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Every once in a while you come across a product that does exactly as it claims, and does is damn well. Right before my vacation, I got a trial copy of Invirtus VM Optimizer and give it a try. Before I share my experience, first let me explain what this product does.

Previously I've written how you can tweak your virtual machines (VM) to run at their peak performance. I've also written how you can use differencing disks to your advantage. VM Optimizer does neither of these things. In the differencing disks article, I wrote how you can perform a few tasks to your base disk to shrink the physical size of the VHD file (such as running defrag three times, running the precompactor, and then compacting the disk).

This is where VM Optimizer comes into play...

After you've built your VM and run defrag three times, you run an app included with VM Optimizer that does something similar to the VPC precompactor, and then you run an EXE on the VM Optimizer ISO file which does a few performance and space saving tweaks to your VM. Then a process kicks off that shrinks your VHD file... even more than the VPC file compaction process! How much? Proof is in the pudding!

I recently created a new baseline development virtual machine (for use with future differencing disks). This machine includes VS 2005, SQL 2005, all service packs and hotfixes up to today as well as utilities/add-ins I can't live without (DevExpress's DXCore, CodeRush & Refactor! Pro, GhostDoc, my customized VS 2005 code file templates, Reflector, Regulator, SnippetCompiler, NotePad++ to name a few and just about everything SysInternals offers) and my own customizations (like when I double-click a DLL, it automatically opens in Reflector, etc). All of this, with no help documentation or SDKs, came to a whopping 10.7GB after I did my best at shrinking the size using my own methods.

Then I gave Invirtus VM Optimizer a shot. About 40 minutes later I was left with a working VHD that ran even faster, but was only a fraction of the size: 6.2GB! That's a 4.6GB reduction... only 43% the size of the original file! WOW! For kicks, I compressed it using the best compression method with WinRAR... this resulted in a 2.15GB RAR file! Very nice... see for yourself (the .bak file is the original VHD I started with:

Invirtus VM Optimizer

Now, if that's not good enough, the best part is the personal edition is only $39! Right after my experience shrinking my base dev image with the trial version, I had to get the retail version if it works this good?

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