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Which HDD should I use for VM's

Posted on 2009-05-03
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I have a new HP 9600t (i7,6GB RAM, HD4850 GPU). It comes with Vista 64. Lots of my apps don't work on Vista 64. I want to install VMware Workstation and create 3 VM's: XP 32 (app compatibility), Vista 32 (app compatibility), and Vista 64 (app compatibility testing). I have two (the max possible) 1TB HDD's. I have a number of 1TB Personal Media Drives that plug into the PMD bay of the PC for data; that interface is USB2. Most of my data doesn't need higher data rate access than USB2. Some of it does sometimes (e.g., transcoding a video) in which case I can copy it as needed to a data partition on one or the other of the HDD's. I have no experience with VM software. My 2-part question is: 1. On which of the two HDD's should I put the VM's for maximum performance - the one with the host Vista 64, or the other one, or both? 2. On which HDD(s) should I put the data needing high bandwidth access to, given that sometimes some data will be accessed by host Vista 64 and sometimes some by VM XP 32 ?
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by:65td
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Once created the VM files can be moved drive to drive as required.
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garycase earned 400 total points
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Either of the internal drives is fine.   You may, in fact, want to split them ... if you plan to run multiple VMs simultaneously, having their virtual drives on different physical drives will improve the performance.
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by:E. Douglas (Doug) Jensen
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@65td: I know the VM's can be moved, what I don't know is where I should move them. I suppose I could do some performance measurements for each location, I was hoping not to have to do that if there was an obvious better choice between the two drives.
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by:E. Douglas (Doug) Jensen
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@garycase: I don't know if I'll run multiple VM's at once, I have been assuming only one, primarily the XP one to run apps that won't run on the Vista 64 host. That made me wonder if the XP VM would perform better on the other HDD instead of on the Vista 64 host HDD.
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by:65td
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If performance is what you want then it may be best to put the VM's on the local drive.
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by:E. Douglas (Doug) Jensen
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@65td: I have two 1TB SATA HDD's, one has the Vista 64 host OS, is that the one you mean?
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by:garycase
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If you're only going to run a single VM then I'd put the virtual machines on the "other" internal drive (not on the primary OS drive).   That separates any host OS drive activity from virtual machine drive activity.
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by:Paka
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If you want the best possible performance (and since it seems that you have a lot of backup media at your disposal), you might consider striping the two 1TB drives (if your HP supports a hardware RAID) and putting the VMs on the stripped drive.  Keeping the VMs defragged (at the host and guest level) will also help keep performance high.
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by:65td
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@doug-jenson - @65td: I have two 1TB SATA HDD's, one has the Vista 64 host OS, is that the one you mean?

Are the two SATA drives RAIDed, or is one a data drive?
As stated by garycase, I would put the VM's on the "data" drive and not the OS drive if so configured.
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by:E. Douglas (Doug) Jensen
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They are individual drives, one for data.
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by:E. Douglas (Doug) Jensen
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I asked a 2-part question, the second part of which was unanswered -- I should have posted them separately.
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by:garycase
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The answer to your 2nd question is the same as noted above => either of the internal drives.   If you really want to optimize a drive for high bandwidth data, it's best to partition it into multiple volumes (two is plenty) and use the first volume for your high bandwidth data.   That volume will be on the outermost cylinders of the drive, where the sustained transfer rate is appreciably higher than on the inner cylinders.   In addiition, if the types of files you're accessing tend to be large files (e.g. audio or video), use a large block size when you format that volume (32KB is fine).
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by:Paka
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Here's a link showing you why you should consider using a RAID-0 for max performance (especially for fast I/O) - it compares WD Raptors in a RAID-0 and non-RAID-0 configs):

http://www.tweaktown.com/articles/1573/western_digital_velociraptor_10_000rpm_hard_disk_in_raid_0/index6.html

If RAID isn't your thing; then definitely carve a dedicated partition to keep your Virtual Machines on.  The VM disk files tend to be large and keeping them defragmented on a dedicated volume is much easier if they're on their own volume.  
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