Tips to Speed Up Virtual PC for Microsoft CRM

Virtual PC’s can be the best way to demo Microsoft CRM as it allows you demo CRM with out using Terminal Services, a Web Connection or anything but laptop and the image.

I get complaints from sales people and sales executives on the performance of VPC all the time. So the purpose of this article is to help you speed up Microsoft CRM running in VPC. Some of these tuning things are VPC generic and some are specific to Microsoft CRM.

For the purpose of this conversation, we have two different things to talk about. One involves things that have to do with the “Host” and others have things that have to do with the “Guest.”

  • The host is your physical machine.
  • The guest is the operating system running in VPC.

Physical Hardware.. 1

Existing Laptop.. 2

Dedicated Demo Laptop.. 2

Dedicated Demo Server. 2

Host Operating System... 2

External Hard Drive Settings. 3

Compression.. 3

Defragmentation.. 3

Guest Settings. 4

Physical Hardware

Realizing every partner has different needs and requirements, I am going to break us down in three different scenarios.

If you do NOT have a machine with at least 2 GB of RAM and a FAST External Hard Drive, DO NOT DEMO MICROSOFT CRM TO ANY PROSPECTS. Period. You will do nothing but apologize for the applications performance and it will have nothing to do with real world performance.

If you are a new partner or do not have a machine, you can buy a hard drive for, you should budget about $2,500 – $3,000 for a demo laptop. Ignore everything like Bluetooth, DVD Burner, etc… If you want to go the extreme I used to go with the Server, that setup was about 4,000 or so. (Monitor, Cases and everything included.)

Existing Laptop

Use this if you have an existing laptop that has 2 GB of RAM. If you do not buy a dedicated Demo Laptop, at least spend the 200 or so and buy a dedicated demo hard drive for your everyday laptop. It does not have to be very big, but should replace your main hard drive on demo days. You should also buy an external USB Hard Drive.

Dedicated Demo Laptop

You should have a dedicated demo laptop setup to run VPC and nothing else. A typical setup I have seen is:

· Dell Latitude D600

· 2 GHz Centrino Processor

· 2 GB of RAM

· 30 GB Internal Hard Drive

· 250 GB External Hard Drive

The two most important things on this are the external hard drive and the RAM.

Dedicated Demo Server

When I was a partner, I went to the extreme. This setup is awesome if you want to show the Dynamics-GP integration, SharePoint, and LOTS and LOTS of stuff at the same time. If you are a bit more extreme, my last setup was:

· IBM X225 Server

· Dual 2.0 Ghz Xenon Processors

· 4 GB of RAM

· 3 Hard Drives @ 10,000 RPM SCSI

In that setup I was running Virtual Server vs. Virtual PC to take advantage of the Dual Processor. I used to make a custom flight case with wheels that I used to cart this thing for several hundred thousand air miles a year.

Host Operating System

Now that we have hardware, lets talk about your host operating system. I have a spare hard drive I use for the host OS for demos. You know what is installed on it? Nothing. Not Word, Not Adobe Acrobat, Not MSN Messenger.

So lets look at your host OS right now. What is running on it? Here are some things I have seen:


· SQL Server

· Outlook

· Word

· MSN Messenger

· Office Communicator,

· Google Desktop Search

· MSN Desktop Search

· Trillian

· AOL Instant Messenger

· Yahoo Messenger

· Screen Capture Apps

· And the list goes on….

Think about this for a second or two and look at your system tray. How many things do you have down there? Take that and times ir by 50 megs per item…. Wow… There goes 200 megs of RAM. You know where that forces VPC? Yup… The dreaded swap file. (Which is slower than RAM.) So turn all of that stuff off before you demo the VPC. I normally use a second hard drive with nothing installed on it. That way I have all of my stuff without having to shut everything down between images.

Also, use the Pause feature in VPC to Pause VPC when running PowerPoint and Media Player. (So when you are doing presentations or showing a video.)

External Hard Drive Settings

First off, your external USB Hard Drive should NOT be one of those ones that uses the power from the USB port. Your external hard drive should be one that is powered by AC power and should be as fast in RPM’s as you can find. I personally use the Maxtor One Touch and have been very impressed with it.


I know this will defy logic. Make sure the external hard drive is formatted in NTFS. And also make sure the directory that will contain your VPC files is compressed. (So it should show up as blue.)


I use PerfectDisk from Raxco Software to run what they call a Smart Placement on my External hard drive weekly. The less fragmentation the better your performance will be. This product rocks… I like it much better and it makes my VPC’s run much faster than any other software I have tried. (I got a copy free as they are a local company that dropped off software to all of the Microsoft TS’s in the DC office one day.)

Guest Settings

Before we even look at the guest OS, lets look at the settings that are stored in the VMC file.

  1. Location of the VMC file. I personally make my VMC file in the same place as my VHD file. (In the compressed directory.) This will make sure that your VSV (Saved State File) and Undo File are all in the same place. This also helps when you make your drive portable between machines. (So I can start and suspend a machine on one laptop and resume my machine on a second latop.)
  2. Amount of RAM allocated to the Guest. This is a fine line to walk. When I run a VPC for demo prep on my “dirty” guest, I allocated about ½ my RAM or 1024 to the guest. When I run it on my clean machine, I do so with 1500 or so in RAM for the guest. You need to make sure you don’t choke you host machine’s processes, so unless you have a drive like I do that is pristine, allocate ½ of your RAM to the Guest.
  3. Networking. I have found that the virtual machine runs a lot faster when you are connected to a network. So I normally select the Local Only as an option under the network settings. (So your guest machine thinks that there is a network attached even if your host isn't netoworked.)
  4. Pre-Cache Tool: Use the Microsoft CRM Pre Cache Tool that Joris wrote. ( This should be started for EVERY Demo
  5. Learn how to use Suspend State. A lot of the times, I will start the demo image at home, do a dry run before leaving the house and then suspend state. When I get to the prospect’s offices, I will then use the Resume feature to do the demo.

The next time we will cover more of what can go wrong with VPC and Microsoft CRM in a demo environment, how to recover and what to do to prevent it from happening again. Other topics we will cover around VPC’s will include Differencing Disks and other topics that you would like to see covered.


Do you have any speed enhancements for VPC? Lets hear em... :-)