External Drive for Fusion VM

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by arkmannj, Aug 26, 2013.

  1. arkmannj, Aug 26, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2013

    arkmannj macrumors 65832


    Oct 1, 2003
    Anyone have a recommendation for an external hard drive that could be loaded with a VMWare Virtual Machine File?

    My (soon to be) Wife is taking a required "Computer basics" course at the local university and they require Windows & MS Office 2013.
    She has a MacBook Air with about 100GB of storage, and is utilizing most of that space right now. (and she does not have VMWare/ Virtual Machine files on her computer right now) So I was thinking rather than trying to clear off most of her computer just to temporarily fit Windows & Office, that we could just install VMWare on her machine and have the Virtual Machine sitting on an external USB3/Thunderbolt drive.
    The VM doesn't need to run lightning fast, but it does need to be adequate for her to not lag behind in the basics course as they are showing features of office, etc...

    any thoughts?


    I was thinking something like this perhaps:
    * http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10599
    * http://www.lacie.com/us/products/product.htm?id=10553

    Would a fast SD card be "fast enough"?
    something like this perhaps: http://goo.gl/lC0CSh

    Computer Details:
    MacBook Air [Mid 2012] 13 inch.
    Proc: 1.8 GHz Core i5
    Mem: 4 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
    Gfx: Intel HD 4000 512MB
    OS: 10.8.4 (Plan to upgrade to Mavericks)

    Using VMWare Fusion 5.0.3 Professional
    Either Win 7 or win 8 (64 bit or 32bit, whatever would be fastest and most light weight)

    It looks like the internal SD Card reader is hooked up through USB3.0 SuperSpeed Bus. Reader shows in System Profiler as capable of 5 Gb/s
  2. FreakinEurekan macrumors 68040


    Sep 8, 2011
    Eureka Springs, Arkansas
    SD card would be fine, I'd go that route for the convenience.
  3. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
  4. a.coward, Aug 27, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2013

    a.coward macrumors regular

    Jun 1, 2010
    I've tried this on an external USB 3.0 HD, an SD card (Class 10) and a
    USB 2.0 thumb drive on my rMBP. I have not tried this on a USB 3.0
    thumb drive. Also, this was done using Parallels and not VMWare,
    but I don't think that makes much of a difference.

    Now, "fast enough" is relative, but for my use cases, I found that
    the SD card and USB thumb drive were a bit laggy. The USB 3.0
    HD, however, was very usable. There was a little bit of noticeable
    latency, but throughput was great. In fact, the botteneck is not
    with the USB 3.0 but the HD speeds. So, performance should be
    similar to that of a built-in HD (save the latency).

    Now, I have not tried this on a fast USB 3.0 flash drive, but I have
    a hard time believing that it will be much faster than a USB 3.0 HD in
    real-world applications. And when it comes to write performance,
    I think a HD will have the upper hand.

    BTW: This is a hotly debated issue, but there are some who say
    that using a standard flash drive (SD or USB) for such applications
    is not recommended because of write wear issues. I don't really
    have an opinion on this, so I'll just let you research this.
  5. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
    I would have though that too, but look at the read and writes on the top spec USB 3.0 thumb drives.


    Look at the 64GB version :)


    They are far better than your average USB 3.0 HDD speeds.

    USB 3.0 thumb drives have come a long way... Capacity is not huge but speed is really getting there.
  6. dyn macrumors 68030

    Aug 8, 2009
    We're talking about running a vm off an external disk and thus this already excludes the use of usb thumbdrives and any form of memory card. They are technically incapable of providing what is needed for running a vm (it might run but you're asking for problems). Hypervisors like VMware ESXi do not allow you to use these as a datastore (the datastore is where you store and run your vm's from) for this exact reason. Memory cards and usb thumbdrives cause issues with vm's.

    There are only 3 options: external hdd, external ssd or network storage (NAS, SAN). Both the hdd and ssd can be put in a housing with fw800, usb3 or thunderbolt. The cheapest option would be an external usb3 hdd; a usb3 housing with an ssd would be cheap and fast; with thunderbolt it would be the fastest and also the most expensive option.
  7. Kashsystems, Aug 28, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2013

    Kashsystems macrumors 6502

    Jul 23, 2012
    Sorry I don't know if some people haven't kept up with Flash drive technology.

    I have 3 of these


    I use one for Windows 8, One for Windows 2012 and one for Windows XP.

    I have no issues with any of them and Parallels.

