Fusion 1.0, by VMware
Posted: 2-Feb-2008

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: VMware Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: John Schneider Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Overview
Do you love your Mac, but are tired of not being able to run that must-have, Windows-only application or game? Now you can get the best of both the Mac and PC worlds with VMware Fusion. VMware Fusion is an alternative to Apple's Boot Camp and SWsoft's Parallels Desktop software packages, allowing you to run the Windows operating system and applications on an Intel-based Macintosh.

Requirements

  • An Intel-based Mac (to run 64-bit operating systems, an Intel Mac with a Core 2 Duo or Xeon processor is required)
  • 512 MB of RAM (1 GB or more recommended)
  • 275 MB free disk space for VMware Fusion
  • 1 GB free disk space for each virtual machine (10 GB or more recommended)
  • Mac OS X version 10.4.9 or later

Features

  • Install and run Windows, Linux and other operating systems on your Intel-based Mac as virtual machines; the "New Virtual Machine Assistant" allows you to create virtual machines that can run Windows, Linux, BSD or any of the more than 60 different operating systems supported by VMware Fusion
  • No reboot required - use multiple operating systems simultaneously and switch between them seamlessly; Windows applications can be minimized to and run directly from the Mac OS X Dock
  • Drag and drop files between Windows and the Mac
  • The "Windows Easy Install" feature installs a Windows virtual machine that is optimized for your Mac--just answer a few simple questions and insert your Windows installation disc
  • Use the free "VMware Converter Starter Edition" to transform your current Windows PC into a VMware Fusion-compatible virtual machine, then copy the virtual machine from your PC to your Mac
  • Each virtual machine is stored in a single, easy-to-manage package; move your virtual machines to an iPod, another hard drive, or Mac simply by copying a file
  • VMware Fusion offers experimental support for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics in Windows XP virtual machines, making it possible to run DirectX 9.0 applications and play select 3D games on your Mac
  • VMware Fusion lets you get the most out of your Mac hardware - from the SuperDrive to iSight cameras - in any virtual machine.; you also get complete support for proprietary video cameras, GPS, Bluetooth, and other USB 2.0 devices that only work in Windows
  • Take a Snapshot of your virtual machine to save a stable state of your PC that you can quickly return to if something goes wrong
  • Use the Suspend feature in VMware to freeze the exact state of your virtual machine so that you can quickly resume work without restarting Windows and opening all your applications.

Supported 32-Bit Guest Operating Systems:

CLIENT SYSTEMS

  • Windows Vista (Business, Enterprise & Ultimate Editions)
  • Windows XP (Professional SP2, Home Edition SP2)
  • Windows 2000 Workstation SP4
  • Windows NT 4.0 Workstation SP6a
  • Windows Me
  • Windows 98 SE
  • Windows 95 SP1
  • Windows 3.1
  • MS-DOS 6.x
  • SUSE Linux (10.1, 9.3)
  • Novell Linux Desktop 9 SP2
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (5.0, 4.0 Update 4, 3.0 Update 8)
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 - stock 2.4.9-e3 (Workstation)
  • Red Hat Linux 9.0 - stock 2.4.20 8, upgrade 2.4.20-20.9
  • Red Hat Linux 7.0 - stock 2.2.16-22, upgrade 2.2.17-14
  • Solaris x86 10 11/06 (Update 3)
  • Ubuntu Linux (6.10, 5.10)
  • Mandriva Linux (2007, 2006)
  • FreeBSD (6.1, 5.5)
  • Turbolinux Desktop 10

SERVER SYSTEMS

  • Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition, R2 Enterprise Edition
  • Windows 2000 Server SP4, Advanced Server SP4
  • Windows NT 4.0 Server SP6a
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10, 9 SP3
  • Novell Netware 6.5 SP5
  • Novell Open Enterprise Server SP2
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.0, 4.0 Update 4, 3.0 Update 8
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 2.1 - stock 2.4.9-e3 (Advanced Server, Enterprise Server)
  • Red Hat Linux 9.0 - stock 2.4.20-8, upgrade 2.4.20-20.9
  • Red Hat Linux 7.0 - stock 2.2.16-22, upgrade 2.2.17-14
  • Solaris x86 10 11/06 (Update 3)
  • Ubuntu Linux 6.10, 5.10
  • Mandriva Linux 2007, 2006
  • FreeBSD 6.1, 5.5
  • Turbolinux Enterprise Server 8

NOTE: A "guest operating system" is an operating system installed on a virtual machine.

