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Best virtual machine?

Posted on 2011-03-02
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Last Modified: 2012-05-11
We have a legacy application that seems to run fine under several XP virtual machine implementations.  Our purpose is to allow a user running Windows 7 32 bit or 64 bit to use our legacy product.  Rewriting the product is currently taking place, but it will be some time before it is finished.  This offers us the ability to use the current application on new OS's.  

If anyone has experience with virutal machines, I have several questions/goals.

1.  Minimal expense for the VM product.
2.  Compatible with full range of hardware products, including older systems running Windows 7
3.  Compatible with both 32 bit and 64 bit Windows 7
4.  Ease of installation by our end users
5.  Possible "thin client" installation (allow us to create a finished VM with our software installed, so the user can install in it one step)

As the discussion progresses, you guys may have some ideas, observations and goals to add that I have not thought of, or properly framed in my question.

Feel free to offier ideas, questions, or direction on this.
 
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Question by:farrellthrasher
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by:akhalighi
ID: 35020585
I'd go with VMware workstation. but it's not free.

Microsoft virtual machine is free as far as I know.
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by:joshbula
joshbula earned 150 total points
ID: 35020673
I've been really happy with VirtualBox.  It's free and more features than Microsft Virtual Machine.  And it's cross-platform--I've successully moved virtual disks between Mac and Windows.
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Author Comment

by:farrellthrasher
ID: 35020744
Microsoft's XP mode seems limited, certainly by hardware.  Virtual Machine from MS has created issues for our customers installing it.  Could be the customer, of course.  I will look up VirutalBox and see how that looks.  Sometimes checking this out gets a bit time consuming, but I will get back with you on results.  

Everyone else please feel free to weigh in on this.
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Author Comment

by:farrellthrasher
ID: 35020791
Josh,

I would like to know more about your moving a virtual disk from one machine to another.  How did that work, what did you have to set up, etc.

Thanks,

Farrell
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 35020840
There are other solutions (some have been mentioned) but WHY use them?  Wouldn't you rather use a feature fully supported by Microsoft and that comes free and integrates with the os?  Have you looked at XP Mode (which uses Virtual PC and comes with Pro, Ultimate, and Enterprise versions of Windows 7.

If you want to simplify your applications install and support, you want to use products that can already be found or easily added to Win7 at no cost to the end user and ESPECIALLY no cost to you - Virtual PC is the answer.

> 1.  Minimal expense for the VM product.
Free and simple to install on any Win7 Pro or highler level machine; otherwise cheaper than VMWare workstation since you can upgrade a home copy with the anytime upgrade and get it.  Otherwise, you/your users would have to BUY a copy of Windows XP (7) retail just to have the license run Windows in the VM - XP Mode includes the license. Or your company would have to start including XP licenses with its product - EXPENSIVE!

> 2.  Compatible with full range of hardware products, including older systems
> running Windows 7
VMs, in general ARE NOT compatible with hardware products.  They are compatible with Operating Systems they are installed on and they only expose a limited set of hardware to the guest operating systems.  If your product interacts directly with hardware (controlling a device or something via USB for example), then virtualization is not going to work well, if all, most likely, for your product.

> 3.  Compatible with both 32 bit and 64 bit Windows 7
Yes, XPMode should run on both.

> 4.  Ease of installation by our end users
Basically 3 clicks and wizard to get and isntall, if memory serves.  In any case, it's easier than other products I've seen

> 5.  Possible "thin client" installation (allow us to create a finished VM with our software installed, so the user can install in it one step)
Should be similar on most platforms.  Ship a VHD and a settings file and you're good. Users can then import the VHD.  BUT for efficiency it would be better to install to XP Mode.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 35020900
Let me reiterate in a separate comment:

