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What You Get

An application CD, a very thorough electronic help/manual, and an anti-virus program.

System Requirements

Minimum System Requirements for VMware Fusion 3 (through VMware Fusion 3.1 update)
  • Any Intel® Mac.
  • Minimum 1GB of RAM (2GB RAM recommended)
  • 700MB free disk space for VMware Fusion and at least 5GB for each virtual machine
  • Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later; Mac OS X 10.6 or later (Mac OS X 10.6.3 recommended for best graphics experience)
  • Operating system installation media (disk or disk image) for virtual machines

  • Recommended graphics hardware for Windows Aero support:
    To experience Windows Aero 3D graphics, you will need the following graphics hardware:
  • ATI Radeon 2600 or better
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8600M or better

VMWare Fusion 3.1.x

By Monte Ferguson

Macs in the enterprise world today are a very small percentage of the computers used in business’. A growing, but a minor player in the enterprise world to be sure. That means, at some point, a business Mac user will have to deal with a Microsoft dominated infrastructure. Most of the Microsoft/Windows enterprise tools, such as print servers, file servers or network authentication servers , do not support Mac clients. To get along, you have to play along. For many that means having to run Windows.

Apple has a solution, called Boot Camp, but it requires you shut down MacOS X and then boot directly into Windows. Not an elegant solution. Parallels takes a different approach. It, VMWare Fusion, acts as a middle layer. It presents itself as a standard PC to Windows. It also routes the Windows OS commands to the appropriate hardware on the Mac. VMWare Fusion allows you to run the MacOS and Windows at the same time. You can even copy/paste, as well as drag and drop between both operating systems transparently. More importantly, to many Mac users, it allows you to use as much or as little of Windows as you need.

The main achievements in VM Ware Fusion 3.x can be summed up as: More Mac-like, Easier to Use, and More Powerful.

Mac Like
VM Ware has a long track record on the PC, as THE emulation tool, but it is a relative new comer to the Mac platform. The company has been working hard to woo Mac users. Their approach is to make running Windows, within VMWare, as seamless as possible. Things we take for granted like drag and drop, copy and paste all work flawlessly between MacOS X and Windows based apps. Printing just works without additional setup. You can even view Windows applications in Exposé and Spaces. There is even support for overlapping windows of Windows apps when displayed in Unity mode, which allows you to run a Windows app without running it within the Windows desktop. If all you need is to run an app you can do so from the always present applications menu. It is always in Mac’s menu bar. There is even a resizable preview window so you can check on your virtual machine without switching to it.

Easier to Use
A new home view makes it easy to gain access to common tasks. You can use it to install guest operating systems, migrate physical PCs, set up Boot Camp virtual machine, or download virtual appliances. You can also import virtual machines created by Parallels Desktop or Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac. A feature called USB EasyConnect lets you decide which operating system a USB device gets used with. USB EasyConnect remembers your choices even if the Mac and/or the virtual machine are restarted. Fusion also takes automatic snapshots, which allow you to roll back to a known good state. A very handy feature if an update messes things up, or a virus.

For those who are looking to migrate over from a PC, Fusion includes a migration utility for the PC. You install the app. Hook up a regular USB cable and fire up Fusion. It makes an exact copy of your old PC’s environment. Everything, including customized settings transfer over.

More Powerful
The biggest, and most notable, improvement that relates to raw power is in the area of graphics performance. That speed up includes both 2D and 3D performance. The 3.1 update itself boasts a speed up of 35% over version 3.0. A new and improved graphics driver for Windows Vista and Windows 7 delivers up to 5X better graphics performance for those operating systems. (Those operating systems support a new graphics engine that is much more demanding than earlier versions of Windows.) Anyone using Vista or Windows 7 notice that all of the graphical bells and whistles are supported. Overall graphics performance, which translates to faster and smoother scrolling and a more responsive user interface, will benefit everyone no matter which operating system they are using.

A new, optimized, 64-bit engine, advanced memory, and CPU management technology combined contribute to a much improved computing experience. They allow you to run the most demanding productivity apps, like CAD and 3D programs, at full speed. You can devote up to 8 cores to your virtual machine and up to 2TB in virtual disk storage.

General performance improvements also result in: faster application launching, quicker resume from suspended state, less time required to suspend a virtual machine, and much better overall disk performance.

Pros
VMWare tries to make it as easy as possible for those who have used other programs to switch. You can import virtual machines created with other products, such as Virtual PC or Parallels Desktop. Of course it also supports Apple’s Boot Camp. It supports a wide range of operating systems. Virtual machines you create in Fusion can be used in other VMWare apps, and can be traded between PC VMWare users too.

From a performance standpoint, suspending the virtual machine was quick and did not take up a lot of resources.

Lastly, and what makes Fusion unique, is support for virtual appliances. VMWare has built up quite a business with virtual appliances. Virtual appliances are turn key virtual machines. They are pre-installed and preconfigured applications that are packaged along with an operating system in a self-contained virtual machine that is ready to run on any hardware. This capability greatly expands the utility of the program.

Cons
I was quite disappointed to learn that using the snapshot feature disables the auto compression tools. That means you have to make a choice at some point. Either you jettison your snapshots, or you can reclaim hard drive space.

Resuming the virtual machine took longer than I expected. Even after the progress bar disappears and the desktop appears, there seems to be a lag before you can actually get to work. It was annoying but certainly not a show stopper.

Conclusion
VMWare Fusion goes beyond the utilitarian task of running Windows. It works hard to integrate the two operating systems closer together. The result being that Windows actually works better, at least from a Mac users perspective.You spend less time managing Windows and more time getting things done. Most of the time the program is just running in the background. You tend to forget about it. For existing owners of previous versions the speed improvements alone justify the cost of the upgrade.

Just four years ago talking about running Windows on a Mac would have been a non issue. But thanks to Apple switching to Intel processors, this topic has really gained some steam. It is a bridge that makes switching from a PC a safe proposition for many. It also allows enterprise users to co-exist in a PC dominated office.

There are now several options for running Windows on your Intel Mac. If you need to run Windows as well as MacOS X, check out VMWare Fusion. The program is straight forward to use. It is flexible enough to let you work the way YOU want to work. Best of all it eases the process of running and using Windows and Windows apps. That is no small feat.

Thoughts on Running Windows
If you’re new to virtualization there are some things you need to consider before you get started. VMWare Fusion itself provides the platform on which to run Windows. It does not come with Windows. If you do not have a license for Windows you will have to buy one. You will also need enough RAM to run MacOS X, your usual Mac apps, Windows, and any Windows apps. You will also need to have several GB of free hard drive space. Lastly you will need to get an anti-virus program. (The review copy we were provided came with a one year license for McAfee VirusScan Plus.)

There are some very handy benefits of running Windows in a virtual environment. One of my favorites is not shutting down Windows. You can just suspend Windows. You can leave programs running. Documents open. VMWare Fusion will store the state Windows was in when it was suspended. Next time you start it up right where you left off.

Posted: Friday, October 1st, 2010


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