on October 9, 2011
A long time user of VMware Fusion 3.x, I was hoping all would be well with my upgrade to OS X Lion. In fact it was seamless. But then VMware immediately had their Fusion 4.x offering to take advantage of tighter integration of your Windows 7 client. I took the leap of faith in VMware products, and upgraded to Fusion 4.x, and the whole thing went without a hitch. I had read prior to instalation of version 4, that version 3 had to be put in the trash, which I did, simply by dragging the version 3.x app from the /Applications folder into the trash. Then I inserted the instalation disc into my iMac, and to my surprise, version 4 comes with a specific icon to push if you are upgrading from version 3. After the rapid instalation took place, I booted my existing clients, and was relieved to see everything was intact, and Fusion 4 recognized that VMware tools needed to be updated on the client, and proceeded to perform that upgrade without any surprises. Everything was seamless, and just worked the first time. Now my client machines are treated as simply another desktop in Lion, when I run them full screen, which is my normal habit. This means you can use the swipe gesture to get to your Windows clients. Could not be more simple. I've yet to run into any issues, which is more than I can say for OS X Lion, which, as well known breaks many older applications built for pre-Intel macs.
I've used Fusion 4 for a while now. I've used the prior versions of Fusion and I've used Parallels 6 recently also. All are on Snow Leopard / 10.6 on Mac Pros and MacBook Pros.
* You can finally do disk cleanup on VMs that have snapshots! I regained around 10-15 GB of real disk space by doing a disk cleanup on a couple of VMs.
* Unity feels much more responsive than it did in Fusion 3.
* No stability issues.
* The snapshot timeline and hierarchy view is quite handy.
* Works in both 32-bit and 64-bit kernel mode on Snow Leopard. Not sure if it supports 32-bit on Lion; VMWare's knowledge base implied that it didn't but I haven't personally checked.
* VM encryption support. I don't recall seeing that before. Haven't tried it so I don't know what the performance penalty is.
VMWare made the choice with Fusion 4 that eye candy was more important than responsiveness and functionality. They created window animations in front of all the major functions. From poking around, it seems that it is supposed to mimic Lion's behavior. Unfortunately, the pretty eye candy makes doing VM management downright painful.
The new Virtual Machine Library window is no longer a list. Instead it is a large thumbnail for every machine. If you have any information noted with the VM, like user / password info for a seldom used virtual machine, it was plainly visible when you selected the VM to launch it in Fusion 3. In Fusion 4, now you have to bring up the VM Library window, click to select the VM, click to bring up the settings for the VM, then click to go into General. Every single one of those clicks wastes 3-5 seconds displaying a completely useless window animation on a Mac Pro.
The Snapshot management window requires bring up the VM Library, selecting the VM, then going up to the menu to Snapshots (or using Cmd-S). That then launches a pretty animation that makes what was the VM Library window now a window for the selected VM. The VM window then has a pretty animation that converts it to the Snapshot window. It then starts yet another pretty animation to fly the individual snapshots into place. More snapshots == more animation == longer time before you can actually do something productive. When you're done with the Snapshot window, click Close. Wait on another animation while the snapshots fly away. The window then switches from Snapshot back to the VM. However, if you happened to move the Snapshot window while you were working on it, when the animation for closing it finishes, the window for the VM jumps back to where it was when you opened the Snapshots.
That brings up a key point. The VM Library window is now almost useless for anything beyond launching a VM. Where in Fusion 3 and prior, the VM Library window was a real, independent window, in Fusion 4 it is simply a front for whatever VM you happen to click on. As soon as you do -anything- with a VM in the window the VM Library window is gone, replaced with another useless animation as it becomes the VM's window. Not really a problem if you only have a couple VMs since you don't go there that often. However if you have several VMs, and I have about 15 on one machine, it's a completely different story.
Remember the good part about Fusion 4 supporting disk cleanup on VMs with snapshots? Well, after I found that I wanted to go through my VMs to see which ones had space that could be recovered. Here's the process:
1) Open the VM Library
2) wait on useless animation to bring up the window
3) Click a VM
4) Click on the Settings icon
5) wait on a useless animation as the VM Library window miraculously transforms itself into a blank VM window with the play button
6) wait a little bit longer while another animation slides in the settings window
7) Click on General
8) wait a little bit while the settings window transforms into the General window
9) Look at the disk info at the bottom
10) Wait about 5-15 seconds for Fusion to scan the VM and show the amount of Reclaimable disk space
11) If applicable, click Clean Up Virtual Machine
12) repeat from step 1 and increase frustration level
It's obvious that when they were making the animations that they wanted to ensure each animation took at least a certain amount of time, say 2 seconds, for the animation to run to ensure that everyone had at least that much eye candy. Unfortunately, someone didn't realize that adding pretty at the expense of function was a Bad Idea. Pretty is nice the first few times, after that it just gets in the way. Even better? All those animations? They aren't completely smooth.
Remember the status bar in Fusion 3 and earlier that let you see things like disk activity and network activity when in Window mode? Well, it's still there, but no longer a status bar at the bottom of the window. Now it's at the top of the window in a bar that extends from the settings button at the upper left. Tad annoying since when I'm looking for status I expect to see the status bar in its proper location at the bottom of the window. I keep looking down there, not seeing anything, and remembering that I have to go look at the opposite corner of the screen.
You still can't clone a snapshot like you can in Workstation. And there still isn't any official support for linked clones.
