VirtualBox is a popular virtual PC emulator,
like Windows Virtual PC, but with additional features such as the ability to
run 64-bit software, multiple CPU core support, and hardware virtualisation.
On this page, we will conduct several disk intensive tasks in VirtualBox using
the exact same configuration apart from where the VirtualBox hard disk image
file is placed.
We configured our VirtualBox PC as follows:
- OS Version: Windows 7 (64 bit)
- Base memory: 2048MB
- Enable IO APIC
- Processors: 4
- Enable PAE/NX
- Enable VT-x/AMD-V
- Enable Nested Paging
- Video memory: 128MB
- 2D & 3D Acceleration disabled
- SATA Controller in AHCI mode
- HOST I/O cache disabled
- No network adapter
The rest of the settings were as default.
For each benchmark, a new fixed size 64GB VirtualBox Image file is created on
the hard disk being tested. We chose a fixed size to prevent the hard disk
image file becoming fragmented. For the software source, we placed the Windows
7 Home Premium x64 SP1 and Microsoft Office 2010 ISO files on the RAM Drive to
eliminate any bottleneck in these read sources.
All timings on this page were measured
manually using a stopwatch. The VirtualBox network adapter was disabled for all
tests to prevent Internet access having an influence on our tests, such as when
Windows searches the network for shared resources during the OS installation or
even checks for Windows updates after the OS installation has completed.
Installing Windows 7 Home Premium x64
For this test, we boot our VirtualBox and
go through the Windows 7 setup wizard until we reach the partition editor. With
the empty volume selected, we started our stopwatch from the time we clicked
‘Install’ to the moment the screen appeared where it asks to provide a
username. We went through these finishing steps and started our stopwatch the
moment we went past the Timezone screen until the instant the desktop
Now for our timing results:
As the Windows OS consists of a lot of small
files, which are written to hard disk during the OS installation, we see a
repeat of the earlier small files write test where the Toshiba hard disk took
considerably longer than the other hard disks. On the other hand, the Windows
OS itself is probably the largest piece of software one will ever install and,
for most people, the main waiting time will be for all the Windows updates to
download, unless they have a very fast Internet connection. As we show the two
installation stages separately, it is interesting to see that the Toshiba HDD
performed better during the final stage of installation, which likely involves
a fair amount of threaded read/write operations as Windows does its finishing
touches getting the Windows installation ready to use.
Installing Microsoft Office 2010 x64
After Windows, Microsoft Office is a fairly
large software package to install, especially on older hardware. Many users who
went through the installation process would cringe at the thought of having to
For this test, we timed from the moment the
installation started to the moment the “Finished” screen appeared.
In this test, the Toshiba hard disk still
took considerably longer than the comparison drives, but as with the Windows OS
installation, Microsoft Office contains a large number of small files such as
Booting Windows 7 and launching applications
Regardless of whether one uses sleep,
hibernation or instant boot (Windows 8), everyone will have to do a full
Windows boot periodically, such as after installing certain software or Windows
After a fresh Windows 7 installation,
Windows optimises the boot process such that certain files are physically laid
out on the hard disk in a particular order to improve their read performance and
many are prefetched to both speed up the boot process and the loading of frequently
launched applications. So before we started our timings, we rebooted Windows 7
and launched the applications we planned, timing and repeated this process at
least 5 times. We then allowed Windows to run idle for at least 5 minutes,
then rebooted and launched the applications once more time. Finally we rebooted
the VirtualBox and started our timings. The “Media Player” mentioned here
refers to the preinstalled Windows Media Player.
Despite the lengthy Windows and Office
installation times, the Toshiba hard disk does reasonably well in this test,
taking just over a second longer than the Samsung M7 until the desktop appears.
However, it is worth noting that Windows is running without any third party
drivers and VirtualBox guest additions were not installed, so these timings
will likely be longer with a dedicated Windows installation with all the PC
hardware drivers installed. The PC’s processing power would also have an influence.
As for the software launch timings, the
Toshiba hard disk took a little longer than the Samsung M7 hard disk,
especially when launching Internet Explorer 8. On the other hand, 1 to 2
seconds to launch commonly used applications is nothing to really complain
about, especially when compared to the 5+ second launch times most PC users
have experienced on older and lower end PCs. As we pretty much expected, both
2.5” hard disks fell well behind the desktop hard disk, likely due to the
shorter seek times with the 7200RPM spindle.
Whether installing an OS or a software
package, this process involves writing a large number of files to the hard
disk. With the Toshiba hard disk’s slow write performance of small files, it is
not really surprising to see it take considerably longer in both the Windows 7
installation and Office installation timings. So for those who like to
regularly try out software or install every software update that becomes
available, this hard disk may not be the best choice for this type of usage,
especially if the user does not need the large storage space.
For launching Windows and software, this
hard disk performed pretty well at least without any third party drivers due to
our VirtualBox installation. It also performed well with everyday software
applications including Internet Explorer, Word, and Windows Media Player, where
each application took less than 2 seconds to launch.
Let’s head on to the next page to
conclude our review …