In order to lengthen the lifespan of my machine I am replacing the weakest link, the hard drive and installing a new OS.

I had planned on using xp pro as my virtualbox host and ubuntu as guest.

After messing with ubuntu desktop and server I am really impressed and am thinking of reversing the virtualbox setup; ubuntu host xp guest.

I would use XP for Adobe Fireworks, Netflix, and iTunes (maybe) that's pretty much it.

Any reason not to do ubuntu host with xp guest? I know the xp vbox will run slower as a guest but really how much slower?

It's a desktop. 4gb ram, 500gb disk, Pent D 3.2 ghz

  • is there any particular reason why you use ubuntu? maybe cygwin is enough to server your purpose. if you just need the power of a nix terminal. – starcorn Jan 7 '11 at 15:10
  • Nice to see all the feedback. I replaced my old Dell XPS desktop with a shiny new MacBook Pro 17". Loving it. – iambriansreed Mar 9 '12 at 17:41

Just go ahead. You will be fine.

4gb ram, 500gb disk, Pent D 3.2 ghz

Pretty enough to run windows or any other os as Virtual Machine.


Any reason not to do ubuntu host with xp guest? I know the xp vbox will run slower as a guest but really how much slower?

Virtual Box is a good solution to have Windows available from Ubuntu in case you need it. As aneeshep already said, your system is more than sufficient to acchieve a fair performance. However a virtualized system of course is slower than a proper installation. Some 3D-Support is there but, depending also on your graphics card this may not be sufficient for a given application to run as purposed. This is especially true for gaming. Most Windows games won't run in a virtual machine. You need to test your applications on your individual system to find out if they perform well enough for you.

As a rule of thumb it may be wise to have the OS as your host where you spend most of the time in and have the guest for things you can't do with the host-OS. As there is not much you can't do with Windows (but also only few you can't do with Ubuntu!) you have to keep in mind that from perfomance and from security aspects you are far better off having Ubuntu as your primary OS than running on Windows XP.

For iTunes you need to know that even in the recent release of Virtual Box 4.0 burning audio CDs is not supported and fancy 3D-stuff like Coverflow may not work.

Once you have setup your system it is also a good idea to keep all of your data outside of the virtual disk to access them from both, host and guest using shared folders or by network acess.


Yes, you could run a Virtual Machine and assign about 1GB of memory for it. You can use shared folders or even samba for your music collection.


Any reason not to do ubuntu host with xp guest? I know the xp vbox will run slower as a guest but really how much slower?

I'm running exactly this configuration, with Ubuntu 10.10 as the host and Windows XP running in VirtualBox. My hardware is a lower spec than your's - I've got 2GB RAM, 160GB disk and a Pentium M processor. It all runs just fine, but I don't run games in the Windows XP image, so your mileage may vary. I'm also running XUbuntu desktop instead of the default (Gnome or KDE) so that probably means I'm using fewer resources in the host. I've assigned 512MB to the VM running Windows XP and it seems fine with that.

I also agree with Takkat's answer - the host OS should be where you spend most of your time, in order to get the best performance.


I would suggest keeping Ubuntu as the host OS. It sounds like your hardware should handle either scenario, but there are a couple benefits and drawbacks specific to this setup. First, the following would be benefits:

  • Keeping Windows XP in a VM allows you to easily migrate your installation over several installs and/or hardware configurations without triggering licensing problems
  • GDM allows you to log directly into a virtual machine (more info) without booting up a full desktop

However, there are a couple drawbacks to this setup:

  • USB support via Virtualbox can be problematic
  • 3D acceleration may not be fast enough for newer applications that require a lot of horsepower

Depending on what the benefits and the drawbacks mean to you, I'd say Ubuntu is an excellent choice for a host OS.


My personal experience has been that while virtual box is fun for trying out systems and features there are headaches also. The solution that has worked out for me is to have an old xp computer as well as a newer linux machine connected to a kvm switch.


Certain things just do not work on Linux, like certain Windows-centric electronics, certain games, iTunes, etc.. You can keep Windows on the first partition for the really difficult or impossible tasks that might come along without non-virtual Windows. Then, install Ubuntu and VirtualBox. Make a virtual Windows machine that does all the stuff it can do, like iTunes or what have you. Then you are covered for function and preference.


To avoid the drawbacks above I would suggest a hybrid option (that's what I am running):

machine is dual boot Ubuntu / Windows and I have setup virtual box in Ubuntu to be able to run the Windows disk/partition as a VM (need to create multiple hardware profile in windows - native & VM). There are multiple godo sites out there explaining how to do that.

This allows you to be running ubuntu + windows at the same time, and if for some reason , you did not get enough horse power (playing game or something like need special windows for special hardware) you can easily switch to native hardware, without having to maintain 2 images of windows.

Drawbacks: every time I switch back and forth I get the anoying windows registration, but I believe it can be disabled, I just haven't tried it

Other drawback is when installing windows on native hardware first is it will set itself up to use IO APIC - meaning you have to use that option in your VM which is a performance hit for VirtualBox. Unfortunately virtualbox docs clearly indicate we can't disable IO APIC in windows once it is installed. I am not sure if you can work around it by installing the OS in VM first (without IO APIC) then boot it from disk (haven't tried it).

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