VMware Workstation 6.0 Beta 3 (build 39849) has been available for some days now. I tried it today on a Vista host because VMware Workstation 5.5 runs quite unstable there. Since version 6.0 promises Vista support, I was hoping that I could use the Beta instead of version 5.5.
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VMware Workstation 5.5 works fine with Vista as guest. Some features don't work, like shared folders, for example, but it is quite stable as long as the host is Windows XP or Windows Server 2003. However, on a Vista machine, it is very unreliable. I was able to solve some problems, but I think, it is one of the reasons why my Vista crashed every now and then.
So I was pinning my hopes on VMware Workstation 6 as a solution to my problem. The good news is that it seems to be stable with Vista as host system. The bad news is that Beta 3 is so slow that you can hardly work with it. I installed it on a new PC with 3 GB RAM and a duo core CPU. So my hardware was certainly not the reason for this poor performance.
You can only run VMware Workstation 6 in debug mode. I suppose that this is the main reason for the bad performance. During my test, my CPU usage was never higher than 50% and my virtual machines and my host always had plenty of RAM. However, my hard disk was always extremely busy; even though, no application was running on my guest systems and on the host.
I disabled everything which could cause heavy hard disk usage. I turned off logging in my virtual machines (add logging = "FALSE" to the VMX file of the VM), disabled indexing of Windows Search (shutdown the corresponding service), removed my anti-virus software, etc. It improved the situation a little. But when I started more than one virtual machine, VMware Workstation 6 was still so slow that it didn't make sense to use it.
If the debug mode is really the reason for this, then, why it is not possible to turn this off? Who wants to try a software this slow? Is someone from VMware reading this? Could you please tell us how to disable this debug mode?
VMware Workstation 5.5 is too unstable on a Vista host and VMware Workstation 6 Beta is simply too slow. Basically, this means that VMware Workstation doesn't really support Vista. Vista's release candidate has been already available for quite a while. Thus, there was plenty of time to prepare VMware Workstation for it.
I guess, the situation looks better for Microsoft's Virtual PC. I'm sure that many have no other option now than to move to Virtual PC. If you're running Vista on your workstation, it is quite useful having a virtual machine with Windows XP where you can use the tools which don't work under Vista.
Since VMware Workstation 6 was so slow, I stopped testing it after I failed to improve its performance, significantly. However, I found out that some features don't work yet under Vista. In my test, I only could connect my USB stick using the USB 1.1 protocol. It seems that USB 2.0 on a Vista host is not yet supported. The "Fist Guest Now" feature can't be used if the guest is Vista. The only way to get a higher resolution is to change this manually on the guest.
Shared folders didn't work either. At least, Windows Explorer on a VM running Vista doesn't crash anymore if you try to access a shared folder. You can, however, use drag and drop to exchange files between the host and the guest system.
Anyway, in my view, it doesn't make sense to use or test VMware Workstation 6 Beta 3 as long it is not possible to disable debug mode. I tried Beta 2 on a Windows XP machine. The performance wasn't any better there. I guess, this didn't change with Beta 3.
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Update: Please, check this post about disabling debug mode in VMware Workstation 6.0 Beta.