Virtual machines have become ubiquitous and a daily part of our lives, primarily if you work in the information technology industry. While running multiple operating systems simultaneously on your computer sounds fun, the results can often be slow. Here are a couple of tips to squeeze every drop of performance out of your virtual machines.
Install VM Tools
After setting up an operating system as a virtual machine, the first thing you should do is install the VM software’s driver package. It is called Guest Additions in VirtualBox, VMWare Tools in VMWare, and Parallels Tools in Parallels. By installing this package of drivers, your virtual operating system will run much faster as the VM software can then directly work with your hardware rather than through a software layer.
Installing the tools is simple enough. The VM software should show a notification once your virtual operating system boots up. It is very straightforward if the virtual OS is Windows – it simply acts as a standard installation. The same goes for Linux virtual operating systems, too.
Create Fixed-Size Disks
When creating a virtual machine, you get two options: create either a dynamically allocated disk or a fixed-size disk. Most people choose the former as it is quick to set up and use. It also adjusts based on usage, so it will grow as you use your virtual OS.
For example, creating a new virtual OS with a 30 GB dynamically allocated disk will not take up that space immediately. It may take up about 10 GB initially as you set up the operating system and applications. It will grow up to 30 GB as you keep adding files to the system.
This is convenient as it does not take up a considerable amount of space on your hard drive at one go. However, it is also much slower to use than creating a pre-allocated disk. The VM software must constantly write to your disk, which can be time-consuming and take up precious processor power.
A fixed-size disk uses more space on your hard drive and performs faster as a result. Your virtual operating system uses the pre-allocated space as one large block instead of smaller pieces. This helps in writing and reading files much more quickly than a dynamically allocated disk.
Install Your VM on a Solid-State Drive
Keeping to the topic of storage, installing a solid-state drive (SSD) is one of the best upgrades you can make to your computer. They have fallen in price, so you can pick up spacious drives for a reasonable price today. While many people install their primary operating system on an SSD, they often do not extend the same courtesy to their virtual operating systems. Hard drives are much slower than SSDs, and virtual machines installed on them will have poor performance.
So, if you have enough space on your SSD, install your virtual OS on it for a better experience. Not only will it load much faster, but it will also be much more responsive, opening and closing apps as fast as the system allows. Also, refrain from installing on an external drive. They run at slower speeds than hard drives and deliver inferior performance.
Exclude Your VM Directories in Your Antivirus
Antivirus applications constantly scan your hard drive for suspicious activity. It includes the virtual machine files and folders, often slowing performance down to a crawl in your virtual operating system. It gets even worse when you realize the antivirus application cannot see inside your virtual OS files, making it a useless drag on your system resources.
To fix this, add your virtual operating system directory to the exclusions list in your antivirus. By doing so, your system will run much faster as the antivirus is not wasting resources.
Allocate More CPU and RAM
Modern processors are incredibly efficient, with the mid and top-end CPUs packing multiple cores. With that said, the more processor power you assign to your virtual OS, the faster it will run. You can assign multiple cores to make your virtual OS run faster with a modern AMD or Intel CPU. The default is usually set to 1 CPU. It is highly recommended to give your virtual machine at least two to four cores to make it more responsive.
Also, operating systems are memory-hungry. Since you are running more than one operating system at a time, you will need a lot of RAM. It is a good idea to allocate at least 4 GB of RAM to your virtual machine, but if you want a better experience, assigning a minimum of 8 GB is a good idea. By allocating more RAM, you stop the VM from constantly swapping to disk, resulting in a smoother, more multitasking-friendly experience.
These are just a few ways to speed up your virtual machines. Diving into the world of virtual machines can be exciting. If you follow these tips, you will have a smoother, faster experience that is on par with what you get from your primary operating system.