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Should I use VMWare or Parallels for Windows?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I just bought a Mac Pro, my 2nd Mac to compliment my MacBook Pro. The different is this Mac Pro is replacing my Windows Desktop. Since I'm going to be using one of the internal drives as a server drive for my home network I don't want to use Boot Camp since I don't want to have to reboot.
My question, which of the virtualization products should I go with? For Windows I don't use it heavily. I don't do much gaming and just use a few programs such as QuickBooks, a couple other accounting programs, and I also burn some DVD's and CD's on it. I assume this won't require heavy use and with 6GB of memory memory shouldn't be an issue. For now I plan to use just Windows XP but if Vista ever gets more stable I will switch to it. At the office they also have some Linux machines and my husband wants to set up a Ubuntu Linux machine so someday we could even have Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Linux machines.
I have read so much both ways of which to go with and it seems it all depends on when the last one was updated but I also don't want to go with one just to switch soon so am wondering if one is more safe and future proof.
post #2 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AubreyL View Post

Since I'm going to be using one of the internal drives as a server drive for my home network I don't want to use Boot Camp since I don't want to have to reboot.

You can boot Parallels and VMWare from the Bootcamp partition. This has a number of advantages over using a drive image. You can use both apps with the same Windows installation so you can test the demo of each and see which works better for you. Coherence doesn't always work in Parallels for example and you may find one is less stable that the other.

You can also see the contents of the drive when the VM is shut down using the Bootcamp method and you can easily read/write stuff directly to the C drive. This is assuming you used FAT32 to format the partition and not NTFS. FAT32 has a disadvantage of not supporting file sizes over 4GB, which isn't very good if you rip/burn DVD images.

Some disadvantages:
The drive is always visible (can be unmounted though).
Performance can be slower than using an image but it shouldn't be noticeable on a Mac Pro.
Harder to backup and restore if something goes wrong (unlikely to happen though and you can always do a clone).

Quote:
Originally Posted by AubreyL View Post

My question, which of the virtualization products should I go with? For Windows I don't use it heavily. I don't do much gaming and just use a few programs such as QuickBooks, a couple other accounting programs, and I also burn some DVD's and CD's on it.

I'd say VMWare is probably more future proof as they have the industry leading virtualization company behind it but like I say, it's really down to what you prefer and what works for you. They are both solid products and should both be able to satisfy your needs.
post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AubreyL View Post

I just bought a Mac Pro, my 2nd Mac to compliment my MacBook Pro. The different is this Mac Pro is replacing my Windows Desktop. Since I'm going to be using one of the internal drives as a server drive for my home network I don't want to use Boot Camp since I don't want to have to reboot.
My question, which of the virtualization products should I go with? For Windows I don't use it heavily. I don't do much gaming and just use a few programs such as QuickBooks, a couple other accounting programs, and I also burn some DVD's and CD's on it. I assume this won't require heavy use and with 6GB of memory memory shouldn't be an issue. For now I plan to use just Windows XP but if Vista ever gets more stable I will switch to it. At the office they also have some Linux machines and my husband wants to set up a Ubuntu Linux machine so someday we could even have Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Linux machines.
I have read so much both ways of which to go with and it seems it all depends on when the last one was updated but I also don't want to go with one just to switch soon so am wondering if one is more safe and future proof.

I use Parallels on my MacBook and Fusion on my iMac. No particular reason. That's just the way that it ended up. I have had no problems with either of them.

The reason that I don't use Boot Camp, is that with the other two, I can do a clone of my system using Super Duper, or Carbon Copy Cloner, to get an exact copy of my hard drive. Doing so, copies my virtual machines for me. Someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that the Boot Camp partition will be copied with any of the cloners, right?

One nice thing about Fusion, is that I can create a snapshot of where I am right now. Then, I can install that trial software. Then if I don't like it, I don't have to bother the cumbersome uninstall process that Windows has. All that I have to do it revert to the snapshot and it's as if the trial software never existed. Parallels may have that too - not sure.
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post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by iMick View Post

One nice thing about Fusion, is that I can create a snapshot of where I am right now. Then, I can install that trial software. Then if I don't like it, I don't have to bother the cumbersome uninstall process that Windows has. All that I have to do it revert to the snapshot and it's as if the trial software never existed. Parallels may have that too - not sure.

Yeah, Parallels has snapshots as well. Both are very easy to work with, though each has a few little edges over the other.
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post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by mzaslove View Post

Yeah, Parallels has snapshots as well. Both are very easy to work with, though each has a few little edges over the other.

I think that Fusion might only have one snapshot. Does Parallels, or Fusion for that matter, have more than one, sorta like Time Machine?
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post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by iMick View Post

I think that Fusion might only have one snapshot. Does Parallels, or Fusion for that matter, have more than one, sorta like Time Machine?

I happen to have Parallels open in front of me (well, give me a second... there it is), and you can take as many snapshots as you want (but they do require disk space) -- and they are whole images of the virtual disk, so it's not quite like Time Machine. But as many have said before, great for testing new software -- you get a bug... delete and go to a previous snapshot. Easy-peasy.
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post #7 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by mzaslove View Post

I happen to have Parallels open in front of me (well, give me a second... there it is), and you can take as many snapshots as you want (but they do require disk space) -- and they are whole images of the virtual disk, so it's not quite like Time Machine. But as many have said before, great for testing new software -- you get a bug... delete and go to a previous snapshot. Easy-peasy.