Oh, side note. I did shift over to Parallels 6 before upgrading to Fusion 4. One of the things I noticed was that Coherence in Parallels 6 behaved a bit differently than Unity in Fusion. In Parallels, when I hid an application that was running in Coherence mode using Cmd-H, it hid all of the Parallels windows instead of just that one application. In Fusion, both version 3 and 4, when hiding an application running in Unity mode via Cmd-H, only the application is hidden. That one difference in behavior is what shifted me off of Parallels and back to Fusion full time.
So, overall, what do I think of Fusion 4? Well, it works reliably and well. I use it daily and haven't had any functional issues. For that, I give it a solid 4 stars, maybe 5. Unfortunately, it's wrapped inside completely useless, time-wasting, frustrating eye candy that is impossible to get rid of. That knocks it down to 3.
Update Feb 17, 2012:
I've had Fusion die on me a couple times now. Never when running a single VM, only multiple. And it may be tied to using Unity. The last one I know I had Unity mode running on one of them, but I'm not certain if that was also true for the prior one. The recent one was running 4.1.1, but I don't recall if that was true for the prior one as well.
There is a bit of good news here though. The way Fusion operates, each running VM is an independent process that is started by Fusion. The main Fusion process is what lets you see and interact with each VM. If it crashes, the VMs continue to run without a problem. When you restart Fusion, it reattaches to the running VMs and lets you see and interact with them again. Still annoying, but thankfully the way it operates means the crash doesn't cause you to lose anything inside the VMs.
VMWare's Fusion is one of three virtualization products that I'm aware of for the Mac-the other being Parallel's product, and the free VirtualBox. Like those, Fusion lets you install an entire separate operating system inside OS X, that's running at the same time.
It's worth noting that modern Macintoshes can already run Windows and other OSes without separate software, by using "Boot Camp", which basically lets you reboot your system to switch between OS X and Windows or whatever OS choose to install. The advantage of using Fusion instead of (or in addition to) Bootcamp is that you DON'T reboot, and can use Windows programs side by side OS X programs. The disadvantage of Fusion (and all products like this) is that it can't give the OS that's running inside it full access to your computer's hardware...you'll never get as good performance from Windows running inside Fusion (or any product like this) as you will if you actually reboot to Windows through Bootcamp, so for example if you're wanting to run a game, or play a Blu Ray movie, or do video editing or something like that, you'd probably need to reboot through Bootcamp.
But for other, less processor intense software, Fusion's a great choice. In my case it's handy to use it for a financial program I use, among others.
I should note that while as far as I know, Parallels is a fairly new company, VMWare has been making virtualization products for YEARS for enterprise use. They know what they're doing when it comes to making these products work and run stably. What I wasn't sure about was whether the Fusion interface would be good from a consumer perspective...turns out it's pretty great. I've been using VirtualPC for years (originally on the Mac when it was an emulation program, and now after Microsoft bought it as a virtualization tool in Windows). VirtualPC is very straight forward to set up and configure...and it turns out that jumping in to Fusion from VirtualPC is painless. Fusion's just as easy to configure, only impressively it even handles a lot of the OS setup, which VirtualPC doesn't do.
But I'm probably getting ahead of myself... My newest Macintosh is a 2011 Macbook Air, which lacks a DVD drive. I own a Superdrive for it, and needed to use it to install Windows XP anyway, but I was impressed that VMWare not only gives you a DVD, but also a USB thumb drive in the box. Installation is typical for OS X, where you just drag and drop the program, and then launch it. The ONLY problem I've had so far with Fusion is that when I ran it for the first time, it seemed to "lock up" for quite a long time...something like 5 minutes at least. I'm not sure how long as I left for a while, and when I came back it was responsive again. At that point I just ran the auto-updater, and haven't noticed any unusual behavior from it since.
Once you run it, Fusion gives you several choices for setting up an OS. It's supposedly able to kind of migrate you from an existing Windows PC to a virtualized PC running in Fusion (though I didn't try this method). It's also supposedly able to use a Boot Camp install. My Macbook Air doesn't have much storage space, so I don't have Windows set up that way, and couldn't try that. I'm not 100% sure that this is an issue, but a possible problem with using your Boot Camp install of Windows is that every time you boot in Fusion, and then reboot through Boot Camp, Windows is "seeing" that your hardware has changed, which will trigger activation...so I'm not really sure how practical it is to use the same copy of Windows for both Boot Camp and Fusion.
The option I choose, was just to set up a new virtual machine from scratch. Impressively, Fusion detected the Windows XP disc I had in my Superdrive. The default options it selected seemed fine, and then it even prompted me for a username, password, and product key Windows would be using, so that I wouldn't have to create those during the installation. So this was actually even easier to set up than it would be on a normal install!
I walked away again at the point, so I'm not actually sure how long it took-but Windows XP was up and running when I came back. It's worth nothing that with Fusion (and any similar products, and Boot Camp), you're actually running a real full OS inside the program, so it's necessary to perform the same updates, install something like Microsoft Security Essentials, etc., just like you would if it were a separate PC. I should also note that you'll need to buy a regular copy of Windows to use inside Fusion. I happened to already have an unused copy of Windows XP, so I just used that, but if you're buying new, I'd just go with Windows 7 (probably the Home Premium version for most people).
At this point I just started setting things up like I would a normal Windows PC...ran Windows update, installed Firefox, etc. I've used it off and on for a few days now, and haven't noticed any issues. I HAVE noticed that Fusion seems surprisingly fast...it SEEMS to feel faster running Windows XP inside Fusion than inside VirtualPC.
