Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Virtualization on the cheap

As a Mac user something that really irritates me is when I go to a website and the service it provides is only for Internet Explorer on Windows. Or when a piece of software is Windows only. Fortunately when Apple went to using Intel processors for the Mac a new line of virtualization programs came along. The two best in this field are Parallels and VMWare Fusion. Both of these programs are excellent, but they cost $60-$100 depending on when and where you buy them. If you are like me and need to use Windows on a daily basis for something (in my case I have to check to make sure pages render correctly in 3 [yes 3] versions of IE), then it makes sense to dole out the cash for one of these programs. I use VMWare Fusion and I'm very happy with it. But if it's just an occasional thing where you want to try something then putting out the cash might not be worth it. Enter Virtual Box (vbox). Vbox works much like the other pieces of software mentioned here with one difference, it's open source and as such it's free. From the review it sounds like it works well or at least well enough for the casual user. If you're looking for a virtualization program, this may be the ticket for you.

Note: You probably have to own a copy of Windows to install it on vbox, so that would be a cost for you to consider.


quizwedge said...

Sean, I've considered trying to get a Mac for my next work laptop, but we develop ASP.NET applications so I have to be able to run IIS, Visual Studio, etc. Is that possible with Parallels or VMWare Fusion? Haven't had the budget to do it yet, so I haven't looked into it, but I'd love to get back to using a Mac as my primary computer without having to set it up as a dual boot machine. My goal is to be able to use the Mac environment to do both work and personal things. I'd probably also have to run the Windows versions of Office, especially Outlook so I'm not buying programs the company already has.

Nomad said...


Both VMWare Fusion and Parallels are able to run 100% of Windows apps. The only problems I have seen in those who use it is if the program needs DIRECT access to the hardware for copy protection or special power user features. A number of people I read run VisualStudio.NET on these. IIS, I honestly can't speak to as it is one of those "background" apps that isnt discussed much. All of those work 100% thru BootCamp. There is a reason why the last MacBook Pro was labelled "the best Windows PC ever made."

If you do not need full virtualization, but need to run some basic Windows Apps like MS Office, I never tire of reminding people about Crossover: Cheaper, smaller, and you don't need a version of Windows lying around.

Sean said...

Crossover is a great app, and I had forgotten about it when I wrote the post.

As far as I can tell everything runs well in VMWare. If I had an installer for IIS I'd give it a try and let you know. I'll look to see if there's a free version that I can get somewhere and give it a shot. I've managed to get the Netflix streaming video to work in VMWare, so that's positive.

Sean said...

On second thought... I have been able to get Apache to run in Ubuntu Server on VMWare, so by extension it would seem likely that it could run IIS on Windows.

quizwedge said...

Looks like with a little working around, it's completely possible!

Just because I haven't looked into it too much, if you want to run Windows on your Mac, you buy Parallels + a copy of Windows, right? It's not just Parallels.

Sean said...

[[if you want to run Windows on your Mac, you buy Parallels + a copy of Windows, right? It's not just Parallels.]]


Not to tout VMWare too much, but they have a tool that'll allow you to clone a currently running Windows system and take it onto your Mac to run with VMWare. That's what I did with my copy of Windows. I did have to call MS tech support to get the verification to work. Not sure if that'll help you, but it's just something else to think about.