VirtualBox: $200-300 (for OS) plus the cost of Virtual Box.  Plus the installation time.
VMWare Workstation $400-500 (for OS + VMware Workstation). Plus the installation time.
XP Mode: $FREE (with Windows 7 Pro, Enterprise, or Ultimate); $100-200 for upgrade to one of these OSs if using Home edition.
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Assisted Solution

by:itGUYone
itGUYone earned 150 total points
ID: 35020927
I would like to second Josh's input for VirtualBox.  It is free, cross platform,  and is easy to use.  If you do a search for vmware vs virtualbox you will find many reviews and comparisons of the features.  I currently have a Win7 64bit desktop running 2 virtual 32bit win7 machines, 1 Server 2008r2 machine, 1 Vista 32 bit and an XP machine.  

This is setup for a test lab and runs as if it is on it's own network.  

Are you able to install you app in compatibility mode on Win7.  The reason I ask is the issue of software licensing and updates on the virtual machine add a pretty big burden if not handled properly.  The OS (XP in this case would need separate license than the host OS.  The anti-virus is a separate license also.

Keeping the machine patched is a necessary task as well.  If you are able to centrally manage,patch and deploy great, but if it has to be managed locally by the user,  it can be tough.
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Author Comment

by:farrellthrasher
ID: 35021174
leew,

XP Mode doesn't work on Windows 7 Home, as far as I can tell, and it seems that we are running into a number of computers that are distrubuted with this entry level version of 7.  

There seems to be some hardware that XP Mode simply does not run on.  I believe I got several calls from users who could not install it on older Windows 7 machines without "hardware virtualization".  That is from memory, so I could be a little off on the terminology.

The installation, with the downloads, etc. seem to create quite a challenge for some of the users.  Yes I realize this is probably a user issue, but when we have tried the Oracle product (Virtual Box), they seem to install it just fine.  

I do agree, something like XP Mode from Microsoft would be ideal.  In practice, there seem to be issues.  I appreciate the thoughts, and feel free to correct any misconceptions I have.
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Author Comment

by:farrellthrasher
ID: 35021279
itGUYone,

We have not been able to successfully run our old application in compatibility mode.

Liscensing issues ARE a concern at this point.  And as leew pointed out, is necessary with Virtual Box.  We do not seem to have a real world issue there, as all of our customers (to date) have had an abundance of XP liscenses avaialble for use within their virtual machine.  

In a perfect world, I could use leew's solution, but as this project has unfolded, I am leaning very strongly to the observation you and Josh have about Virtual Box.  In addition, there is so much more cross platform compatibility, if we solve this for Windows 7, we have it solved for the Mac as well.

I am installing this in our office network now.  We have some serious complexity here with servers, printers, security, etc. so our feeling is if it works here we can make it work other places.

Seems like it is going well so far, thanks for all of the help.
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by:Lee W, MVP
ID: 35021324
> XP Mode doesn't work on Windows 7 Home...
As I stated.  But it's CHEAPER to upgrade a machine to Win7 Pro/Ultimate than to buy a full retail copy of Windows (you cannot install OEM copies in VMs and Upgrade copies need a copy of Windows to start with)

> There seems to be some hardware that XP Mode simply does not run on.  I
> believe I got several calls from users who could not install it on older Windows
> 7 machines without "hardware virtualization".  
Initially that was correct.  Shortly after, Microsoft released a patch that enabled on machines without hardware virtualization.  Reference KB 977206 - http://support.microsoft.com/kb/977206/

> The installation, with the downloads, etc. seem to create quite a challenge for
> some of the users.  Yes I realize this is probably a user issue, but when we
> have tried the Oracle product (Virtual Box), they seem to install it just fine.  
People really have problems following 5 steps found here (Starting with the click on "Get Windows XP Mode and Windows Virtual PC now" and one step of which may be unnecessary if they have SP1):
http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/default.aspx

If they do, ask them which they prefer - another $200-300 for Windows license or spend a little time READING closely, which is all that should be required.
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Author Comment

by:farrellthrasher
ID: 35021673
leew,

I understand your point about the installation.  All I am relaying is my actual experience with my end users when installing the Microsoft XP Mode verses the Oracle product.  To date, there has been no costs associated with Virtual Box from Oracle.  