Unlike VirtualPC, Fusion provides more modern graphics support...supposedly you get at least some hardware acceleration for Windows XP or newer, which should mean that Windows Vista or 7's graphical interface should run okay (like with OS X, Windows Vista or newer offloads processing of the graphical interface to the GPU, if you have one). Now it's still not going to give you as good performance as running on the same hardware natively...so for games, Blu Ray, etc. you'll probably want to use Boot Camp instead, but I am impressed by how snappy Windows feels compared with running it inside VirtualPC. Again, this is why I'd pick VMWare's Fusion over other products-while their Macintosh product is just 4 or so years old, they've been doing this a long time for enterprise stuff, and it shows. Of course I have a 2011 Macbook Air...the 2010 models would probably feel much slower, while a 2011 Macbook Pro would be faster.)
A few other things worth mentioning...
-Fusion installs almost a Windows Start menu up by the clock. It's kind of neat...it basically is structured similarly to the actual Windows start menu, and lets you launch programs from that. I haven't yet, but I assume you can shut it off.
-Like all virtualiazation programs, Fusion has to install some system level drivers/kernel extensions or the like. I don't like having third party software muck about with my operating system, but virtualization software has to...which again is a reason I'd prefer it be done either by the same company that made the OS, or by VMWare that at least knows what they're doing with this stuff.
-Like all virtualization programs, OSes running within Fusion use up a chunk of your Mac's RAM. Fusion by default gave Windows XP 512MB, which can be changed. Obviously that means the more virtual machines you want to run at the same time, or the more RAM you want to give to a virtualized OS, the more RAM your Mac needs...that may be a problem for the Macbook Air which doesn't have upgradeable RAM (the Macbook Pro by contrast you could easily upgrade to 8GB if need be). The "hard drive" the hosted OS sees is really a file on your real hard drive, so again, the bigger your real hard drive, the more space you have to give to the hosted OS. Fusion also lets you select the number of cores/CPUs that the hosted OS "sees". Be default, it configures Windows XP to use 1 core, but you can increase that (and of course the more of your CPU you let it use, the worse OS X may run while the hosted OS is running).
-You can also "pause" Windows, roll back changes that have been made to it, etc. Running an OS like this can actually be really handy to test out a piece of software you may not want, or for development work, etc.
-By default, Fusion configures Windows for NAT, that is it shares the Macintosh's internet connection...if your Mac is connected, so is Windows running through Fusion. Though if you have more complex needs, it's possible to set up networking differently.
I'm probably forgetting to comment on some features...and obviously a product like this is kind of impossible to test in every conceivable way, given the dozens of Mac models it runs on, the hundreds of OS configurations, thousands if not millions of programs you can run inside it, etc. But at least so far I'm very impressed-VMWare seems to have made a very stable, fast program, that to my surprise seems to be just as easy, if not actually easier to configure as VirtualPC...if you've got the need to run Windows programs without rebooting, Fusion is definitely worth checking out!
If you are like me you need windows for a limited set of functions. In fact, if you are looking at this you are probably trying to decide "what is the best way to get the hand full of Windows functions I need on my Mac?"
There are currently three main ways to get windows on a Mac
2. Parrallels (Desktop 7 for this review)
3. VM Fusion (Version 4 for this review)
I personally only need windows for two reasons.
1. Several of my customers built their sales reporting tools on Internet Explorer and that's the only way to interface with their systems
2. To play my old PC versions of Medal Of Honor - Yea I still love that game
For this review we will not reference Bootcamp. Using Apple Bootcamp is the more systems efficient way to run windows on a Mac but having to reboot just to run one or two software functions is a drag and I don't recommend it.
The comparisons will be between VM Fusion 4 and Parrallels Desktop 7
System used in testing:
* iMac running OS X Lion with latest updates
* Windows XP SP3 for Windows
Installation (VM Fusion Only)
* The VM Fusion 4 package came with both optical drive disk and USB drive for installation.
* When you initiate the installation you will have the option of a full install or upgrade from VM Fusion 3
* I used the USB drive to simulate the installation on a Macbook Air and because I think it's just cool but...it didn't work. I kept getting an error message about not having enough free disk space. I had 500GB of free space so that was not a real issue that should have popped up.
* The second installation attempt was with the disk went without any issues
* Installation footprint: 719MB
* VM Fusion was much easier to install than Parallels. Literally just dragging the file and dropping it in the Applications folder and you are done.
* Neither package had a significant advantage running basic programs
* The big difference is when you shut VM Fusin down it frees up system resources and just shuts down. Parallels on the other hand continues to run a couple of background processes. It's not much of a systems hit but still a hit.
* VM Fusion has a much bigger selection of virtual applications +1,900 to 98
* This matters if you are using your Mac as a software testing machine, for this review we are not.
Cost and License
* Typically, both software packages are about the same price; around $80
* VM Fusion has the much better license agreement. The Fusion license agreement (non-business) allows you to install it on every Mac your own, at least for now. This was a big plus for me.
* VM Fusion runs windows apps as a window from any OS X applications and feels more Mac like when you use the Windows installation
* Parallels tends to lump the windows together and could cause windows management utility issues
*Just based on the license flexibility, ease of installation, and general performance VM Fusion 4 is my choice for running Windows on a Mac. There's a lot more to the software package then I will ever use but it's nice to have if I ever decide to play with the additional functions.
on November 13, 2011
My parents were recently in the market for a new computer, so knowing I'd be their free tech support, I told them to buy a Mac, as I'm a long-time Mac user, and it's easier for me to troubleshoot their computer if we're both running the same OS. Well, they did, and my Mom's first question was, "Can I run (insert Windows-only software) on it?" Of course, I saw this coming, and I was fortunate to have gotten VMware's Fusion 4 through Amazon Vine.
