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Odom

Some hardware questions

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Hi,

 

I'm very new to unRaid and am currently running a trial version on some old hardware (i7-950, 6GB 1066GHz RAM). I'm using multiple older drives that I had lying around.

I'm trying to understand the requirement for graphic cards. I have an old one borrowed from my beighbor (Radeon HD7950) that gives me monitor output. So far so good.

 

I eventually plan to put the server in a corner with only network and power and manage everything via the gui. Later I would like to have VM's, and this is the part that confuses me. I read about being able to pass-through hardware and graphic cards to a VM and the benefits of that. But what I don't understand is, do I have to do that?

My VM's would only be for test labs, I would have no requirement for dedicated graphic cards in a VM, just to be able to have a VM running and using VNC or RDP to connect to it.

 

I guess my question is, can I have a single graphics card and still run multiple VM's, possibly a monitor connected to the card as well? Or can I only have a graphics card to connect the monitor to and see the GUI, and then for VM's I would need another card? Can I use one for everything?

 

This one more out of curiosity and understanding: If you pass-through a graphics card to a VM, can you still attach a monitor to it and view the output of unRaid, or will that no longer be possible?

 

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If you are prepared to use another system to act as the input/output of a VM then the VM does not need to use the GPU at all.    In such a case the VM will ‘emulate’ the GPU and you then see the output on another system.     This can be done using the VNC viewer that is built into Unraid and works with any VM out-of-the-box.   Alternatively you can install appropriate software inside the VM itself.   As an example for Windows VMs you can use Remote Desktop that gives better graphics performance than VNC.    Suitable clients for such remote access exist for all major OS as well as for mobiles and tablets.   As an example I regularly use VMs on my Unraid server (running in headless mode) with an iPad acting as the screen, keyboard and mouse to the VM.

 

The reason people go on about passing through a graphics card to a VM (and having a monitor locally attached to that card) is that it gives close to bare-metal performance which is important if you are into games or graphics intensive applications on a VM.  If this is not the type of workload the VM is running then remotely accessing the VM is typically easier, cheaper, and often more convenient.   It also does not require the host system (I.e. Unraid) to be running on hardware that supports hardware pass-through.

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I have a workstation I use for daily activities (gaming, browsing, stuff you do at home :) ) and I was planning on eventually running some VM's on unRaid and just connect to them from my main PC. Some Linux VM's, various Windows Server editions, whatever labs I'd need for training, I wouldn't do any pass-through. So, with a cheap graphic card (like a GT 710 with low power consumption) I could still run VM's and connect via RDP or VNC just fine, if I understood you correctly?

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6 hours ago, Odom said:

I have a workstation I use for daily activities (gaming, browsing, stuff you do at home :) ) and I was planning on eventually running some VM's on unRaid and just connect to them from my main PC. Some Linux VM's, various Windows Server editions, whatever labs I'd need for training, I wouldn't do any pass-through. So, with a cheap graphic card (like a GT 710 with low power consumption) I could still run VM's and connect via RDP or VNC just fine, if I understood you correctly?

I am assuming that the motherboard you will be using does not have an iGPU and you therefore need an external GPU to allow the system to even boot?   In which any cheap GPU that is compatible with the motherboard will do.

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Correct, I have an old motherboard and CPU with no embedded iGPU, the external GPU is borrowed for now. I was planning on getting a simple one, like the GT 710, barely consumes anything.

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I run my Unraid server with the only graphics support being the iGPU, and most of the time even that has no monitor plugged in.   I then run a wide variety of VMs accessed by a mixture of VNC and RDP .

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