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Virtual machines are demanding beasts, providing virtual hardware and running multiple operating systems on your computer at once. As a result, they can sometimes be a little slow. Here are some tips to help you squeeze every last drop of performance out of your virtual machine, whether you’re using VirtualBox, VMware, Parallels, or something else.
Create Fixed-Size Disks Instead of Dynamically Allocated Ones
When creating your virtual machine, you can create two different types of virtual disks. By default, virtual machine programs will generally use dynamically allocated disks that grow as you use them.
For example, if you create a new virtual machine with a dynamically allocated disk with a maximum size of 30 GB, it won’t take up 30 GB of space on your hard disk immediately. After installing your operating system and programs, it may only take up 10 GB. As you add more files to the virtual disk, it will expand up to its maximum size of 30 GB.
This can be convenient, as each virtual machine won’t take up an unnecessarily large amount of space on your hard drive. However, it’s slower than creating a fixed-size disk (also known as a preallocated disk). When you create a fixed-size disk, all 30 GB of that space would be allocated immediately.
There’s a trade-off here: a fixed-size disk uses more space on your hard disk, but adding new files to the virtual machine’s hard disk is faster. You also won’t see as much file fragmentation. The space will be assigned in a large block instead of being added in smaller pieces.
Install Your Virtual Machine Software’s Tools
After installing a guest operating system inside a virtual machine, the first thing you should do is install your virtual machine software’s drive package—Guest Additions for VirtualBox, VMware Tools for VMware, or Parallels Tools for Parallels. These packages include special drivers that help your guest operating system run faster on your virtual machine’s hardware.
Installing the package is simple. In VirtualBox, boot your guest operating system and click Devices > Insert Guest Additions CD Image. You can then launch the installer from the virtual disc drive in your virtual machine. On VMware, select the Install VMware Tools option in the virtual machine’s menu instead. In Parallels, click Actions > Install Parallels Tools.
Follow the instructions on your screen to complete the installation. If you’re using a Windows guest operating system, it’ll be just like installing any other Windows application.
Ensure you keep these updated with your virtual machine program. If you see a notification that an update is available for Guest Additions or VMware Tools, you should install it.
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