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Thread: VMWare vs. Virtual PC

  1. #1

    VMWare vs. Virtual PC

    I'm always running into things that are potentially hostile, and thus needed a sandbox to determine if "stuff" was friend or foe. You know the type of stuff, code at the begining of DLLs. EXEs that friends bring over. Stuff that IS puts on your computer at work. Yes, funky stuff where I don't dare risk REAL computers.

    Not being able to attain VMWare easily, I decided to give VirtualPC a try. I was amazed at it's absolute lack of speed. After an hour of installing W2K and stuff on it (and no end in sight), I decided to look for VMWare a little harder.

    W2K, service packs, etc., are all installed on VMWare, Virtual PC is only now ready to install the OS service pack.

    It's night and day. Something tells me that Bill with his Billions bought the wrong company...

    While waiting for the OS to install on MS VPC, and looking for VMWare, I ran accross a review pitting the two against each other. Summery was that while VMWare was faster, VPC was easier to use. Maybe a while back, but VMWare 4.5.1 is every bit as easy as VPC 2004. And when you take into account frustration on waiting for things to happen, VPC looses flat out on ease of use.

    MS Virtual PC may be easier to find, but it's nearly unusable. When you take into account integration between VMWare and SoftIce, it's not even a comparison anymore.

    Many of you knew this already, and I pretty much suspected as much. But I guess I had to see it for myself. I couldn't imagine even MicroSoft could write something that could run THIS slow. VMWare for me, thanks! (BTW, W2K installed on VMWare *faster* than it did on the actual host box. I still haven't figured that one out. Probably the 32 bit drivers were already loaded or some such. I'm not complaining, though!!!).

  2. #2

    As Above

    Micro$oft is known for its ease of use, not performance under duress.

    Have Phun
    Blame Microsoft, get l337 !!

  3. #3
    <script>alert(0)</script> disavowed's Avatar
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    just one thought.. have you tried increasing the thread priority of vpc to see if that makes it comparable to vmware?

  4. #4
    Administrator dELTA's Avatar
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    I have a recent magazine test/comparison of the two here in front of me too (from a Swedish magazine). In that test they ran e.g. Sysmark in it, and the two had very similar performance.

    From own experience though, I can say that it can make a world of difference how much ram memory is allotted to the virtual machines, and how much memory is in the physical host! Perhaps you are "on the border" with these values, and VMWare just has its critical limit a bit lower than Virtual PC?

    With that said, I should also say that I really love VMWare, and that it is simply amazing. With the Softice compatibility it's just unbeatable (there are some problems with that though, which I will soon submit a post about here, to hopefully help other people trying to get it working).

  5. #5
    bflash2k
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    Moreover, you can use Softice in a VMWare "machine" .....
    I promise that I have read the FAQ and tried to use the Search to answer my question.

  6. #6
    Was it a fair comparison? I think so.

    The machine at home that I tried it on is a dual Xeon rig with 2GB of 533FSB ram, 15K SCSI drives on a dual channel U320 controller (stripe set delivering almost 200MB/sec), and a wickedly overclocked dual head nVidea video card, all watercooled (even all the drives, 8 HD blocks, 2 CPU blocks, and a Video block. It's wicked!).

    Both the VMWare and the VPC virtual machines were configured to use 512MB RAM. For the first hour VPC was running while installing the OS, it was the only program running on the box.

    After an hour of installing the OS, I decided to *look* for VMWare (google running on another computer, and finally eDonkey). I found it, down loaded it, and installed it on this rig, got it running, and had the OS and service packs (and Olly, PEiD, RegSnap, etc.) installed before VirtualPC was even ready to install the OS service pack. Total time after downloading was under 20 minutes.

    I agree there may be some setting on VPC that needed to be checked or unchecked or what not. But for both VMWare and VPC, I used their respective "virtual machine wizards" to set things up. Even if VPC was comparible in speed at optimal settings, it is very safe to argue it's wizard was lacking.

    Maybe it's just me, or my configuration. Maybe VPC hates xeons or SCSI (there are software that don't benefit at all). But, for me at least, VPC blows dogs for quarters. I would LOVE to see VMWare get some serious cheap competition, as I need to purchase soon. MicroSoft has the resources and the talent to do it, but it seems for the past year since they purchaced VPC they really haven't done enough. Just an opinion.

  7. #7
    ElMago
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    Did you use a CD to install or copy the installation files to your hard disk?Virtual PC is extremly slow in accessing shared folders. CDs seem to be faster for me. The core emulation speed is OK once a system is installed with a few glitches here and there. For what you're doing, however, VMware is the far better choice. Virtual PC emulates very common hardware and is more compatible with retro and exotic operating systems--Os2 for example and is good for use as an emulator to run old DOS software but for investigating hostile code VMware is the way to go. You might be interesed in this article:www.zeltser.com/sans/gcih-practical/revmalw.pdf.
    I promise that I have read the FAQ and tried to use the Search to answer my question.

  8. #8
    disrupt0r
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    Quote Originally Posted by disavowed
    just one thought.. have you tried increasing the thread priority of vpc to see if that makes it comparable to vmware?
    By default, Virtual PC gives priority to 'normal' OS processes. This can (and should) be changed in Options -> Performance dialog.

    This will speed up Virtual PC quite a bit, but it's still at least two times slower than equivalent VMWare configuration. I've seen comments like "it's because of better hardware abstraction", but I have yet to see the proof.
    I promise that I have read the FAQ and tried to use the Search to answer my question.