For those not familiar with VMware Fusion, it differs from Apple's own Boot Camp, which comes pre-installed on all new Intel-based Macs, in that, unlike Boot Camp, which requires you to select which operating system (OS) you want to use when you first turn on your computer, you can start your Mac in Mac OS X as usual, and just run the second OS (or its applications) inside of Mac OS X just as if it were another program. Very slick!
Now, the installation process was very simple (just drag-and-drop the application, which can also be moved to a different folder, even after installing your new OS) and much faster than I had anticipated--I had it all set up in probably less than half an hour. I liked how the entire process was streamlined; I'm not sure if it's my imagination, but everything went so smoothly, it seems like the entire process was optimized for installing Windows.
Once installed, Windows had to run a bunch of updates, which took a little while, and then I could go ahead and install a few programs my Mom wanted to carry over and they all worked with various peripherals, such as her printer and digital camera. From what I could tell, everything I tested opened quickly and ran smoothly. Because my Mom just wanted everything to "work," I set up Fusion to run in Unity , so I could add shortcuts for the applications directly to the dock, so she doesn't have to hunt through a virtualized window of Windows to open the programs she needs. I have to say, everything, from installation to virtualization, is extremely smooth and seamless--everything runs just like it would if were just another part of OS X Lion.
I do, however, feel I have to point this out because my Mom said, "I thought Macs don't get viruses," when I told her that I had to install antivirus software: Because Fusion runs a full installation of Windows in virtualization, it's still susceptible to Windows viruses. So while Mac OS might be relatively virus-free, the Windows partition can still get thoroughly corrupted and mess up your computer if you don't have proper antivirus software installed in Windows. This, of course, is not the fault of VMware Fusion 4, so no points off for that. Rather, I just thought some potential users might want to know (like my Mom did).
So my parents are very happy with their Mac now and I was so impressed with VMware Fusion that I installed it onto my Mac at home, so I can start messing around with Linux (Fusion 4's license allows for unlimited installations for personal use). The highest compliment I think I can place upon Fusion 4 is that it makes virtualization painless and feel like a natural part of the Mac OS. An easy five stars!
on October 24, 2011
Update 26 October: I contacted the VMWare customer service, and they ran me through a series of things I needed to manually do in order to get the issues I mentioned below to work. Ok, so it was not as intuitive as Parallels, but the performance is outstanding. I am writing this review using the Unity mode, which is perfectly integrated in Lion as well, but it is (IMO) much faster. I am using Safari for Windows just to test the difference, and it is transparent. An added bonus to this one is that you only need one license to install in all your Macs, and it includes a one year complementary McAfee antivirus (which you need because it is Windows after all!)
Try them both in trial modes and decide...but either way, you won't be dissapointed with virtualization.
I recently purchased 3 Apple computers, 2 MacBook Pros and a Mac Mini. I upgraded the ram to 8GB on all machines, and the processors are i7 and i5s. I inventoried my software collection, and I have 4 Office 2010 suites, 3 Project 2010, and 2 Visio 2010. I also purchased software for my kids' APA college essays, and my wife's MLA...needles to say, I have bit of money invested in MS products, but I am sick of the OS....so I decided to virtualize Windows 7 Ultimate and all of the apps needed, and here is my experience.
I've used VMWare for Windows for a long time, and this is the first time I used the Mac version, and let me say, I am disappointed. I purchased the download right away, and I should've tried out the trial version first. VM is still geared toward the techno geek, and I've been switching all my systems to Mac, because of their simplicity, and fantastic (UE) user experience. VM was running Windows 7 in full screen mode, but it did not use the entire real estate on my 13 inch screen, and made Windows look terrible. It was also sluggish, and performance was dragging on both virtual Windows, and Lion....After creating an image on VM, and seeing how miserable the performance was, I decided to try Parallels 7 for Mac, and I was wowed!
Parallels brings the simplicity of the Mac OS, and integrates the applications seamlessly with Lion. It runs in full screen and not only does it look beautiful, it has an option to change the theme to a Mac-like look (nice), but it also has something called coherence, where the virtual Windows runs in the background, and the apps become part of the Mac bar.
After spending $50 for VMware, I used this link to buy Parallels directly from their website, with a $50 discount---so I paid $29 for the better software, that is just amazing!
(see the parallels website for the $29.99 upgrade from Fusion.
My MacBook Pro and Mac mini have 8GB of RAM, and the virtual apps simply fly--my wife couldn't tell the difference between her laptop, and the virtualized version of Win7 Ultimate. Parallels Software Desktop 7 for Mac
I urge you to use the trial versions first and make up your own mind...I wish I would've---VM offered refunds for unsatisfied customers using VMWare 3---but not for Fusion---anyways, with a $29 ($79 for non vmware) I now take advantage of several thousand dollars worth of software on my Mac, and I don't have to look at Windows OSs again.
on April 21, 2012
In rating these two products, my opinions are based on Experience with Installation, configuration, migration, and conversion on a new iMAC running Lion OS (16 gig RAM) and BOTH Software packages.
