you the ability to do it with the virtualized graphics drivers.


VirtualBox on Windows. It also sounds as though you want to sort out a disk re-imaging system of some kind so that when the users have stuffed their copy of Windows full with spyware and browser toolbars - or cluttered up the registry, or whatever it is they do these days - you can simply wipe and reinstall the Windows partition of your machine. You might want to split the hard drives up into several partitions, so users can keep My Documents on one partition and you can re-image a machine without them losing any files.


You would probably need to go with the Windows host.

However, if you want to have a little fun, you can PCIe passthrough a discrete video card with other virtualization software. KVM and Xen come to mind.

I've little knowledge on these pieces of software myself, but a little research can go a long way.

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