I have a need to carry VMWare Virtual Machines with me for work. These are very large files (each VM is 20GB or more) and I carry around about 40 to 50 VM's to simulate different software configurations for different client needs. Key: they won't fit on the internal hard drive of my current laptop.

I currently execute the VM's from an external 7200RPM 2.5" USB-2 drive. I keep copies of the VM's on other 5400 external USB-2 drives. The VM's work from this drive, but they are slow, costing me much time and frustration. It can take upwards of 30 minutes just to make a copy of one of the VM's. They can take upwards of 10-15 minutes to fully launch and then they operate sluggishly.

I am buying a new laptop (Core I7, 8GB RAM and other high-end specs). I intend to buy an SSD for the O/S volume (C:). This SSD will not be large enough to hold the VM's.

I have always wanted a second internal hard drive to operate the VM's. To have two hard drives, though, I am finding that I will have to go to a 17" laptop which would be bulky/heavy. I am instead considering purchasing a 15" laptop with either an eSATA port or USB-3 ports and then purchasing two external drives. One of the drives might be an external SSD (maybe OCX brand) for operating the VM's and the other a 7400RPM 1TB hard drive for carrying around the VM's not currently in use.

The question is which options would give me the biggest bang for the buck and the weight:

1) 2nd Internal SSD hard drive. This would mean buying a 17" laptop with two drive "bays". The first bay would hold an SSD drive for the C: drive. I would leave the first bay empty from the manufacture and then purchase/install an aftermarket SSD drive. This second SSD drive would have to be very large (256 GB), which would be expensive. I would still also need another external hard drive for carrying around the VM's not in use.

2) 2nd internal hard drive - 7400 RPM. Again, a 17" laptop would be required, but there are models available with on SSD drive for the C: drive and a second 7200 RPM hard drives. The second drive could probably be large enough to hold the VM's in use as well as those not in use. But would it be fast enough to drive the VM's?

3) USB-3 with External SSD. I could buy a 15" laptop with an SSD drive for the C: drive and a second hard drive for general files. I would operate the VM's from an external USB-3 SSD drive and have a third USB-3 external 7200 RPM drive for holding the VM's not in use.

4) eSATA with External SSD. Ditto, just eSATA instead of USB-3

5) USB-3 with External 7400 RPM drive. Ditto, but the drive running the VM's would be USB-3 attached 7400 RPM drives rather than SSD.

6) eSATA with External 7400 RPM drive. Dittor, but the drive running the VM's would be eSATA attached 7400 RPM drives rather than SSD.

Any thoughts on this and any creative solutions?

  • 1
    since it sounds like you are mostly set against a 17" laptop you might reconsider rephrasing your question and details along the lines of "which is faster: External SSD on eSATA or USB-3", to remain inside the guidelines as mentioned in David's answer – Xantec Nov 10 '10 at 20:46
  • Keep in mind that if you're copying these (as you mention you do occasionally) that they're only going to go as fast as the slowest drive (presumably the target drive if you're using an SSD for your repository). – Shinrai Nov 10 '10 at 22:06
  • You might also consider the Lenovo ThinkPad T-series laptops. You can stick a hard drive in the ultrabay. – Brad Jan 10 '11 at 19:17
  • Try to look into the forthcomming LighningBolt enabled devices and addon cards. – ppumkin Mar 6 '12 at 14:09

20GB per machine * 50 machines = 1 terrabyte of space.

At the moment, these drives are pricey, if you can even find one. I'd settle for a smaller size SSD for your internal drive, and then look for a pair of e-SATA drives enclosures holding something like this:


We have used a drive adapter that fits into our Dell and Lenovo media bay. This allows a second drive in a 15.6 laptop with no added cost beyond the adapter and drive. E6510 Adapter Tests with WD Cavar Black drives showed a real performance gain over USB drives and even early eSATA. Add a SSD and performance was way better for theVMs. Naturally, not all laptops have this option and large SSDs are costly. You can also get 10K VelociRaptor drives from Western Digital. Not inexpensive, but fast This solution worked well for us with a very modest cost. Less stuff to carry as well.


Here is a thought/suggestion, but not a complete purchasing answer. A SSD will help the overall performance of the VMs due to the high read speeds. I would attempt to get a large SSD if it was reasonable for the convenience/price ratio. I would also recommend looking into some large flash drives. I have seen some that are 256GB before. I'm not sure on the price though (I know that they are pricey.). Hope that this helps.

Also, this question will be closed soon (not by me) by a moderator due to it being about shopping suggestions. It directly states that this type of question is against rules in the FAQs.

EDIT: Another suggestion would be to get an external enclosure that uses RAID (any raid that would improve performance but at the same time not be to bulky). RAID 10 would be choice, but if it was impossible to find a convenient way to carry it around, possibly something slower like RAID 5 if it improves performance enough.

  • There's more to this question than a simple shopping suggestion. – Joel Coehoorn Nov 10 '10 at 19:53
  • @Xantec shouldn't you put that comment on the question its self? – David Nov 10 '10 at 20:04
  • @Joel Coehoon This is mainly a shopping suggestion question. They are pretty strict on the shopping question rule if you haven't noticed. I was only warning him of what could and probably will happen. I like the question and think it would beneficial. – David Nov 10 '10 at 20:05
  • @David sure, comment moved – Xantec Nov 10 '10 at 20:46
  • We found RAID 5 was slower than RAID 1 or no RAID at all – Dave M Nov 10 '10 at 21:50

esata and plain old sata are electrically identical, and should offer you the same speed as an internal drive if the host system supports it.If you HAVE to go SSD, and external Esata is your best choice

SSD easily go up to 6 gb/s while usb 3.0 is still at around 4 gbps on modern systems. To me the HDD + USB 3.0 or esata setup is probably the most cost effective setup - the hard drive would more likely be the bottleneck, and would still blow away a USB2.0 setup where the USB connection is the bottleneck.

At the end of the day tho, both approaches have their advantages - both would probably be significantly faster than legacy USB, and esata/ssd give blazing speed and HDDs give space with adequate performance .


I was able to compare a 7200 rpm hard drive with an SSD on an eSATA connection. There's no comparison, just get the eSATA with SSD. A few hundred more is well worth your costly development time or gaming or what ever you're working on.

  • Can you expand a bit on your answer? – Canadian Luke Oct 15 '12 at 18:11

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