Parallels or VMWare Virtual Machines on an SSD: Is it worth it?
Now that I’ve installed an SSD into my MacBook Pro, everything is really responsive. At least, anything that’s running directly off my SSD drive.And it’s especially important to note that it was quite a task deciding what goes on the SSD and what gets ‘relegated’ into the now much slower 7200 RPM HDD.
Note: If you’re wondering what I mean by having an SSD and HDD on my MacBook Pro, jump ahead and read how I’ve upgraded my MacBook Pro with an Intel 320 Series 300GB SSD with a secondary HDD caddy replacing the SuperDrive!
Yes. SSD is very expensive in terms of it’s real estate and you simply do not want to put just about any junk you have that’s not worth it’s space there. Therefore, you would want to make sure if it’s really worth plunking the tens of GBs worth of VM image onto your precious SSD storage.
The challenge I had was how I could objectively measure the speed difference. I know it’s faster. I definitely feel my MacBook Pro being more responsive. The problem is convincing a mere reader that it is. 🙂 You see, conventional benchmarks would not work as most of them measures the specific hardware’s performance. What I need instead is a benchmark that would run mix workloads and measure the results of that. The closest I can find for this is the PCMark 7’s Productivity and Creativity test which does pretty much what I was looking for.
To run the comparison, all I did is to just make a copy of my Windows 7 VM running on Parallels Desktop 7, one on the SSD and another on the HDD. Then, I ran the PCMark’s Productivity test and saved the results. It’s a simple test that should provide more insights to the performance of the system.
And here’s the result:-
[easychart type=”horizbar” height=”100″ title=”PCMark 7 Scores: HDD vs SSD” groupnames=”500GB WB 7200RPM HDD,300GB Intel 320 Series SSD” groupcolors=”005599,229944″ valuenames=”Productivity,Creativity” group1values=”1360,2142″ group2values=”2013,2745″ ]
As you can see, the results of the Parallels Desktop 7 VM running of the SSD it significantly faster than on the HDD. On the SSD, the productivity test score had a 48% improvement while the creativity score showed a 28% improvement. Yes, the data confirms what I personally experience on my MacBook Pro with an Intel 320 Series 300GB SSD. Still scores don’t really tell much in terms of how fast it actually is. Let’s take a closer look into the test data for a quick comparison. To do this, I’ll be taking the highest speed of the three test iterations. Just to be a little more biased to the ‘best case scenario’ result.
[easychart type=”horizbar” height=”100″ title=”Details test results: HDD vs SSD” groupnames=”500GB WB 7200RPM HDD,300GB Intel 320 Series SSD” groupcolors=”005599,229944″ valuenames=”Image Manipulation (Mpx/s),Importing pictures (Mbits/s),Starting apps (Mbits/s),Video editing (Mbits/s), Windows Defender (Mbits/s),Text editing (ops/s),Video transcoding (Mbits/s), Web browsing (pages/s)” group1values=”4.36,12.40,17.88,24.09,5.00,3.85,0.33,5.37″ group2values=”4.34,25.27,28.18,25.47,5.56,3.86,0.34,5.57″ ]
Looking at the data above, it shows clearly where the SSDs strengths are and where it doesn’t really help in the overall system performance. In general, all the tasks that are CPU or RAM limited such as image manipulation, text editing, and video transcoding is pretty much on par. However, when you take a look at the tasks that are disk intensive, the SSDs results speak for themselves. Importing photos and starting applications are much faster compared to the HDDs results. You can also see some improvements in video editing and Windows defender results as these tasks is also quite disk intensive.
What about boot-up, suspend, resume and shutdown time? Here’s what I got with simplistic stopwatch-timed results based on my Windows 7 VM on Parallels Desktop 7.
[easychart type=”horizbar” height=”100″ title=”Parallels Desktop 7 VM timings (lower is better)” groupnames=”500GB WB 7200RPM HDD,300GB Intel 320 Series SSD” groupcolors=”005599,229944″ valuenames=”Boot-up,Suspend,Resume,Shutdown” group1values=”46,3,6,9″ group2values=”28,2,5,8″ ]
As you can see, the boot-up time is significantly faster on the SSD as compared to the HDD. However, as for the rest, one has to appreciate the performance from running a Windows 7 virtual machine on Parallels Desktop 7. It’s truly amazing to be able to very quickly suspend and resume the virtual machine.
So there you go. There is significant and very noticeable difference in performance when running a virtual machine on an SSD. The question is if it’s significant enough for you to upgrade your PC with an SSD drive. My take is that if running the VM is pretty much part of what you would need to do on a daily basis, go for it. It’s really worth it. The responsiveness of the VM is something that you’ll need to experience yourself to really appreciate the significance of the SSD. Today, I pretty much leave my Windows VM running all the time. There’s just simply no reason why I even need to shut it down as the overall responsiveness of the system is just great!
If you’re ready for the SSD upgrade, here how I’ve upgraded my MacBook Pro with an Intel 320 Series 300GB SSD with a secondary HDD caddy replacing the SuperDrive! Highly recommended for all MacBook Pro users who do not need the SuperDrive.