Posted by: kurtsh | March 31, 2007

INFO: Tips & Tricks on using Virtual PC 2007

Are you a user of Virtual PC 2007?  There’s a dozen reasons why Virtual PC 2007 should be the virtual machine environment you use, not the least of which being that Virtual PC’s .VHD virtual machine format is rapidly becoming the standard for virtual machines in both the Windows ecosystem as well as the Linux/Xen ecosystem.  Also, it should be noted that Virtual PC 2007 is not only free to use and univerally available for anyone to use but all Microsoft training is done in .VHDs making it a great tool to learn with.

So if you’re using Virtual PC, here are a set of tricks I’ve learned along the way. 

  • SHUTDOWN AFTER TURNING ON HARDWARE VIRTUALIZATION
    Sometimes you have to completely shutdown your computer for CPU/hardware-based virtualization acceleration to take affect; i.e. rebooting is not enough.
  • SLEEP MAY KILL HARDWARE VIRTUALIZATION
    Sometimes sleep will disable hardware virtualization on PCs, so be careful if you sleep your machine.  You may find your Virtual PC machines grinding at a slower pace.
  • SOUND ADAPTERS FOR WINDOWS VISTA
    Getting sound in Windows Vista virtual machines require that a special synthetic sound card be in place when setting up the virtual machine.  This can only be done in the VM wizard by selecting "Windows Vista" as the OS type to be used.  Every other OS type will use a synthetic sound blaster 16 ISA adapter which will NOT work with Windows Vista, seeing that Windows Vista no longer supports ISA adapters.
  • VIRTUAL SERVER SCSI WILL SWITCH TO IDE ON VIRTUAL PC
    Virtual Server 2005 .VHDs that are using synthetic SCSI adapters to improve performance, if moved to Virtual PC 2007 environments, will shift over silently to using IDE adapters slowing down performance.  Virtual PC does not support SCSI.
  • FULLY UTILIZE CPU FOR VIRTUAL PC ALL THE TIME
    Some laptops will shuttle down performance of their CPUs and putting them into low power modes resulting in environments not friendly (nor performant) for Virtual PC.  Here are instructions on how to maximize CPU utilization to ensure that the laptop doesn’t go into low power mode.
    - Stop running Virtual PC
    - Open notepad
    - Open %appdata%MicrosoftVirtual PCoptions.xml
    - Locate the <virtual_machines> section of the file and add this key:
      <enable_idle_thread type="boolean">true</enable_idle_thread>
    - Save the file and exit notepad
    - Start Virtual PC
    Virtual PC will fully utilize the processor in order to stop the laptop from entering a low power state.  The upside of this is that you should see no performance issues.  The downside is that it will drain your battery power much faster than normal.  As such – you should only use this option after you have tried all other possible solutions.
  • FINISH BACKGROUND PROCESSES BEFORE WORKING ON HOST OR GUESTS
    By running this script on both the Virtual PC host & the guests then letting them settle, you will find that your machine’s UI’s will run much smoother.
            C:WindowsSystem32rundll32.exe AdvAPI32.dll,ProcessIdleTasks
    All that this command does is have the background services complete at a high priority instead of splitting time with the UI.  This allows them to "finish loading" quicker.

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