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VirtualBox - MAC - SmartSDR

Bill Wuttke KE3BK
Bill Wuttke KE3BK Member ✭✭
edited June 2019 in New Ideas
I've spent quite a bit of time recently trying to find the best way to run SmartSDR under Windows 10 on my Mac computers. Here's what I've found:

The best solution, that provides the best performance, is Boot Camp. The downside is that you have to reboot to get back to OS-X.

My fastest computer, that's in my shack, is running Parallels 14. I've been using Parallels for years, constantly upgrading. Parallels is tightly integrated with OS-X and provides near hardware performance with only a light load on OS-X. It runs Windows 10 / SmartSDR very well. However, recent changes in licensing policy made me look for another solution. I don't want to buy/renew a license for every machine.

I've used VMWare Fusion in the past and didn't like the way it integrated with OS-X. I **** tried a test copy, and found it used much more CPU power than Parallels - just about the same as VirtualBox.

VirtualBox has been maligned in the past, and I agree that it's performance has been less than stellar, but, the most recent versions do a pretty good job. But, some tuning needs to be done in order to have a usable platform. It works best on 4-core CPUs, but it does work on 2-cores. For best performance you need to assign all the cores to Windows 10, especially on 2-core CPUs, but that makes OS-X sluggish. I reached a compromise on my "semi-remote" iMac - assigned 3 CPUs to Windows 10. This made OS-X a little more responsive. On my Mac Mini and my MacBook Pro (both with 2 cores), both cores needed to be assigned to Windows 10. All my machines have 8 GB of RAM - assigned 4 GB to Windows 10. (Windows 10 plus SSDR plus WSJT-X use approx. 2 GB of RAM. Assigned 4 GB for headroom.) Hyper-V acceleration is used. No problem with wifi on the MacBook Pro.

The biggest hit on performance is SmartSDR itself. If you use it "out-of-the-box", it will use 50% or more of available Windows 10 CPU power (measured with Resource Monitor). If you slow down the refresh rate to 5 frames per second or less, SSDR will use only about 20% of the CPU power. For best resource conservation, slow down the refresh rate, slow down the waterfall, close the waterfall, resize the SSDR window to its smallest size, and minimize the slice flag.

If SSDR is using too much CPU power, WSJT-X will have a hard time decoding. If you watch the Resource Monitor during FT8 reception, you can see a spike in CPU usage every 15 seconds during the decode period. If the peak gets close to or reaches 100%, you will hear a quick "buzz" - NO DECODE. You can also get these "buzzes" if you open/close other programs or move windows around, if you are using too much CPU. I tuned my machine by watching the Resource Monitor and adjusting SSDR to keep the spikes below about 50%. This way, WSJT-X will run without problem.

I hope this has been some help to those of you who have been wondering about running SmartSDR on Windows 10 under VirtualBox on a Mac.

Bill  KE3BK


  • W1MSG
    W1MSG Member ✭✭
    edited August 2018
    I just use DogPark SDR and the Mac Native WSJT-X works Great !
  • Sergey R5AU
    Sergey R5AU Member ✭✭
    edited August 2018
    Hi Bill!

    i using my 6700 since July 2013 without performance issue :
    MAC OS + Parallels +Win10 (previosly Win7 operate as well)
    MAC  : I7 2,9  32RAM, SSD
    For parallels i have split :  4CPU + 8Gb

    Very usually started simultaniously :

    1.SSDR with 2 separate PAN's (one for CW and one for DIGI)
    2.Logger - LogHX
    7.JTDX (for digi like FT8) or FLDIGI (for other DIGI mode)

    overall CPU usage in Win10 (4 selected CPU's for parallels) ~ 60%

    and plus you able to operate under MAC OS for you purpose  )

    forget boot camp in you don't need more then configuration  above
  • George KF2T
    George KF2T Member ✭✭✭
    edited February 2019
    Thanks for the report, Bill. If you want to run SSDR, especially in your situation, you’re quite right. If you have Parallels and don’t mind the cost (one machine isn’t too bad), it works extremely well, like Sergey says. All in all, though, I believe dpSDR is the best solution for Mac-based Flexers. It is truly first rate, with a Mac look and feel. I use it almost 100% of the time. With SmartLink, too.
  • Olaf, W9FY
    Olaf, W9FY Member ✭✭
    edited August 2018
    Thanks Bill for the information.
    Olaf W9FY
  • Burch - K4QXX
    Burch - K4QXX Member ✭✭
    edited August 2018
    99% of the time, I use Dogpark when I'm using my Mac.  I do run Fusion on my 3 Mac computers and it runs SSDR just fine.  I used to use Parallels but the cost to run on multiple Macs and the yearly subscription was very expensive.  I know Parallels used to run faster than Fusion but I believe the two are fairly close in performance now.  Parallels had a little better disk I/O speed on my Macbook Pro but not enough to offset the costs of the software.

    Burch K4QXX

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