Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Finding Minimal Host OS for VirtualBox

To Achieve a performance comparable to a baremetal/Type1 Hypervisor.

I was always searching for an extreme light weight OS to host VirtualBox in a Desktop environment. Obviously linux will be our default choice, as Windows OS tends to be blotted and heavy on resources. Even finding a linux distribution seems to be a challenge, as there are a huge number of distros out there from which we can choose.

Our criteria for the selection of a host OS is as follows:

1. Should have a very minimal foot print (Both on RAM and HDD)

2. Should boot pretty quick (Preferably < 10 Seconds)

3. Shutdown should be faster (Preferably < 5 Seconds)

4. Should use very minimal memory/processor, So that they can be actually used by the Guest operating systems

5. Should have a very light window manager.

(Window manager is necessary as we are using a single desktop, and we should be able to manage and run virtual machines from a GUI console like VirtualBox manager on the same desktop)

I’ve tried Lubuntu, which boots in 10 Seconds and minimal on resources. On startup it seems to be taking 175MB of RAM. Pretty descent right? But not enough. I’ve searched for a very minimal linux distro for this purpose.

Puppy Linux is well known for its lightness and speed. It seems to outperforms most of the other distros. The good thing is that Puppy Linux having a window manager and GUI. So I’ve researched a bit on this distribution. As my major aim is setting up a host OS for VirtualBox, it should be able to leverage Intel-VT and AMD-V processor extensions, So that 64-bit Guests are supported and Guest OS can run with the maximum performance. Also the host OS should run and load faster. It should be able to address more RAM (>4GB).

So we may not be able to use a 32-bit Puppy Linux, We should need a 64-bit Puppy. Puppy Linux was made a long time ago,  with 32-bit system in mind and with low configurations. Until recently I was unaware of the fact that, there was a 64-bit version of Puppy Linux to leverage modern computers with high configurations and still not compromised on speed and low on resources. They kept the same spirit of 32-bit Puppy.

Yes we are talking about FatDog64, the 64-bit version of Puppy Linux!

On a True Full HDD installation, it booted to Desktop in less than 6 Seconds!

On startup it is taking up < 100 MB of RAM!

And the speed is awesome!, Even Lubuntu cant beat its boot speed, performance and light on resources.

I’ve selected the most recent version of FatDog64 (Version 631). But it does not support a full HDD installation officially. It was only designed for a Frugal Install.

But we can make FatDog64-631 for a full HDD install, So that we can get the very minimal and speedy OS that we ever dreamed.

Read my next blog on how to perform a full HDD installation of FatDog64-631 here

FatDog64-631 booted to desktop: Image



  1. This is awesome...i wanna try this out

  2. Great, thanks for sharing your experience, it is useful a loooot for me, I was looking for exactly this.

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