  9. #9
    ElMago
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    This is an update to my previous post. I recently Installed VmWare 4.05 and have been comparing it to Virtual PC 5.2--the last pre M$ version. The host system is an Athlon 2400 laptop with 512 ram and Windows 2k service pack 4. I installed PcDOS 2000 and Windows NT 4.0 as guest systems. First
    result--surprise, surprise--was that NT4 installed considerably faster on Virtual PC and CD access was considerably faster. Virtual disk access is slighty faster and I havenīt done anything yet that benchmarks Cpu and cores emulation speed. My laptop has a video card that gives me lots of problems with DOS grapics--bgi graphics especially--and I have been using VPC to run a few old DOS applications that I chrerish. Vmware's video emulation wasn't up to the the task.

    The NT installation program detected VPCs emulated S3 Trio card and
    installed a driver automatically--this is first time ever I haven't had to install a video driver after NT4 was installed. Video emuation is the one area where VPC is the clear winner. Next-and of more interest to reversers--I installed softice for DOS and Windows 3.1 on my virtual machines. VMware was 1000 times superior. Since they declare their official support for softice in their documentation this shouldn't be a surprise. Both versions installed and worked absolutely flawlessly. On VPC I couldn't get the DOS version to work at all--froze up the system after the first control D-- and the Windows 3.1
    version worked after a bit of tweaking--not too different to experiences I've had with it on real computers. I haven't had the time to install and test the Nt version yet but I expect the results to be about the same.

    One conclusion I come to is that performance of VPC seems to depend on a computers hardware/softwar/0s configuration. My experiences contradict those of Sagt. Both programs have their strenghs and weaknesses. Vmware has softice support and superior networking on it's side and VPC has simplicity and compatibility. I definitely have uses for both of them.
    I promise that I have read the FAQ and tried to use the Search to answer my question.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by ElMago
    One conclusion I come to is that performance of VPC seems to depend on a computers hardware/softwar/0s configuration. My experiences contradict those of Sagt. Both programs have their strenghs and weaknesses. Vmware has softice support and superior networking on it's side and VPC has simplicity and compatibility. I definitely have uses for both of them.
    VPC is also smaller, and cheaper.

    I *think* the issue I was having had more to do with me running dual Xeons, not exactly the most common configuration. I also run dual monitors that gives some software fits.

    YMMV. For what I do on this configuration, VMWare trounced VPC. It was like comparing a Cray to a VIC-20 (you could almost watch screen redraws on VPC).

    I *KNOW* that MS couldn't have screwed it up THAT bad, ergo, I'll blame configuration. But I can't dump my rig, or spend a great deal of time tweeking VPC, when VMWare isn't that much more expensive and works correctly right out of the box.

    Additionally, it seems that whenever I'm in need of running a virtual machine, I'm also in need of running SoftIce. I mean, I don't use it for everyday things, only when I need a sandbox to prevent a situation from getting out of control.

  11. #11

    Detecting VMware...

    Here is interesting actricle about detecting vmware. Offtopic here but...

    http://z0mbie.host.sk/vmware.txt

  12. #12
    Administrator dELTA's Avatar
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    Nice info, thanks.

  13. #13
    ElMago
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    Haven't had much free time lately but did finally try to install Softice 4.05 on my WinNT4 virtual machines. It bombed badly on both VMWare and VPC!! Wouldn't work at all on VPC and froze up the machine on the first control D with VMware.
    In spite of these setbacks, I find both these programs to be fantastic RCE tools. In the reversing of of Malwares as usefull and important as Softice and IDA. I am screening all suspicous downloaded executables with my VPC/NT machine(ease of use wins, the undo changes to virtual hard is automatically executed every time I turn off the Virtual machine). This has saved my ass a few times--my time really, restoring a system from an Image file takes a lot longer than turning off VPC. For more in depth investigations I eventully plan on setting up VMware with a full suite of RCE tools. As soon as I have some free time and I can find a combination of Windows and Softice that work together in a VMware machine.
    I promise that I have read the FAQ and tried to use the Search to answer my question.

  14. #14
    : Code Injector : nikolatesla20's Avatar
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    While VMWare is definitely more powerful in the case that you can actually run SoftICE on it, it still sucks in some ways because you need to run SoftICE in VGA 16 color mode.

    VMWare also supports USB , however, I could not get our company's propietary drivers to work on it, it blue screened.

    In the benchmark tests, VMWare smoked VPC on floating point ops, but VMWare also dragged *ss on graphics operations.

    In any case, I've used both of them extensively, and I rather like VirtualPC so far, yes it ALWAYS takes a while to install an O.S., but it runs just fine once you have it all set up.

    And the networking is pretty much just as flexible in VPC as in VMWare. VMWare, however, does support Linux, etc, better, because it will have additions for it, whereas Microsoft removed all support for linux in VPC. Notice I said "Support". You can still run linux in it, it's just you won't have any VPC additions, etc. So if you are going to use a *nix OS or other, you will prolly be better of with VMWare - MAYBE. See, VPC emulates more "real" hardware that OS's like *nix can actually detect properly. With VMWare, all the drivers are special, they don't emulate anything common, so you practically NEED their additions.

    If it's a windows product, VPC works just fine, and it's waaaay cheaper.

    -nt20

  15. #15
    Administrator dELTA's Avatar
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    It is indeed possible to run Softice in VMWare, and also in graphic modes other that "VGA 16 color mode". Please see the following thread regarding this subject:

    http://www.woodmann.net/forum/showthread.php?t=5806

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