External Hard Drives that Work for Virtual Machines

Can an SSD Be Used as an External Drive?

External Hard Drives that Work for Virtual Machines

It doesn’t take long to see that external drives are a must have for any virtual lab user. Especially when you would rather run your virtual machines (VMs) off an external hard drive instead of doing it locally. This was me, so I learned by trial and error that not all external drives are equal when it comes to VM performance.

What is the best external hard drive for virtual machines? The best external drive to run VMs fits the criteria solving the notorious external VM lag and lab scalability. It includes fast read and write speeds; fast traffic throughput; and appropriate storage space with room to scale. Combining these criteria will make for the best external VM hard drive.

Many drives do fit these criteria. But depending on your virtual environment, you might be able to keep your spending habit reasonable.

The Best External Hard Drive for Virtual Machines

For a virtual environment that can be created locally and will not be used except to query resources from (ie light traffic servers), it would be okay to use a <https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00YFI1EBC/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8%26psc=1>. It has 128 GB of memory and will work for what you need it to do. I like this drive because it’s compact size and that it could store additional cold storage files besides my VMs. This is a more reasonable spend, and could be the best external drive depending on what you need for your virtual environment.

It was fine for what I had to do at the time, but I eventually needed an external drive where I could run live and make configurations from.

If you’re planning to make configurations from your external drive’s VM instance (ie creating a domain controller) you’ll need something that fits the stated criteria: 

  1. Fast read and write capabilities
  2. Fast traffic speed throughput
  3. Appropriate storage for scale

The crowning external drive that fits these criteria is <https://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Internal-MZ-76E1T0B-Tool-free-Enclosure/dp/B07K17R67B/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=samsung%2B860%2Benclosure%26qid=1567697249%26s=electronics%26sr=1-1>. It has 1TB storage which could fit several Windows and Linux servers. Along with fitting with the rest of the criteria, it is reasonably priced.
1TB storage maybe a bit much to estimate for storage scaling.

There is also a 250 GB drive <https://www.amazon.com/Samsung-Internal-MZ-76E250B-Tool-free-Enclosure/dp/B07K13X51P/ref=sr_1_9?keywords=samsung%2B860%2Benclosure%26qid=1567697596%26s=electronics%26sr=1-9> available for the virtual enthusiast on a budget. I would recommend a supplemental drive for any other cold storage uses.

Between the External VM and Workstation

If someone is talking besides you, you would use your inside voices. But if they’re across the hall, you may have to speak up. External drives are like that, the further they are from whoever is listening the louder they have to shout.

When a VM is running locally, the hard drive, all other factors being equal, is usually at peak since it’s as close to the motherboard and other resources it could be. That’s why you’ll see that a normal external drive, like the USB you used to store the resume you need to update in Word, will act slower if you try to run a VM instance off it. 

Sometimes it is possible that an external drive will be a better option to run your VMs if your hard drive has very slow read and write action. This is rarely a thing, but not impossible. 

When you plug in an external drive with fast read and write action and fast traffic throughput like USB 3.0, you’re golden when it comes to smooth user experience. You won’t be able to tell the difference between running it locally and externally. 

Related Questions

What is the best hardware for VMWare home lab?

The best hardware for a home lab would be what you have. Start there and maximize your hardware capabilities to force you to grow. Once you need to grow, then look into the next simple thing. It honestly doesn’t have to be elaborate, an external drive for a home lab could be all you need.

If you want to go beyond an external drive, there are laptops you could purchase that are excellent for virtualization usage. I just wouldn’t recommend laptops with 4k monitors as this is rarely supported by virtual workstations (ie Your application GUI inside the VM will be so out of resolution as to not be able to interface with it).

For VMWare hypervisor type 2 like ESXi, you’ll want a server for any real labbing. Since labs are specific you’ll need to go to VMWare’s website and look through compatibility list.

Can you run a VMWare virtual machine from a USB?

A USB can run a VMWare virtual machine. So yes, but you’ll likely have a poor user experience. USBs are not known for fast read and write speeds. Although they may have high bus speeds for traffic, you will also need proper read and write speeds.

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