How do you achieve a VMware Workstation/Fusion and ESXi like experience and performance?


New Member
Jul 15, 2023
I'm learning Proxmox in an attempt to move away (for many reasons) from VMware Workstation/Fusion and ESXi. I'm doing the home lab first and then production systems. I've noticed a few things once VMs are up and running on a test 4 x Intel(R) Core(TM) i5-6200U CPU @ 2.30GHz that was previously running ESXi v8 (guest have same hardware config as ESXi)
  1. When using the recommended values, installation of ubuntu and windows 10 vm is much slower (both with 4 core, 4GB ram). And the performance of the guest once up is sluggish. This may be the result of the "Processor Type" setting. With so many options, it's hard to know what to pick. ESXi default values always seemed perfect so I never dug deep into optimisation techniques even running production equipment.
  2. noVNC is used as the viewer by default but it has no audio support (in progress). Even when allocating 128Mb to Display, the view has lots of ghosting or trailing.
  3. You can't copy/paste text or files in the default viewer.
  4. Alternative guest viewer options for Windows and Linux seem complete but i wasn't able to get a separate viewer like virt-viewer working on mac.
How do you get a VMware Workstation/Fusion like experience when using Proxmox (v8.0.3)? Are there better recommended setting guides than the official for Windows and Linux running on Intel Based systems? Is there another tool I can buy to get a nice view, copy paste, and audio without having to spend hours searching the web and trial and error guest and client tricks to get a nice experience? It doesn't need to be free (as I intend on buying a proxmox subscription if I can get it working for me). I'm just looking for a solution where moving away from ESXi doesn't cost me more in time than the cost of a VMware Workstation/Fusion and ESXi subscriptions would be. I primarily run Linux (mostly Debian based) guest and some Windows guest.

The Proxmox UI experience is amazing compared to ESXi embedded web client. I usually connect to ESXi via paid VMware Workstation Pro (Linux) or VMware Fusion Pro (Mac). That viewer experience just working out of the box saves a lot of time with my guest VMs that have Desktops. Having default config values that work great has also been a major time saver that I didn't think would be a issue in Proxmox.
How do you get a VMware Workstation/Fusion like experience when using Proxmox (v8.0.3)?
You cannot. VMware Workstation and Fusion are desktop virtualization products, PVE is not. If you want the experience, get a desktop virtualization product that is especially programmed to get you desktop like performance. PVE is not optimized or built for doing that. Best you can get is virt-viewer which is pretty fast. Therefore noVNC is not performant and you cannot copy&paste and no audio. It makes no sense, because noVNC is JUST a virtual display, nothing more (no keyboard and no audio card).
I quite like running VMware Workstation on my big workstations (mostly on Windows) and speed of virtualization is part of that.

In fact I am even testing virtualization in nested mode on VMware workstation first and the on physical hardware.

But it's a different use case. Proxmox, Xcp-ng, oVirt or RHV are about running server loads and typically in a hyperconverged and fault tolerant manner. "slow" or "fast" there is mostly about storage and network I/O there and if it's desktop performance, then I'd use a server desktop platform.

For Windows that would be RDP sessions, for Linux it might be xRDP as well, no-NX, ThinLinc or a VNC variant. And in the case of Windows desktop audio is part of RDP and remote desktop performance generally isn't meant to support gaming.

The consoles are really just there to bring up the server on the VM, not how you'd interact with them.

For storage and network I/O the type of drivers you use make a huge difference on smaller and older machines like that Skylake notebook/NUC you're using. Most Linux systems will automatically use the paravirtualized drivers that come with pretty much every Linux being distributed today, but Windows generally won't: it needs to be tricked and tweaked into using paravirtualized drivers provided via extra media at installation time, e.g. by swapping the virtual ISO media to one that contains the paravirtualized QEMU/KVM drivers.

I've always found that a big tricky with whatever KVM variant I've used: it's one of those things which VMware makes so wonderfully easy and the reason I keep my VMware license valid and fresh since the very first release in 1999.

But I've managed and then these VMs on KVM aren't really slower than VMs using VMware's native type II hypervisor on Window or the ESXi type I variant. It's no longer really a race, everybody is using the same tricks and there is a reason why VMware very own Workstation product just runs KVM on Linux hosts, while their proprietary variant IMHO is still way better on Windows, where Windows itself often activates Hyper-V for one reason or another, necessitating VMware Workstation to also use Hyper-V to run its VMs there (with some feature loss).

True device emulation for VGA and IDE generates a lot of overhead but with paravirtualized drivers the overhead is the same for all platforms and any speed difference either imagination or a sign of some misconfiguration.

And yes, as a previous poster pointed out, using a "glorified 64-bit 80486" as the VM's CPU type will use a lot of the host features, so make sure it's as close to the host as your circumstances allow.

With both the paravirtualized drivers and a matching CPU type the only significant overhead of a Windows RDP session inside a Proxmox VM or a bare metal Windows host should be some RAM for the hypervisor, unless you run a synthetic benchmark.
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