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Virtual Box vs Hyper-V in 2014: which one is faster?

Posted on 12/21/2014

Recently I had to decide between VirtualBox and Hyper-V as my virtualization platform for SharePoint server. Using it as a development machine, I have the flexibility to pick either one without production environment considerations. There were a few articles on the web which compare the two, but they were all dated back to at least 2011. So, how do they actually perform in 2014?

One thing which I would like to note of is that Hyper-V Generation 2 machines use UEFI boot instead of the traditional BIOS. Generation 2 machines also introduces less virtualization overhead by removing legacy interfaces ( many of you still have a physical IDE cable?). These improvements should translate to better performance compared to Hyper-V Generation 1. With little information on the internet, I decided to run my own test.

Since my purpose is to run SharePoint server, I timed how long it takes for various installation steps. Only automatic operations are timed, e.g. from machine start to the Windows Installation welcome screen, and from installation begin to the screen which prompts for Administrator password. Of course, other parameters like such as virtual machine CPU, virtual machine RAM, VHD size etc., are configured identical.

Virtual Box vs Hyper-V Gen 1

The first test is done on my desktop machine. Since I'm reluctant to "upgrade" from Windows 8 to 8.1, the only choice I have to make is Virtual Box vs Hyper-V Generation 1.

OS: Windows 8
CPU: Intel i7-4820K @ 3.7GHz
RAM: 16GB DDR 1600

Operation Virtual Box Hyper-V Gen 1
Machine boot -> Install screen 27s 17s
Install start -> Administrator password screen 155s 283s
Machine start -> Windows ready 10s 7s
Install IIS role 39s 50s
Unzip 345MB zip to 555MB iso 7s 8s

Next, I ran a few benchmark tests to determine the performance of various system components using NovaBench and Roadkil's Disk Speed.

NovaBench Virtual Box Hyper-V Gen 1
RAM speed (MB/s) 12098 13363
RAM score 159 161
CPU score 198 318
HDD Write speed (MB/s) 213 232

Roadkil's Disk Speed Virtual Box Hyper-V Gen 1
Access Time 0.19 0.11
Max Read Speed (MB/s) 650 654
Cached Speed (MB/s) 284 268


It seems that despite the difference in virtualization architecture, neither Virtual Box nor Hyper-V gains a significant advantage over the other. Next, I moved to my Fujitsu UH572 laptop. Running on Windows 8.1, I was also curious how much performance can Hyper-V gen 2 machines gain.

Virtual Box vs Hyper-V Gen 1 vs Hyper-V Gen 2

OS: Windows 8.1
CPU: i5 3317U @ 1.7 GHz
RAM: 8 GB DDR 1066

Operation Virtual Box Hyper-V Gen 1 Hyper-V Gen 2
Machine boot -> Install screen 40s 18s N/A (due to UEFI boot)
Install start -> Administrator password screen 206s 286s 177s
Machine start -> Windows ready 20s 9s 6s
Install IIS role 78s 74s 63s
Unzip 313MB zip to 529MB iso 10s 19s 9s

Hyper-V is the all time winner! Let us move on to find out why:

NovaBench Virtual Box Hyper-V Gen 1 Hyper-V Gen 2
RAM speed (MB/s) 11274 11693 11833
RAM score 150 153 153
CPU score 153 155 153
HDD Write speed (MB/s) 145 152 153

Roadkil's Disk Speed Virtual Box Hyper-V Gen 1 Hyper-V Gen 2
Access Time 0.13 0.04 0.04
Max Read Speed (MB/s) 762 5940 2180
Cached Speed (MB/s) 210 340 324

The reason is pretty obvious: Hyper-V somehow cached data from the harddisk, making the peak read speed nearly 6 GB/s (that's 6 gigabyte, not gibabit!). In terms of CPU and RAM performance, Hyper-V is on par with Virtual Box.

Hyper-V seems better at I/O, but the final choice depends

Combining results from the two suite of tests, it is difficult to draw a conclusion. In the first test, Hyper-V is only marginally better that I consider their performances equal. In the second test, Hyper-V offers quite an amount of HDD performance boost which may benefit heavy I/O applications. This sounds reasonable - after all, Hyper-V is designed for server virtualization, while Virtual Box aims at compatibility.

Looking at the numbers, Virtual Box still offers decent performance. For development purpose, I don't think either one will slow you down a lot. Other factors, such as VM backup, compability and usability, should probably be taken into consideration before making a final decision.

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Hyper-V Gen 2 seems to default to a SCSI rather than IDE boot disk. Any chance you're seeing the difference between Hyper-V IDE and SCSI drives rather than Gen 1 and Gen 2 VMs in the second test?

by Xenny on 7/16/2015

Thank you for this comprehensive comparison! Your readers might also find this direct comparison between Oracle VirtualBox and Microsoft Hyper-V, generated by real users in the IT Central Station community, to be helpful:

by Danielle on 3/29/2016

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