Supported 64-Bit Guest Operating Systems:

CLIENT SYSTEMS

  • Windows Vista (Business, Enterprise and Ultimate Editions)
  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • SUSE Linux (10.1, 9.3)
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (5.0, 4.0 Update 4, 3.0 Update 8)
  • Solaris x86 10 11/06 (Update 3)
  • Ubuntu Linux (6.10, 5.10)
  • Mandriva Linux (2007, 2006)
  • FreeBSD (6.1, 5.5)


SERVER SYSTEMS

  • Windows Server 2003 (SP1 Enterprise Edition, R2 Enterprise Edition)
  • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (10, 9 SP3)
  • Red Hat Enterprise Linux (5.0, 4.0 Update 4, 3.0 Update 8)
  • Solaris x86 10 11/06 (Update 3)
  • Ubuntu Linux (6.10, 5.10)
  • Mandriva Linux (2007, 2006)
  • FreeBSD (6.1, 5.5)

NOTE: An Intel-based Mac with a Core 2 Duo or Xeon processor is required to run 64-bit guest operating systems.

Review System

  • Model Name: MacBook Pro 17"
  • Model Identifier: MacBookPro1,2
  • Processor Name: Intel Core Duo
  • Processor Speed: 2.16 GHz
  • Number Of Processors: 1
  • Total Number Of Cores: 2
  • L2 Cache: 2 MB
  • Memory: 2 GB
  • Bus Speed: 667 MHz
  • The formatted capacity of my MacBook Pro disk drive is 111.35 GB, of which I currently have 49.73 GB available
  • The operating system version is Mac OS X 10.5.1 (Leopard)

Price
Cost may be prohibitive for users who don't already own the operating system to be installed. Cost of Fusion if $79.99, which does not include cost of the virtual host OS (up to several hundred dollars depending on which OS you employ), cost of virus/internet security (in the neighborhood of $50 or $60), and so on. Note that this is inherently true for all PC virtual environments, including competing products such as Boot Camp and Parallels.

Installation

The VMware Fusion product was provided on a single CD, marked "VMware Fusion 1.0 for Mac OS X" with an accompanying serial number. Checking the
VMWare Fusion web site, I found that a more recent version existed - version 1.1, build #62573, for which the web site states that Leopard support is included. Since I already had Leopard installed on my MacBook Pro, I decided to download and run the latest updated version.

So, I first installed version 1.0 from the CD. When the CD is inserted, a window opens showing the CD contents - an installation package, an uninstall application, and instructions.


Fusion Installer


The instructions in the PDF file were simple - insert the CD and run the installer package. The VMware fusion package requires about 275 MBytes on the disk for installation. (This does not include the disk space it will require later for installation of the Windows operating system and Windows applications.) The installer package will prompt you for the usual - accepting the user license, password for the account you are installing from, disk to install to, etc..


Installing VMware Fusion


Once the VMware package is installed, the installer prompts for a serial number. If you don't have a valid serial number, the VMware software will not be fully functional. After the serial is entered, that completes the installation.


Unlocking Fusion

Once the installation was complete, I immediately downloaded Version 1.1 from the VMware web site, provided as an installation disk image. The Version 1.1 download opens an identical installation window (with the install package, uninstall application, and getting started PDF). Running the second installer updated the VMware package to 1.1, installing an additional 16 Mbytes on the hard disk.

Getting Started
Once the VMware Fusion application package is installed, the next step to using it is to create your first virtual machine. Each virtual machine is a separate, self-contained operating system, and the applications, documents, etc. you install for it. The virtual machine appears on your Macintosh hard disk as a single file/package that you can move, copy, or delete.

VMware offers a few options to create virtual machines (VMs). Start by double-clicking the VMware Fusion application in the Applications folder. The application opens a window listing all of the currently installed virtual machines. Since this is the initial installation, no VMs are present in the list.


Fusion Virtual Machine Library


To create a new virtual machine, select the "New" button on the dialog box. A wizard is opened that will step you through the steps to creating a new virtual machine.


