My Windows Make Over (Or, Pimp My Virtual Machine) – Part II

In continuation from yesterday’s post, “My Windows Make Over (Or, Pimp My Virtual Machine) – Part I”:

Apple computers come with a program called Boot Camp, which – after partitioning the hard drive – allows the user to install the Windows OS on their machine.  Of course, in order to use this option, the user must log off of the Mac OS X, reboot their computer, and then log on to Windows every time they wish to switch operating systems.  As you can imagine, this is not the most convenient of options, nor is it the quickest.  With a virtual machine, the user can simply log on to their other OS right from the operating system they are using – no rebooting necessary.  Of course, virtual machines were not made for Windows alone, but can also be used to house other systems as well (such as Linux or other forms of Unix).

While researching the various virtual machines available, I came across a rather informative article in the Macworld magazine, titled “How To: Run Windows On Your Mac” (by Rob Griffiths).  The bulk of this article is dedicated to describing the differences between two of the more popular choices in virtual machines – VMFusion and Parallels – and played a large part in helping me choose which virtual machine best fit my needs.  (Let it be known, there are other options available in addition to these two VMs (virtual machines).  These options include the VirtualBox from Oracle (free to download), QEMU (for Linux machines only, free to download), and the Windows Virtual PC (for Windows machines only, very limited in capabilities, free to use).)

For the purpose of this post, I am only going to concentrate my conversation on the merits of the Fusion and Parallels VMs.  They are the two virtual machines that I conducted the most research on; the positive customer reviews and impressive capabilities of these machines were both what captured my attention and acted as deciding factors when narrowing down my choices in preferred virtual machines.  The biggest difference between the two?  Fusion is for Macs only, while Parallels can work on multiple platforms.  The initial cost of both the Parallels and Fusion virtual machines is the same: $80.  There is a catch, however.  A Fusion license is good for every Mac computer a user controls or owns, while the Parallels license is only good for one machine.  In other words, deciding to run Parallels on multiple computers (say, for a business or school) will get really costly really quickly.

Fusion is also easy to install – there is no installer and the program can be stored anywhere the user desires.  Only on the initial start-up is the user’s administrative password required, and never again after that.  When the user chooses to quit Fusion, it shuts down completely – no background programs remain running.  Uninstalling is also a simple matter, requiring only that the application is dragged and dropped into the trash (no uninstall processes to go through here).  Parallels, on the other hand, uses an installer (and, thus, an uninstaller).  Also, despite the fact that the user may have fully exited Parallels, there are always two processes that continue to run in the background, regardless.

As far as virtual machine settings, performance, and updates go, the two systems are very much alike.  The user is provided with easy to access preferences and settings for both Fusion and Parallels, though the delivery of said options may differ.  They both perform rather well, although Fusion does run slightly faster than Parallels when using the virtual Windows OS.  Updates are frequent and relevant, with Parallels having a quicker updating period (Fusion takes longer between update periods, which results in larger updates).  While both machines can support virtual appliances (definition: when the computer uses just enough of the virtual operating system to run a software application, instead of running the entire OS every time), Fusion provides far more options to the user than Parallels.

Another large difference between the two virtual machines is the way Windows is “windowed”.  In Parallels, both the physical and virtual operating systems are shown on the same window (for a Mac user, this means that their Mac OS looks like it is running Windows applications alongside Mac applications, despite the fact that actually running the Windows OS as well).  Fusion shows Windows as a separate window:

In Fusion, Windows runs in a separate window - one that I can look at or hide when I please. One operating system at a time for me!

When using my virtual Windows OS in Fusion, I feel as though I am only running Windows, and have the ability to switch back and forth between operating systems by simply swiping with my mouse.  (I prefer to keep my operating systems separate, instead of combining them all on one screen – too much clutter.)

If you are a Windows gamer, then Parallels is the answer for you.  Parallels 7 (the newest version) far outperforms Fusion 4 (also, the newest).  Parallels dedicates one gigabyte of VRAM to game play, while Fusion only allows for 256 megabytes, resulting in a massively slow refresh rate.  The Parallels 3D engine also tends to work better for Windows games than the option provided by Fusion.  If gaming is the major reason you may be considering using a virtual machine, Parallels is your answer – hands down.

Which is the best choice?  While Fusion appears to be the better of the two, it really all boils down to personal preference.  You must ask yourself ‘how am I planning on using my virtual machine?’, and allow that answer to guide your choice in which VM is right for you.  Fusion was my answer, though it may not necessarily be yours (especially if you are a Windows user).  If in doubt, download the trial version of which ever VM you are considering (Parallels gives you fourteen days to play, and Fusion gives you thirty).  The website for the Fusion 4 virtual machine can be found here (look under the tab “Products” for a download link), and the Parallels virtual machine website is located here.

Part III – and the conclusion – for this post will be going up tomorrow.  I will be going through the installation process for Fusion, as used with both my Windows and Linux operating systems.  Until then!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Windows 7 Student
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 15:32:45

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