I have my Fusion snapshot set to a fresh install. If I had a fresh install, AND, one more to mess with, that'd be great. I guess though, that I don't really install stuff. I have the one or two apps that I really need already installed, and I don't mess with other stuff.
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post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
That gave me a lot to think about. I had thought of setting up a Boot Camp partition in case I need it and then using it with Parallels or VMWare. A guy I work with did this with Parallels on his MBP and said it ran extremely slow and was unusuable but with a Mac Pro that probably woudn't be an issue.
post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AubreyL View Post

That gave me a lot to think about. I had thought of setting up a Boot Camp partition in case I need it and then using it with Parallels or VMWare. A guy I work with did this with Parallels on his MBP and said it ran extremely slow and was unusuable but with a Mac Pro that probably woudn't be an issue.

One thing you have to watch is that you don't run out of space. When using Bootcamp, the VM uses your Mac drive for some cache. I think it might be the Windows virtual memory file. It allocates 1.5GB or something on booting and deallocates this on shutdown. If you don't have much space left on your drive, this can slow things down a lot. When I make sure I have enough free space, it seems to run fine. If it runs too slow for you, I believe Parallels has a migration tool to allow you to move a Bootcamp partition into an image so you don't have to do a setup twice.

Like you say, the other advantage of Bootcamp is simply being able to boot natively if anything does go wrong or for something the VM doesn't support like an app using 3D acceleration or a device of some sort - though that kind of support is getting better in Parallels/VMWare. If you are using VM software using an image and it gets corrupted, your entire Windows setup is gone. The easier backups help in this regard but a partition seems safer to me especially with financial records. Not to mention, when the VM is shut down, you can browse, open and edit files directly from your C drive in Mac software and save it in place. This is handy if you have a spreadsheet in your Windows documents, you can right-click the .xls open in maybe Numbers, edit something, save and when you boot your VM back up, you have the edited file right there without copying files around.

One thing to note, Parallels and possibly VMWare modifies the boot.ini file of a Bootcamp partition so in order to allow Windows to boot natively, the VM has to be shutdown properly to restore the boot.ini file.
post #10 of 15
One problem I had was that in both VMWare and Parallels was that if I tried to use them off the BootCamp install it would keep telling me that I needed to reactivate Windows due to excessive hardware changes.

For as little as I use Windows, I just got rid of BootCamp altogether since I can pop in and out of Parallels much faster, dont have to shut down any IM sessions (my work lives and dies by them) or any other running apps just to run something quick on a windows app that doesnt have a Mac version. I also noticed that Windows runs much faster in Parallels than it does on my 2.2 GHz 17" MBP in BootCamp.

Another nice thing about either one of them as compared to BootCamp is that you can make a copy of your windows .hdd file and move it to any other machine that you have your VM software installed on or just simply to keep it as a back up on an external drive etc. Recover is sooo much easier that way.
post #11 of 15
I figure that if VMware is the standard for all data-centers in the virtualization field, then the decision is easy...I use Fusion
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post #12 of 15
hi all - I'm a new user with perhaps a funny question. I understand that you can use Fusion or Paralels with a Bootcamp established partition - but can you go the other way? i.e will Bootcamp recognize a partition established by one of the virtualization products?
post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by a_greer View Post

I figure that if VMware is the standard for all data-centers in the virtualization field, then the decision is easy...I use Fusion

It's also better IMO after I decided to use VMWare more.

VMWare doesn't allocate 1.5GB of HD space on booting from Bootcamp unlike Parallels.
VMWare uses both CPUs - this makes the difference between Parallels stuttering while running some older games and VMWare being very smooth.
VMWare Unity actually works, Parallels' Coherence doesn't for me - being able to see the genie effect on an Explorer window is pretty cool.

I've still got to test it more fully but so far, I am happier with VMWare.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arbitror

hi all - I'm a new user with perhaps a funny question. I understand that you can use Fusion or Paralels with a Bootcamp established partition - but can you go the other way? i.e will Bootcamp recognize a partition established by one of the virtualization products?

Nope. There is a tutorial somewhere online to convert an image to Bootcamp but it's fairly involved. It would be nice if you could just mount an image and then restore it onto a Bootcamp partition.
post #14 of 15
Got it - thanks.
post #15 of 15
Some extra testing and VMWare has some downsides.

It takes a fair bit longer to save the VM state. Parallels also has a nice animation when it shuts down. Both apps resume in about the same time though.
Parallels recognizes localhost after installing Bonjour. This makes it easier for testing websites locally on IE. VMWare works using the IP address but it won't recognise the Mac computer name. Minor issue really but still Parallels makes it easier.
VMWare is still top on performance but it uses more Ram than Parallels.
VMWare copying from the Mac side by dragging into the window works very well - Parallels didn't work so well for me. I've seen it blue screen doing that before. I've actually had quite a number of blue screens with Parallels but I haven't used VMWare enough to see if it does too.
The cursor in VMWare works better, Parallels often has a Mac cursor with a Windows one on top, which is a bit annoying.
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