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Windows 7 XP mode performance

Posted on 2009-12-16
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I'm just learning about XP Mode in Windows 7. I am running a Latitude D520 laptop with a 2GHz Intel Core Duo processor. I loaded Firefox as the single app inside the XP virtual machine. However:
(1) In the XP mode task manager, I only see one of the two processor cores
(2) the VM machine seems to be pretty busy (e.g., spiking to 60% with nothing happening but having Firefox open and sitting there), but I don't see similar activity on the real processor.

Can you explain? I have a pretty processor-hungry app that is poorly written from a security standpoint, and I was thinking of installing it in XP mode.

Thanks in advance.
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Question by:ovidbailey
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by:CAGdorf
ID: 26065625
If you are using XP Mode out of the box it will just show one core, because the virtual only has one CPU.
I would create your own "Custom" Virtual PC, or just modify the hardware settings on the current one. There you can adjust the RAM as well.
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26065668
How do I modify the hardware settings on the current one?
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by:CAGdorf
ID: 26065733
Open Windows Virtual PC from the Start Menu, there you will find XP Mode listed. Right click and go to Settings.
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by:CAGdorf
ID: 26065754
Scratch that about the CPU. You can't have multiple CPUs in Windows Virtual PC, you can however adjust the memory. This should help some of that "business" you are seeing.
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26065837
If I create a new VM, I can't see how I can modify any hardware related to the processor or priority. RAM, networking, disks, name, etc., but nothing on processor.
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26065847
Oops, messages crossed.
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CAGdorf earned 2000 total points
ID: 26065863
yeah my fault. I have been using Hyper-V more than Virtual PC so I got the two mixed up. But that is why if you see a lot of processor activity in the guest, you won't see it so much on the host. You can always experiment by running a program like folding. (folding.stanford.edu) in the guest, it will max the vCPU and then you can see what that looks like in Task Man on the host.
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26065868
Well, I have 756 allocated to that VM, and I'm only using 200K, so it doesn't look like more RAM is going to make a difference. I'll experiment a bit more.
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by:arixsin
ID: 26066541
What application is spiking on the XP VM?
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26067747
Well, no single one. When the Idle process is, 56%, I see taskmgr at 17, firefox at 7, csrss at 5, vmsrvcat 6.explorer at 5.
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by:arixsin
ID: 26068475
And those processes are constantly at that, or just fluctuating between what you posted and 0.?
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26068627
CAGdorf,
When I run folding.stanford.edu, and I set the max processor in XP mode to 50%, I see the total process running around 75%. That makes sense based on earlier observations. The peaks are reflected in both cores on the real machine.

Arixin,
When I turn off pretty much everything in the VM, it looks like taskmgr is the most frequent offender, and this occurs even if I have it minimized. Taskmgr will occasionally spike to 85-99%, but I see NONE of this on the real processor. Mean real processor is 2% and VM mean is 45-50%. Different from what happens when I have an app other than TaskMgr running.

Makes no sense to me.
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26068635
The process numbers are fluctuating.
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by:arixsin
ID: 26069090
Well, I'm going to be Captain Obvious here.......

If you use the XP like you normally would (browse the web, browse folders, etc), does it run OK, or is it slow?

If it works, then just write it off as VM flutter.  It is after all running on a software emulator of a PC. It is not going to act like a real PC will always.  Don't put it under the microscope too much if it is working!
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26069411
That's helpful, Captain, since I have no experience with VM's.

So I can do everything, but I notice some performance hits. The most obvious one is keyboard entry; if I enter a URL into IE (e.g., www.dell.com), I will see the first one or two w's immediately, then it waits up to two seconds and then fills out the rest of the URL (like it's emptying the keyboard buffer).

If that's normal in this very basic setup, that's good to know, and I can run some performance metrics against my proposed processor-intensive app.

If my target app doesn't work, then is there another VM solution that I should consider? I need USB.
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by:arixsin
ID: 26069625
Well, you may be better of with something from VMWare or Sun.

http://www.vmware.com/products/player/
http://www.sun.com/software/products/virtualbox/index.jsp
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by:CAGdorf
ID: 26073090
I would at least give your XP Mode a try, after all you already have paid for it :-). There is overhead with Virtual Machines but normally under load they can run pretty close to being on a physical machine. Unless you have the host doing a bunch of crazy things. One thing to make sure of is that your Antivirus is set to exclude the VHD file type or else it will try and scan the virtual hard disk while you are using it... messy.
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26074660
I think I found the culprit.

CAGdorf, your comment on the AV software was the hint I needed, although that wasn't the problem. I uninstalled AV on both the physical and virtual machines, and it made no difference.

BUT, I deleted the XPMode machine and recreated the XPMode VM, Once that was done, I can open Notepad and type at the same speed as with the physical machine. I can also install Firefox, and everything works just as well. However, as soon as I do ANYTHING with the Windows Update icon down in the system tray (e.g., just clicking on it and telling it not to do automatic updates), the system slows to a crawl. I noticed this orginally after running WU, so I started backing off and learned that anything that activates that red shield icon screws up performance in the VM.

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by:CAGdorf
ID: 26075890
That is interesting to me. It sounds like it is due to data transfer. Does tha laptop have a 5200 or 7200 rpm drive? If you use a "Fixed Size" virtual disk your performance will be better as it allocates all the data up front. If a dynamic disk has to expand, then performance SUCKS!
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26076711
Drive is a 7200 RPM Hitachi w/ 16MB buffer. Changing from dynamic to fixed makes no difference. Note that if I do anything other than click on the Windows Update icon, it works with exactly the same performance as the physical machine. It reminds me of interrupt problems that we used to see years ago; sound is scratchy, keyboard is delayed, etc. When I look in the XPMode's Device Manager, I see three items under Integration Devices that have question marks, but that's also the case when the system is working well. I did force the XPMode's network adapters to the actual drivers from my physical machine, but that make no difference. It looks to me like something happens at the first click of the yellow WIndows Update icon that screws up future performance even if no updates get implemented.
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by:ovidbailey
ID: 26126059
Well, I think I have a workaround. I posed this question on the MS Forum and Ben Armstrong suggested running SETI@home or folding@home in the physical machine: http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2005/09/19/471612.aspx
His explanation was that SETI keeps the host processor too busy to allow ACPI power savings to cut in. That solved the problem, although I'm not so sure what this means for a production solution.

I can reproduce the problem nicely. The SETI application has a Pause and Resume button. If I click Pause, when I return to the VM, Notepad's performance is very slow. When I click Resume, the virtual machine speeds up to normal.
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Author Comment

by:ovidbailey
ID: 26126077
Looks like I created another issue within this thread. Will assign points re the oriignal question then create a new question about the performance of Notepad after WinUpdate applied.
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