Bought the MAC to use in my home office now that there are products out there that will allow me to leverage my Windows software investments (Office 2010, etc) and also run business programs that are not compatible with MAC. My review perspective comes from the following software requirements:
1. Easy to integrate/run Windows software into my new iMAC.
BOTH PARALLELS DESKTOP 7 AND FUSION 4 ARE EQUAL (Didn't test Windows Server 2008 on Parallels, don't think it is a supported OS. Server 2008 IS supported in Fusion)
2. Migrate PC into MAC.
Fusion wins here. Had 4 days of lost time trying to get both my windows 7 - 64 bit pcs into Parallels Desktop 7. In addition, the Parallels transporter agent caused
BOTH my pc's to blue screen on numerous occasions. (never had them blue screen prior) Support from Parallels was insufferable. No resolution to my issues.
3. Run Remote Desktop Software in windows. (need this for work)
Fusion wins here also. Both softwares can launch remote desktop environments. Parallels desktop 7 limited the size of the remote session window to 1028x764 (not
configurable). Fusion ran it full screen as soon as I launched it in windows full screen mode. This is huge for me as my screen is 27" high def.
4. Ability/Ease of using already created VMWare images from work to do development and testing.
Fusion wins here also. Parallels desktop 7 requires conversion...while Fusion is vmware already, the images just run without any conversion.
So, summary is that for work MAC, this product fits better. I run vmware extensively at my job...and the support is also great. Better than the parallels. For anyone reading this who just needs a good windows integration tool...either product works well. Some of the bad performance reviews I read were older MAC os, and limited RAM. When running TWO computers in ONE machine...RAM is KING. So for laptops limited to 4 gig of RAM, Fusion and MAC systems running together take 3.5 gig on my system. Can understand performance issues there. Ran Parallels for 5 months before scrapping it a few weeks ago for Fusion 4. Memory usage appears to be about the same for both products. Unity mode on both products are AWESOME. Business features I needed were superior on Fusion...so I switched. Oh, did I mention Fusion 4 is less expensive??? Half the price of Parallels Desktop 7.
I've waited on writing this review, hoping that VMWare would come out with a fix, but it has been several months now and no resolution has been offered...
Past versions of VMWare Fusion are great, but VMWare Fusion 4, in spite of its claims of speed and performance improvements, will turn your brand new Lion into a spot of road kill. I have not yet been able to determine whether the fault is with Lion or with VMWare, but VMWare Fusion is nearly unusable on OS X Lion, for which is was supposedly made.
Online forms suggest the problem is shared folders, antivirus, defragging programs, and other Windows features in the guest OS. However, even when running Linux, or a stripped down, minimalistic install of OpenBSD, neither of which run any of the suggested Windows culprits, VMWare Fusion renders the host OS unbearable to use. There is something wrong with VMWare Fusion 4 on OS X Lion.
Some claim not to have the problem, but enough people do that VMWare should have had a fix a long time ago.
Now that I have a new iMac, VMware Fusion works really smoothly with Windows 7. If I had only used Fusion with the new iMac, I'd have given it 4 stars: for this reason and changed the title. Realize, however, that the minimum specs as noted on the box ARE NOT enough to run Windows 7 in virtualization. For that you need more cutting edge hardware. So for older computers, it is not a great solution for Windows 7. Windows XP and various versions of Linux that are far less power hungry will run well using older or newer hardware.
After getting a brand-spanding new 21.5", 2.5 GHz, quadcore i5 iMac with AMD Radeon HD 6750M graphics processor with 512MB of GDDR5 memory, I can report that VMware Fusion 4 works very well on this machine. Even when only allocating 1 gB of RAM to VMWare, Windows 7 works at native speeds. So the issues with older hardware was not memory per se, the issue was probably the processor and the graphics card. The rest of the review below is still valid for older hardware--to use Windows 7 really requires up to date hardware.
With the new iMac, however, Windows 7 functions perfectly and all the programs seem to run at native speeds. Even PhotoShop Elements worked quickly and efficiently with 1 gB of RAM only. The lower RAM only seems to bog you down when you have multiple memory hogging programs open.
The system works so well, I have decided to forgo having a Bootcamp partition and work in Windows virtualization only. Generally, windows runs at native speeds and when you work in full-screen mode with Windows 7, you can't tell that the OS is being virtualized at all.
Issues with Windows 7 include:
1) Relatively long boot up times: I don't think that this is a VMWare problem per se, I think this is a Windows 7 issue, but while the VM is starting up, it slows down overall computer speed--even on the Mac side
2) Older VMs didn't update so smoothly. Everything was backed up, so I trashed the old VMs and started anew. Installation was quick and easy.
3) Unity mode is a little sluggish and sometimes buggy. Even when the Windows 7 VM is up and running there is sometimes a real lag when starting Windows 7 programs in Unity mode. My guess is that this has to do with RAM availability issues. When I expand the iMac to six or eight gB of RAM instead of 4, I'll write an update. Because of this, I tend to shy away from Unity mode.
4) I haven't used any graphically intense games, so I can't tell you how that works out in virutalization
The review below covers using the VMware Fusion for Windows on older hardware. It also covers Linux virtualization. I have left the rest of the review as it stands.
The Original Review on Older Hardware
VMware Fusion 4 is VMware's latest offering for Windows virtualization on the Mac. Claiming to be `easy and reliable' and touting `90+ New Features,' Fusion 4 is poised to do battle with Parallels 7 in the ultimate fight for virtual dominance in OS X. Although Fusion 4 is a worthy upgrade from its predecessor, it still suffers from a sluggish performance when virtualizing Windows 7, although it is excellent for Windows XP or the four Linux distros that I trialed.
