Windows XP, Vista, and VPC

I’ve migrated to Vista about 6 months ago. At some point, Visual Studio started to run really slow. Quite often, I’d just click somewhere, say in a line on the code editor, and VS would just freeze for minute or two, for no apparent reasons.

VS-not respondingAt some point I thought it could be because I have a bunch of plug-ins installed (CodeRush, RefactorPro, GhostDoc, TestDriven.NET, etc.), even though I didn’t have such problem on Windows XP. I tried removing all plug-ins and giving it a shot; no luck there. It was still behaving the same way.

Next I thought maybe it was a memory issue, since VS is always taking up 500Mb or so. My machine had 2Gb, so we threw in another 2Gb. I also always have a 2Gb ReadyBoost USB drive plugged in. But nope, that didn’t help; VS kept freezing up on me.

I’ve heard of people using a Vista box just as a VPC launcher (that is, the Vista box wouldn’t have much things running on it, and it’d only serve as the means to launch Virtual PC images). I’ve decided to give that a shot. I had actually worked with VPC machines to work as build machines, and also for presentations using beta versions of VS, but haven’t really used them to do actual work. Oh, I have also used it for some debugging.

I went ahead and created a VPC with Windows XP as the operating system, and with just enough things installed on it so that I can do development work, such as Visual Studio, my VS plugins, and client tools for SQL Server (such as Management Studio, but not the actual database server). I have not installed anything else, such as MS Office or things like that. I assign 2Gb of memory to this VPC machine.

As it turns out, working on a 2Gb WinXP + VS VPC machine is a much more pleasant experience than working on a 4Gb Windows Vista + VS + Office + etc machine.

There are other good benefits of working with VPC machines like that:

  • Changes can be easily rolled back by closing the machine without saving its state. This is very helpful, for instance, when you install a plug-in, or any other software for that matter, that messes up with the environment. If that happens, it’s pretty quick to just roll back. Also, if you’ve made a bunch of changes to files and things that get you to a pretty messed up state, just roll it all back. For instance, sometimes I open the VPC machine and I have some files checked out in VS from my previous session. Then I make a bunch of changes and I’m not too happy about it, I can just roll back the machine’s state and start all over.
  • I can easily work on any machine. Since I’ve put the VPC machines on a small USB drive, I can just plug it in to any computer that has Virtual PC installed, and get down to business real quick. This means that if my main computer happens to go through a big crash, I can be back up and running in no time.

This seems to be a pretty good way of to do this, and I’ll keep pursuing it. I have on my to-do list an item for researching some more into how to work with VPC machines effectively (I’m know there’s a LOT of things I need to learn about that, but I do what I can with the time that’s available…).  🙂

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  1. #1 by Kyle on February 15, 2008 - 8:24 am

    I haven\’t worked with Vista much but when doing SharePoint development you pretty much have to use a VPC. Many of the VS templates for VS require Windows 2003 Server. I have a base image and everytime I start a new client I copy it and create an image just for that project. 

  2. #2 by Claudio on February 16, 2008 - 10:46 pm

    hmm, good to know that. I haven\’t done anything with SharePoint yet, but I guess time will come.  🙂

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