Win4Lin vs. VMware

By Nicholas Petreley, LinuxWorld.com |  Operating Systems



Software: VMware 2.0.3, Win4Lin 2.0, Windows 98 SE,
Microsoft Office 2000 Premium, Netscape Communicator 4.76,
Internet Explorer 5.5, Microsoft Media Player


Clearly, many of my readers are enamored with VMware due to the gee-whiz factor of being able to run one or more operating systems in isolated virtual machines on top of the host operating system. I confess it's a pretty cool experience to boot up VMware in a Linux window and then jump into the virtual BIOS setup screen or watch it count up the virtual RAM. But once I get beyond the coolness factor, I don't see any compelling reason to use VMware in preference to Win4Lin, at least for the reasons most Linux business users would use Win4Lin.

Reluctant comparison

In the first place, Win4Lin is clearly much faster than VMware. Granted, Windows under VMware is perfectly usable on my system, but Windows under Win4Lin not only runs faster than Windows under VMware, it seems to actually run faster than Windows alone.


My readers tell me there's a good reason for that: it's the filesystem. The default ext2 (second extended) filesystem for Linux is supposedly faster than the FAT16 or FAT32 filesystems that Windows 98 uses. I'm using Reiserfs, which performs even better than ext2, so perhaps I saw even a greater benefit.


This difference in the way files are handled may also be one reason why Windows runs faster under Win4Lin than on VMware. Win4Lin installs Windows as separate files on the Linux filesystem (as I said, in my case it's Reiserfs), so it fully benefits from that filesystem. VMware creates a virtual disk on the filesystem and installs everything on that virtual disk. I'm just guessing, but I suspect there is some extra overhead involved in accessing files on the virtual disk.


VMware does give you another option, though. Instead of creating a virtual disk and installing Windows from scratch, you can simply point to an existing partition where Windows is already installed. I didn't have much success with VMware in that case, however. For some reason, Windows refused to install and properly configure the utilities necessary to run under Linux in anything greater than a 640 by 480 graphical window.

Gamey behavior

Some readers wanted to know if they could run Windows games under Win4Lin or VMware. I confess I can't imagine why anyone would want to run Windows games on Linux when it seems much more desirable to create a Windows boot partition specifically for games. I don't know about you folks, but I work and I play games. I generally don't do both at the same time. Booting to Windows to play a game that doesn't run on Linux seems like a fine trade-off to me.


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