[PLEASE NOTE: I own an older iMac (c. late 2006). This certainly meets (and even exceeds) the manufacturer's minimum requirements, but may not have had sufficient power to run Windows 7 in virtualization. See the first comment in the comments section by Pat Lee from VMware. Given that I do not have the most modern hardware, I cannot verify how well Win 7 works on a more modern Mac. If you have a more modern machine and have the opportunity to run Fusion 4 with Windows 7, please leave a comment and tell me how it worked out.]
Stable Windows virtualization
Really quick and snappy with Windows XP or Linux virtualization
Lots of control over what resources are used by the virtual machine
Lots of integration options
Can easily specify which files to share
Virtual Tools now installs without a hitch, even in Linux
Comes with both a DVD and USB option for installation
VMs can reside on the host computer's internal drive or on an external drive (to save host HD memory)
More features and faster running than Fusion 3--a worthwhile upgrade
VERY slow with Windows 7 virtual machine--usable but frustrating
EXTREMELY slow with Win 7 Bootcamp partition, virtually unusable
Unity doesn't function well with Windows 7 on my set up
A few programs might not run as they might not recognize the virtual OS the same way as they would a native OS
[Once Again Please Note: as stated below, my iMac was a late 2006 with an Intel dual core processor. Windows 7 may function better on newer, more robust systems]
THE SHORT STORY:
First the good news: Windows XP, when run as a virtual machine, works like a charm. It is fast, sprightly and applications launch flawlessly. The Unity feature worked as advertised and without a hitch. Additionally, the installation from CD as a virtual machine took only about 20 minutes. The same is true for Ubuntu Linux, which installed in less than 20 minutes as a virtual machine and ran, fully featured, with VMware Fusion 4. Installing an unsupported version of Linux, such as Puppy Linux, was more difficult. I could get it to install and run, in a single window or full screen mode, but could not take advantage of full, Unity integration. Moreover, unsupported versions may not share devices seamlessly or have full graphics capabilities. Fusion 4 is a considerable improvement from Fusion 3 and well worth the price of an upgrade. Fusion 4 has expanded features and (on my equipment) booted up and ran faster than Fusion 3.
Now the bad news: On a late 2006 Mac with maxed RAM and Fusion 3, Windows 7 from my Bootcamp installation was unstable and so slow it was basically unusable. With Fusion 4 running Windows 7 from the Bootcamp, Windows 7 is usable but still very slow and the Unity feature (where Windows is fully integrated into OSX and applications launch from the dock) doesn't work. If you run Windows 7 from a virtual machine, the whole thing runs a little faster, but still drags. Either way, Windows 7 is usable but runs with stripped down features and at a very slow pace. Still, Fusion 4 easily trumps Fusion 3, that pretty much refused to run Windows 7 at all. But on older hardware, Fusion 4 is still not a great way to run Windows 7 in virtualization.
THE LONG REVIEW:
In this review, I'll cover Fusion 4. I'd love to compare it to Parallels' latest offering, but for technical reasons (e.g. Windows activation issues), I decided to forgo the free trial.
Please keep in mind that I am running this program on a 17-inch, Late 2006 iMac (MA590LL), 2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, with 4 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM. (I have 4 GB of RAM installed, as this is thought by some to increase the speed of certain programs, but that for most purposes the computer only recognizes a total of 3 GB.)
The minimum requirements for Fusion 4 are a 64 bit capable Intel Mac with a Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB of RAM, 750 MB of free disc space for the base program and at least 5 GB for each virtual machine. So although I'm not scraping the bottom of the ocean when it comes to requirements for this program, I'm getting close. Those of you with more powerful machines and a lot more RAM will probably have a more successful and snappy time running Windows 7 on Fusion.
WHY VIRTUALIZATION (or why try to Windowize your Mac)
With virtualization, you can actually run two different operating systems on your computer at the same time. I can't go through all the reasons why you might want to virtualize. Programmers may want to easily test software across different platforms and die-hard geeks may just want to do it because it is cool. but even if you are a dyed in the wool Mac fanboy, you still may have some use for Windows yet.
The most common reason, of course, is that you may need to run software or hardware that just doesn't run on OS X. The number of programs and devices that don't wear a Mac but are happy to do Windows seems to be shrinking every day. But, for example, if you decide to cheap out and buy a Sansa instead of that high priced iPod, you're in for a rude awakening. Sure, you can use the Sansa like a USB hard drive, but the software for the Sansa is still afraid of the Lion. To get the full-featured Sansa experience, you really need to run it in Windows. You can buy MS Word for the Mac, but there's no such equivalent if you've been a WordPerfect user since the 80s. Believe it or not, there are still some business places that are not Mac friendly. And believe me there are other examples galore.
Virtualizing Windows in OS X allows you to run the two operating systems side-by-side. You can have your cake and eat it too. With modern Windows virtualization software, you can run Windows programs seamlessly on the Mac and can even share data between two programs running on the different operating systems in real time.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
The most robust, fullest featured programs out there are VMware's Fusion 4 and Parallels Desktop 7 for the Mac. Both programs offer very similar features for a similar price. The dark horse of the virtualization world is Oracle's VirtualBox. This program may not be quite as robust as the Fusion or Parallels, but the price will take less of a bite out of your wallet--it is free. That being said, if you don't need all the features in Fusion or Parallels, VirtualBox is worth a try. At very least, it's the right price.
