Best Desktop Distro for Linux Host(ing) VMs

Hi All,

Ya’ll are great here and have posted several times here in the past and in searching the internet I found a few posts that gave a shout out to L1T. Reputation well earned!

TLDR- Linux noob! Moving to Linux from Windows, my daily workflow consists of several VMs and need near flawless performance in VMware Workstation with VM performance and switching between VMs from within Workstation GUI. These have been issues in the past.

To give a more detailed info, I can run Windows with the following hardware specs and flawlessly run 3-5 VMs with little issue.

i7-6700 3.4 GHz
Nvidia GT 730 (GDDR5,1GB VRAM, 64 bit bus)
OS drive 240GB SSD / VM Drive 500GB SSD
3 monitors (32 inch, 22 inch and 27 inch)

*I do have an AMD RX 640 (4GB, GDDR5, 128 bit bus) low profile GPU as well but had issues with it on the 22 inch monitor and the performance issues that I had with Nividia were mostly present even with this card. I played with both GPUs in Garuda to rule out one card just having driver issues but I did only try one driver with each card. Im not knowledgeable enough yet to switch kernels and video drivers to test performance/stability.

So I tried Garuda Linux for its Arch underpinnings and its admittingly eye pleasing aesthetics but I had some issues with VMware Workstation in terms of mouse performance and the mouse seemingly getting lost or having a few seconds of delay between switching tabs for each VM. In addition, once a VM was started, I noticed boot time was a bit increased and performance within the VMs had some small hiccups and delays. Its not super painful but enough to cause me to notice.

Id like to try continue using Garuda but Im also open to other distros as I need the VM experience to be flawless, so while Garuda seems great I may need something thats more stable and reliable as Garuda’s motto is 'Only focused on Performance; which I applaud but I feel like I need rock solid stability with these VMs first, aesthetics can take a backseat for now.

Thanks to all, I know this is a long post, let me know if you need any other info!


Proxmox would be my first recommendation. Designed to do what you want out of the box. With no support, the cost is zero.

If you prefer VMWare / ESXi in your life, there is a cheap way to get Enterprise VMWare through their VMUG program. I use that on two servers on my home lab. Roughly $300 for three years of access to all of their software (including Workstation) There are limitations, like having to re-license everything annually, but overall I like it.

Ive tried Proxmox as an alternative to ESXI but I dont think its really a desktop distro, I think its more of a bare metal hypervisor which isnt what Im trying to do.

To be clear, Im looking for a Linux ditstro that I can use as my daily driver (desktop) and run some VMs with VMware workstation alongside with no issues.

> linux
> vmware workstation
> run with no issue
choose 2

Oh a more serious note, can’t you migrate to Virt-Manager instead? The Linux distro at that point won’t even matter, because KVM is built into the linux kernel, so whichever you pick, it should be fine.

There are guides on the Forum for Fedora, Arch, Ubuntu and Pop!_OS for GPU Passthrough, the most detailed ones I would say are the Fedora ones. You don’t have to pick Fedora, you can apply mostly the same steps on Garuda, especially if you use the arch guide alongside. Since you have an i7 6700, you can use the built-in GPU with one monitor input, then pass your 730 to a VM and 640 to another VM. Or you could, you know… only pass one GPU and use the other one on your host, the choice is yours. Or, if you don’t need GPU acceleration in the VMs, then you don’t have to bother with the passthrough.

The only thing left would be to migrate your vmdk disks to either raw or qcow2 images.

There is no real best distro, the distro should fit your use-case (i.e. your preference on update schedules, rolling vs fixed-release, package manager, default DEs, documentation etc.) and you should feel comfortable using it. Oh, some of the problems you have with your monitors may not show up on wayland compositors, like if you use GNOME Shell wayland session (default in fedora) or kwin_wayland session in KDE Plasma5.

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