One of the last things I did before becoming a poor traveling musician was to spend part of my final salary paycheck on one more Windows-on-Mac product: VMWare Fusion. My day job requires me to use some Windows apps (at least until Microsoft cranks out a Universal Binary version of Office this fall). My free time requires me to run Windows in Boot Camp so I can play Battlefield 2. I was tired of wasting precious harddisk real estate on two Windows installations. So how to boot Boot Camp in Parallels or Fusion?
Well, much to my dismay, Parallels actually does boot the Boot Camp partition. When I started with Parallels 2.5, it would not. Apparently there was an update somewhere in there that enabled this. Huh.
I guess it doesn’t matter…I’ve already shelled out for Fusion. It was a hard deal to pass up–while Fusion is in beta, VMWare is offering half-off the retail price ($80–so $40 in the beta period).
Both solutions require you to set up Windows on Boot Camp first. Boot Windows on Boot Camp, install the Apple driver disk, then try booting in the virtual environments. With VMWare Fusion you have to wait a while for it to scan the partition before you see “Boot Camp partition” appear in the Virtual Machine Library.
I don’t remember exactly how it happens in Parallels, but it seems to me that it was more straight forward than Fusion. Maybe not.
In both the first thing you’ll want to do is install the associated “Tools” package (”Parallels Tools” and “VMWare Tools”). These packages allow the virtual environment to communicate with Windows and do things like adjust the screen resolution, switch the mouse between Mac and Windows and copy files between Mac and Windows. In the case of using Boot Camp, the Tools utilities also handle any driver changes that need to happen when booting in the virtual environment rather than in Boot Camp. This package is very important to keep your Boot Camp installation safe.
Here are a few thoughts I’ve had about these products–all of them are just off-the-cuff; I may have been doing something wrong, or maybe not.
- In the virtual environment, running Windows from Boot Camp seems to run slower than running Windows from a disk image. There are a few theories for this, but my brief search didn’t yield anything useful.
- Performance in Fusion is pretty lacking when set to the default single processor. However, on the dual processor mode, it outperforms Parallels, even on the highest setting, at least in day-to-day operations. Parallels doesn’t seem to have a place to get your hands dirty in their settings like Fusion. I’ll have to keep looking.
- At this time, Fusion’s “Unity” mode, which makes windows appear like they are directly in OS X (compare to Parallels’s “Coherence” mode) does not support multiple monitors. It will only work on a single monitor. In contrast, Parallels can support multiple monitors. It’s a bit quirky, but it works.
- Unity mode supports Expose much better than Coherence, though. With Unity, each Windows window is displayed by itself in Expose. With Coherence, Expose just displays the entire Coherence work area. It’s not as cool.
- Fusion’s Unity mode also uses Mac OS minimize effects. When you minimize a window, it’ll shrink down to the dock using whatever effect you have set. With Coherence, it will disappear and possibly be accessible by a dock icon or option-tab, unless you’re using Witch.
- In Coherence mode, clicking the Parellels icon in the dock will display the Start Menu just above the dock icon. With Fusion, the Start Menu programs are listed in the menu bar or you can use the launcher window to start programs. If you need the actual Start Menu you’ll need to switch back to window mode.
Those are just a few things that I’ve noticed. I’m working with Fusion 1.0RC1 (Build 50460) and Parallels 3.0 (Build 4560). Probably there are settings that I don’t know about to tweak these difficulties. Your mileage will vary.