In addition, the Oracle VM seems to connect seemlessly with our network drives and printers.  Despite the fact that our entire office network is MS based, we have issues printing with the legacy product through an XP Mode installation.  This could well be a hold over from the old software, but no one has found the same problems with Oracle.

I wholeheartedly agree with you that XP Mode would be an easier, cheaper, and more sustainable solution, it just seems that our attempts to use it, both in house and at client sites, have encountered problems that prevented us from actually running our software on a day-to-day basis.
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Author Comment

by:farrellthrasher
ID: 35021693
Josh,

I am still very interested in your transporting your virtual disks between computers.  How did you handle that?

FT
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
ID: 35021719
since they have a plenitude of windows xp licenses.  using the same type of windows xp (probably pro/ maybe pro corporate) in vmware workstation create the virtual machine, setup your software then sysprep the machine you can then distribute the vmware folder and the end user can use vmware player to run the setup. they will have to upon starting the app put in their windows xp key and then can now run the app from the appliance.
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by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
ID: 35021755
for transporting virtual disks they are simply a file you have to transport the entire folder (.vmx's and .vhd's) either by compressing with zip or winrar and then ftp, copy to usb then let the user unpack the files into a folder and then run them using you virtual machine software.
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Author Comment

by:farrellthrasher
ID: 35022580
ve3ofa,

What folder am I moving?  

FT
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Expert Comment

by:nithai
ID: 35022630
Microsoft Virtual PC is the best
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Expert Comment

by:David Johnson, CD, MVP
ID: 35022829
when you create the vm i.e. windows xp it will be that folder underneath the my documents\my virtual machines\vmname  (the vmname folder)
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by:ccns
ID: 35024640
just another thing you could try if you have a test enironment... Windows server 2008 ts web app.
Very cool instead of a user loggin into the terminal server and the accessing the app, a rdp file that links them to the installed app can be packaged etc, or just deployed to their desktops. I really like the funtion of server 2008 good for sme me businesses, and its kinda like citrix.
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Accepted Solution

by:
David Johnson, CD, MVP earned 200 total points
ID: 35029062
just setup windows xp, add your application, then do a sysprep - factory then sysprep -reseal zip up the files, have the customer unzip them.. (a readme.txt would be nice) and once they have vmware player, and unzip the files to a folder, they just do a vmplayer foo.vmx, it will take a while for the machine to setup, enter their windows xp key, username, etc and then they can start your application, you might want to put the application in the default user, startup folder
if this is a one of creation you could use the vmware ace trial. just fyi vmware player has to be downloaded from vmware.com unless you get their permission
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Author Comment

by:farrellthrasher
ID: 35032655
ccns,

I would like to pursue the 2008 option, it's really a separate subject, so I'll set up a question for that.  

I hate to split the points, but Josh, itGUYone, ve3ofa all helped me immensely.  Wish I could give you all more points.

FT
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Author Closing Comment

by:farrellthrasher
ID: 35033265
Thank you gentlemen for all of your help.
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Expert Comment

by:joshbula
ID: 35035998
Re: transferring disks between platforms in VirtualBox---
You move the .vdi file to the new machine, then on the new machine you create a new virtual machine and one of the wizard pages gives you the option to create a new hard disk or use an existing hard disk.  When you choose "Use existing hard disk" you'll open the Virtual Media Manager, click "Add" and select the .vdi file you copied from the other computer. Click "Select," then it will appear in the drop-down list of the wizard for you to select, and then proceed through the wizard as normal.  

If I remember correctly, the vdi file is somewhere in the LIbrary/Virtualbox folder on a mac, and in the Users/username/.Virtualbox folder on Windows 7.
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