VMWare Fusion – Windows Detox


While I’ve made great progress in getting native Mac applications to replace my Windows apps, the one area that I have not been able to make the move is in development environments.

I’m doing all of my core development using Microsoft Visual Studio and that’s a Windows only proposition. What I really wanted was something that would allow me to fire up a Windows XP session and run Visual Studio in it, while still being able to load my Mac applications at the same time. 
That requirement pretty much eliminated Bootcamp from contention. I love free software and since Bootcamp comes with Mac I don’t have to pay to get it, however I can’t handle rebooting throughout the day for this. Not worth it for the way I need to use it.
In looking around two products popped up all the time: Parallels and VMWare Fusion. I’ve used VMWare products on PCs for a long time. As a software developer there’s no better way to test your software on every version of Windows than just setting up Virtual Machines and running them when you need them.
Though I’ve heard good things about Parallels, I’ve been happy in the past with VMWare on the PC side so I figured I’d install the trial and check out Fusion.
Installation was a snap – really simple. I had a full version of Windows XP that I installed within my Mac; no setting up a special partition, the entire virtual machines exists as a single file within the Mac OS. Nice and clean – I like it.
You still need to activate Windows much like you would on a new machine installation. Again, no problems there. VMWare Fusion recognizes that you are installing Windows and actually helps you along with the process. You just need to define how much disk space the VM will need. I gave mine 20GB since the Visual Studio environment can be quite large.
Running Windows XP in a window on Mac is pretty cool. You can either run it in it’s own window (as a window or full screen), or you can flip it into Unity mode. With Unity mode you just start up any Windows application and it runs in a window right next to your Mac applications. While Unity mode is pretty cool, it’s a little sluggish on the window painting / rendering compared to just hosting Windows in it’s own window. Not a lot mind you, but it is noticeable.
VMWare claims that you can run DirectX games in this environment however since I’m running a MacBook without a dedicated graphics card I’m not even going to bother trying.
When running Windows XP in a full window though it is incredibly fast. I’m glad I got the extra memory in the MacBook because it is handy when running something like Fusion.
I’ll write more about this soon but so far VMWare Fusion looks like a keeper. Within the next week I’ll try setting up my development environment in that Windows VM to see how well it will actually work.


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