[The final way to run Windows programs on your Mac is to avoid virtualization altogether. Programs like Wine (free and difficult to use) or CrossOver for the Mac (payed for and a little easier to use), port enough Windows code in packages on your Mac, allowing you to run certain kinds of software. This allows you to run Windows software on a Mac without buying the Windows operating system. Of course, because you don't have access to the whole operating system, you can't run all kinds of software. The packages aren't a complete OS--some programs run perfectly, others may lack the ability to perform certain features, and some may not run at all.]
The USB drive option was a nice feature for this set. I used the USB option. I quickly uninstalled Fusion 3 from my hard drive and then moved VMware fusion icon to my applications folder, and I was up and running.
Once the program is installed, you have must create your virtual machines. There are different ways of installing a virtual machine (VM). Some of these are as follows:
1) Bootcamp: the program immediately picked up my Bootcamp, Windows 7 and upgraded it to a VMware virtual machine in less than five minutes
2) Creating a Virtual Image of Bootcamp: by right clicking on the Bootcamp virtual machine in the virtual machine library area and clicking `import.' This makes a totally separate virtual clone of your Bootcamp partition, that is now a separate VM that runs independently from Bootcamp.
3) You can install directly from a DVD. I installed a VM Windows XP professional this way. The time for complete set up (without updating to SP2 and SP3) was only 20 minutes. The software did the shutdown and start up cycles on its own. Once the process starts, you just let it run autonomously. Very Easy. Updating the service packs was quick, but downloading the updates took quite some time, given that Microsoft gives the XP service packs only a stingy amount of bandwidth.
4) Ubuntu Linux, CentOS, and SUSE Linux: I downloaded the image for Ubuntu 11.10 (32-bit) and it was up and running as a virtual machine in 15 minutes. CentOS and SUSE maybe took a couple of minutes longer. All installations were done automatically by the software and were painless.
5) Puppy Linux: I downloaded a pre-prepared VM for puppy Linux. A number of these free, already set up VMs are available on the VMWare website and readily downloadable. Once you download them on a hard drive (internal or external), you simply point Fusion 4 in their direction and your up and running in seconds. Given that Puppy isn't supported by VMWare, you have to figure out how to install the 'VMWare Tools' on your own--not so easy for a Linux newbee. Some downloadable VMs have the VM tools already configured
6) You can also import VMs from Parallels or migrate an existing PC to a VM--I did not try these options, so I do not know how well they work. Note: there is no easy way to migrate a VM from Oracle's Virtual Box for use in Fusion 4.
Once the VM is loaded, you have to install VMware Tools. VMware tools basically configure the guest OS so that it works seamlessly with OS X. This allows you to go back and forth between windows of the VM and the host OS effortlessly, integrate the sound system, and easily share other peripherals. VMtools also allow you to allow you to use Unity Mode, where the guest OS is integrated into OS X. This is easy enough to do from the menu. For Windows 7, Windows XP, supported versions of Linux, and other supported OSs, the installation was just a click away. VMtools also helps with background tasks, like accelerating the graphics.
A wide variety of Guest OSs are supported and include: Windows versions 3.1 and beyond; OSX 10.5 and beyond; multiple versions of Linux (Asianux, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Mandrake/Mandriva, Novell/OpenSUSE,and TurboLinux. There is some support for Linux Kernels 2.2.x to 2.6.x, but it's not as smooth as the named distros); Novell NetWare; Sun Solaris; Free BSD; and, MS-DOS.
All of these can run in the VMWare environment. All the supported OSs that I tried installed easily and the VMTool installation was effortless. Everything worked like a charm--except for Windows 7. Whether I ran it as part of Bootcamp or a stand-alone VM, Unity mode was a bust--it just didn't work well in Windows 7. It was slow as death and the taskbar wouldn't come up on the lower part of the screen in order to launch programs.
For Puppy Linux--an unsupported Linux variant--I could get it to run, but not all the features were available as I could not figure out how to get VMWare Tools to install. That meant that I could get Puppy up and running and have it work in single Window mode or full screen mode, but that it wouldn't integrate into the host OS.
Once up an running, there are a lot of settings to choose from--too many to describe here. Suffice it to say, VMWare gives yo ua lot of control on how you integrate and run the VMs. You can set file sharing, specify application menus, allocate memory, set the number of processor cores used by the VM in multicore intel chips, divvy up hardware, and allocate resources. There are even options to encrypt the VM to prevent prying eyes and take 'snap shots' of a VM as backups.
SEE HOW THEY RUN:
On start up, Fusion 4 must hog up a lot of resources. As the guest OS boots up there is a short period where your entire computer will slow down to a crawl. For Linux and Windows XP that wasn't so bad. These VMs booted up at lightening speed, so the drag on the host OS might have lasted about 30 to 60 seconds at most. Windows 7 was another story. It was so slow to boot that the pain lasted five to seven minutes--not acceptable, in my estimation.
WINDOWS 7--A REAL DISAPPOINTMENT
Keep in mind that I'm running this on older hardware (see description above), but Windows 7 was pretty much unsuccessful as a virtual machine with my set up.
On the VERY negative side, try as I might, I couldn't get Windows 7 to function well at all. Running the OS from the Bootcamp partition really pushed me to the edge of my sanity. Win 7 was SLOW to boot up and when it was running took a toll on the host OS as well--lots of spinning beach balls and a lot of lag time. I tried various amounts of memory sharing and reinstalling VMTools, but nothing seemed to speed the lumbering VM up. If you allocate a lot of resources to Windows 7 and work in full screen mode, it wasn't too bad. You could do some web surfing and word processing without much bother. However, the crippling effect on OS X was such that it made Lion cower--you could use the VM, but couldn't do much with the Mac side of things. Sure, you don't have to reboot from one OS to the next, but the advantage of running the two OSs in parallel was lost. Given the problems with Bootcamp, I'd have to classify this as a Fusion failure on my machine.