    I bought these after seeing their high write speeds on this review.


    Because you have to go through installing for a VM and installing additional programs on top of it, it is worth losing a little read speed compare to the other flash drives to get such a high write speed.

    These flash drives will run better than a traditional hard drive inside a pc as they usually cap out out and a lower read/write performance.
  8. opinio macrumors 65816

    Mar 23, 2013
    Precisely my suggestion above.
  9. blanka macrumors 68000

    Jul 30, 2012
    At 73$, you get small storage, but it will be outperformed by a 7200rpm HD in a USB powered enclosure. The stick does a theoretical max 190MB/s read, and maybe 20-30 write max, where the HD is like 150/150MB/s in real world tasks.
    For the same money you have 750Gb instead of 64!
  10. sgjohnston macrumors newbie

    Dec 14, 2009
    dyn, you can run a VM (using Fusion, at least) on a Mac where the VM's image is on a USB thumb drive. I have tried it, using the modes where the VM's virtual disk is one file, and also and a collection of fixed-size (2G I think) files. Unfortunately, the performance was terrible, too slow to be useful. This is with USB2.

    I current am doing this with a Seagate USB drive, still USB 2. It is OK, performance is pretty poor but useable. I also have a VM which has a small image on the Mac's SSD, and this runs fine, so I'm pretty sure the performance issue is disk IO over USB.
  11. Kashsystems macrumors 6502

    Jul 23, 2012
    No, there are several usb flash drives that will write over 100 mb/s.

    I bought the San Disk because it is hitting around 200 mb/s. I also bought it because it is a thumb drive so I can easily go another location, pop it in without carrying around that added bulk.
  12. dyn macrumors 68030

    Aug 8, 2009
    You can also drink a bottle of dish washer detergent. Just because you can still doesn't mean it is a good idea to do so. Running it from a usb thumb drive isn't recommended because it is very unreliable and most thumb drives are just too slow for it (it's more because of the iops than because of speed in MB/s; also why usb thumb drives are unreliable).
    There is too much differentiation with thumb drives. If you want to do things like this you need to get a proper one which is quite difficult. There is a good reason why nobody, not even virtualisation manufacturers, recommend the use of a thumb drive for something like this. If you want to do this then fine but it is entirely at your own risk.

    Now with that in mind let's have a look at prices for a usb3 stick...it's about the same as for a normal usb3 external disk drive that IS officially supported by the virtualisation manufacturers. So is it smart to buy a usb stick for this? No.
  13. Kashsystems macrumors 6502

    Jul 23, 2012
    The iops of the usb 3.0 flash drives I listed are still 2-4 times faster than the traditional 7200 rpm hard drive.

    You are right there is too much differentiation which can lead to confusion. I had to do research and some of the flash drives were too similarly named. There are also a lot of usb 3.0 flash drives that only get 20/10 mb read write speed.

    The cost difference is more beneficial to get an external SSD drive but if you want a portable vm with as little footprint as possible a usb 3.0 flash drive is the way to go.
  14. Giuly, Sep 1, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2013

    Giuly macrumors 68040


    As far as USB 3.0 sticks go, I second that, too.

    However, we're dealing with an OS here, so the same principles that apply to internal storage are equally valid here as well.

    The stick costs $75, the same as the 64GB SanDisk Ultra Plus SSD, which happens to beat the stick by a factor of ~2.5x for reading. Add an inexpensive enclosure such as MiniPro and you have a slightly bigger but dramatically higher-performance storage solution.
  15. Kashsystems macrumors 6502

    Jul 23, 2012
    Here is the difference for my situation.

    I can plug in the USB 3.0 stick and walk around with my macbook open and while running Parallels easily.

    Basically the trade off in price is footprint of the device.

    At home I use a usb 3.0 docking station with great results.
  16. arkmannj thread starter macrumors 65832


    Oct 1, 2003
    Thanks everyone for all your thoughts and suggestions!

    For those worried about what is "recommended or not". What I'm looking to do would just be a temporary solution as long as it survives through January 2014 and can handle some basic Windows 8 tasks, power point, word, excel for a student then it will have served its purpose. No real "important information", will be on it, so other than the bummer of some time and having to exchange the device (warranty) having the device fail would't be that big of a deal. I also plan on setting up the VM on another machine, and keeping a copy of the VM file there. Just copy the VM file to the external storage and then she can just get to it for the couple classes she has that go through Windows/Office basics.

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