Whenever I build new virtual machines, there are number of small changes I make to Windows to make it run even better on the Mac. I thought this would be a good opportunity to share them with you.
Tweaking Microsoft Vista to Work Better in a Virtual Machine
In VMware Fusion 2, in addition to all the great features we added like Unity 2.0 and Multiple Snapshots with AutoProtect, we continued to look for ways to make performance even better, especially with the little things that matter for every day use.
I am happy to say that we found a number of technical improvements that make a big difference with VMware Fusion 2, especially when dragging and moving Windows application windows around the screen.
In addition to the performance improvements we made in VMware Fusion 2, you can make some additional tweaks to Windows that combine to really enhance Microsoft Vista’s performance.
With Windows XP harder and harder to come by, it’s important to tune Vista, to make it easy to run the Windows applications you care about , while avoiding any unnecessary Vista overhead and background apps that get in the way.
The tweaks I make to new Windows virtual machines are:
1) Disable System Restore
2) Disable Screen Savers
3) Optimize Power Management for Virtual Machine
4) Disable Windows Sidebar
5) Disable Remote Management
6) Run Windows Disk Defragmentation Utilities
7) OPTIONAL: Change to Classic UI
While of these changes apply to Windows XP as well as Vista, I am focusing on Microsoft Vista for my examples in this post.
Step 1 – Disable System Restore
While Microsoft’s System Restore makes sense when running on a physical computer, it makes much less sense in a virtual machine especially when you have Multiple Snapshots with AutoProtect protecting your virtual machine.
Step 2 – Disable Screen Savers
There is little reason to have a screen saver enabled both in your Windows virtual machine as well as on the Mac. Disable screen savers on Windows and reduce a little more Windows overhead.
Step 3 – Optimize Power Management for Virtual Machine
VMware Fusion 1 was the first virtualization solution on the Mac to provide power management support. This is great on a laptop to make sure that the virtual machine suspends when power gets low, but there is little reason to have the virtual disks to spin down every minute. By enabling the right power management profile, you get the benefits of tracking battery life and suspending your virtual machine when needed without Windows slowing down things that don’t matter.
First, you need to shut down your virtual machine and enable the Battery option.
Second, you need to create a Virtual Machine power management profile in Windows that disables display and hard drive sleep.
By enabling the right power management profile, you get the benefits of tracking battery life and suspending your virtual machine when needed without Windows slowing down things that don’t matter.
Step 4 – Disable Windows Sidebar
Most people I have spoken to run Windows on their Mac in order to run specific Windows applications they prefer to Mac alternatives, or whic they can’t otherwise run on the Mac.
The Windows Sidebar in Microsoft Vista have Windows "Gadgets," which are made redundant by the MUCH better Dashboard Widgets that come with the Mac. Disabling the Windows Sidebar on Microsoft Vista will reduce unneeded overhead that can be used for the Windows applications you care about.
Step 5 – Disable Remote Management
If you are using Windows personally and don’t rely on others to remotely fix Windows, you can disable Remote Management which trims another background service at startup.
Step 6 – Run Windows Hard Disk Defragmentation Tools
Over time, your Windows installation will get lots of fragmented files that slow down performance. Luckily, Windows includes disk defragmentation utilities that help resolve this problem. Since most virtual machines are not running 24×7, but only when needed, the "Schedule Disk Fragmentation" feature of Windows won’t be of much help. Set a reminder in iCal to run the Windows Disk Defragmenter once a month to reclaim some lost performance.
OPTIONAL Step 7 – Change to Classic UI
Windows Vista has a greatly improved user interface that is trying to compete with Mac OS X Leopard. The problem with all these UI bells and whistles is that they take away some performance.
While I don’t feel it 100% necessary to change to Classic UI, if you feel you need one last extra bit of performance, switching from the new Vista UI to the Classic UI may help – though I don’t think it is needed for more modern Macs (those that have shipped in the last year or so) with enough RAM.
What Tweaks Do You Make to Improve Windows Performance?
By using these tweaks, I am able to get excellent performance running Windows Vista with only 1 GB of RAM assigned to my VM on my 4 GB MacBook Pro.
Do you have any other tweaks you make to improve Windows performance? If so, let us know in the comments.
BTW, if you are at VMworld this week, make sure to come to the VMware Fusion sessions or drop by the VMware booth for a demo of VMware Fusion 2.