Things were a little better when cloning Bootcamp to a stand alone VM. It was definitely more usable in this state. Much faster to boot up and didn't drag down the rest of the system as much. Unity was still impossible to use, however. And as soon as you tried to go into Unity mode, it was like deja vu all over again--the Windows task bar didn't come up and the whole system slowed down to a crawl. Running in single window or full screen mode was definitely usable.
WINDOWS XP and LINUX
On the flip side, Windows XP and supported Linux distros ran like a charm. Boot up for these VMs was quick and the programs worked seamlessly in Fusion. By tweaking memory settings and sharing, you can really get these OSs to run like OS X applications. The virtualization is a pleasure, the speed is like running the OSs on a native computer, and the experience was excellent. Windows XP was particularly spritely and CentOS, Ubuntu, and OpenSUSE Linux distros were also a pleasure to use.
There was an indication of problems in paradise, however. I tried running Madden 08 on XP, just to see how the accelerated graphics would work. It installed okay, but then refused to run. Why? The program didn't recognize the VM of Windows XP as an acceptable OS and asked me to update to Windows 98 or later (!). This is an indication that some programs may not recognize the virtual environment in the same way that they would the native OS. I didn't have this problem with any other programs that I ran--video, audio, Microsoft Office 2010 etc. all ran smoothly. When Unity works, the program gets pretty incredible. The software fully integrates with OS X and programs run on the guest operating system behave as though they are native Mac apps. Totally awesome!
Puppy Linux would run in single window mode or in full screen mode. But, as above, without being able to install VMware tools, Unity was not possible. There were also hardware conflicts--I couldn't share the sound card, it would work for the guest OR host OS but not both. That being said, I'd recommend using Fusion for supported Linux distros, but would avoid the unsupported versions, unless you have the time, patience, and know how to figure out how to make these things work. My guess is a real Linux wonk could get everything up and running, but that was hopeless for a neophyte like me.
BETTER THAN FUSION 3
There are considerably more options and the interface overall was more refined than Fusion 3. Fusion 3 never seemed to cooperate all that well with Lion and couldn't run Windows 7 in a usable manner--the start up took for bloody ever. And if you finally got Win 7 to boot up in the Fusion 3 environment,using Windows 7 was like old time long distance calling: every click had a time delay. With Fusion 4, Windows 7 may be slow and frustrating, but it IS usable. I also noticed speed improvements in XP and in running Linux OSs--much faster boot ups/shut downs and less OS X hold ups and stutters. The graphical environment was also enhanced--no dropped video frames and all that Linux eye candy was now available. When resizing windows, Fusion sometimes has some delays as it corrects the resolution to fit the window--Fusion 3 stuttered and blinked along. In Fusion 4, I still see that the program has to do a little cleanup, but the housekeeping is done in about a second and you don't have to wait for painful recalculating/redrawing.
The big failure for me was Windows 7. This program will work in a pinch to run Win7 along side OS X, but it's not something that you'd want to use every day. Once again, the failure to run at acceptable speeds and the failure of Unity may have to do with the fact that I ran Fusion 4 on older hardware. Still, my hardware exceeded the VMware's minimum requirements. I cannot comment as to how this would work on a system with a higher powered processor, a better video card, and greater than 4 GB of RAM.
However, Fusion 4 definitely worked miracles for me with Windows XP and the supported Linux distros that I tried out. If this is what you want to do, the program is a real 5-star winner. I'm not a power user, so I didn't delve into the all the bells and whistles, but for speed alone Fusion 4 is definitely worth the upgrade, even for the casual user. Still, the fact is that Windows 7 is the most recent version of Windows and as far as I am concerned the one that really needs to work. Running Windows 7 along side OS X is the major reason why people purchase Fusion in the first place. For this program to compete, it really has to run the latest version of Windows smoothly. This is why I have rated this program 3 stars only.
Setup: iMac 2011 with 12 gigs of RAM (8 gigs RAM is an upgrade), Windows 7 Home Premium
I bought Fusion as I was getting tired of rebooting from Mac to Windows and vice versa. I was also considering Parallels but Fusion was cheaper at the time I was shopping for a software. Both have high marks and good reviews so I figured any of the two will do.
It came in a box with a DVD and a USB dongle; I chose the DVD. By the way, I have already installed Windows 7 Home Premium using Apple's Boot Camp. My only concerns were some reviewers mentioned that they have to re-enter or re-register Windows (or maybe in my case, Autodesk's MEP 2011). I have all the licenses but still have a bad feeling that something might go wrong and you have to deal with all the headaches of calling customer support. Everything went smoothly. There was a dialogue box that popped up telling me that Windows need to be registered again, but all I did was press enter and I'm all set.
The next concern is how MEP 2011 will work along with Fusion. I see a little bit of hesitation with a few commands but almost negligible that I really don't care. I am quite happy with the performance. Revit is another thing, I may need to do a bit more searching online to make sure it will work before I install.
Switching between Mac and Windows programs are all stitched-in into the software, quite amazing. I am working on MEP drawings running in Windows and at the same time listening to iTunes on Mac OS.