The Virtual Machine Assistant


The first step is to select the operating system you will be installing. The dialog box has two menus to select amongst the supported operating systems. For this review, I installed Windows XP Home Edition. (This is the same operating system on my wife's PC, so this allowed me to install and try out applications on both machines.)


Choosing the Virtual Operating System


Next, select a name and location for where the new virtual machine is to be stored. By default, VMware Fusion will create and store VMs in a "Virtual Machines" folder within the "Documents" folder of the user running the application.


Saving the Virtual Machine


Next, select the maximum size of the virtual hard disk for your VM. Remember that each VM appears as a single file on your Mac hard disk - so, you are selecting the maximum file size to which VMware Fusion will allow this VM to grow. At a minimum, this size needs to be meet the disk capacity requirements for the operating system that you are installing. Advanced options allow you to allocate all of the disk space selected when the VM is created; otherwise, VMware Fusion will grow the VM file size as new space is required until the maximum size is reached.

Finally, for Windows installations, the Fusion package provides a "Windows Easy Install" option. On this dialog box, you enter the name (and optionally a password) for the user account to create under Windows, and enter the Windows product key. Once entered, Fusion will prompt you to enter the Windows installation CD. It the installs Windows on the VM you're creating and automatically configure Windows settings to match the hardware/software installation of the host Mac.


Windows Easy Install


Fusion then opens the VM window (essentially a console window for the installation process) and begins installing Windows from the installation CD.


Windows Installer progress screen


Partway through the installation, Windows boots in the VM window and the installations continues.


Window Installer progress within the VM window


Once installation is complete (following several automatic installation procedures and reboots), the Windows operating system boots for the final time and you have a fully functional Windows system running in a Window on your Mac.


Running Windows on the Mac under Fusion


The window can be resized or selected to occupy the full screen using the button at the upper right of the window. Using Leopard's Spaces feature, you can move the PC window to its own space and select it for full screen mode. Then, by switching spaces, you move from PC to Mac and back. Or, as a window, you can drag, resize, minimize, etc. the Windows environment just like any other window.

Fusion also has a feature called "Unity" (not supported in all Windows versions), that will take all currently open Windows applications and turn them into individual windows on the desktop (and icons on the Dock) while hiding the main VM window. This makes these individual applications look like they're just Mac applications - the underlying Windows system is hidden from view.

For example, in the screen capture below, there is an Internet Explorer window on the desktop and the familiar "e" icon for IE at the right side of the Dock. While these appear like any other Mac window/application, it is actually running under the Fusion Windows virtual machine. This is one of my favorite features. Now, once you've set your applications up in Unity view, you can run Windows applications on your Mac without having to touch or feel the Windows OS underneath.


Running a Windows application from the Mac desktop


All in all, the installation and set up took a little less than an hour, most of it spent on the actual Windows installation. And all of it was very easy. The installation process will automatically fill in default values that will work well for your installation and set up Windows for your particular Mac hardware configuration.

Note that I have focused on the installation and setup of Windows, as this is the configuration most users will want. This is also where VMware has placed the emphasis in this product. For Windows installation, Fusion was incredibly easy to install and use.

In Use
OK, so now you've got Windows (or your operating system du jour) installed and running on your Mac. What can you do with it? The answer is "just about anything you can do on a PC".

The first thing to understand are the hardware devices. The VM window in which your operating system is running has icons at the lower right, each to connect to hardware devices on the Mac host system. For example, the first icon from the left on my Mac says that it will connect my built-in iSight camera to the Windows VM, allowing Windows applications to use it. Similar buttons connect to USB devices, networking, sound, etc..


Using Mac peripherals within the Fusion VM


Most of the peripherals I use are USB-based (thumb drives, cameras, backup disk drives, etc.). All of these connected easily to the Windows environment. In most cases, simply having the Fusion application selected in the Finder when you attach the device is enough. Likewise, CD/DVDs inserted in the SuperDrive can be directed to the Windows VM. Some devices, when connected, require a little more setup within the VMware environment, but on-screen pop-up windows and the directions in the manual easily covered any issues.

Once I familiarized myself with connecting to the Mac hardware, I then installed some applications for Windows to see how well they operated. The first application I wanted to install was a PC benchmarking utility. Alas, the VMware license agreement does not allow you to compile and share benchmarking information without first letting them review your results and methodology. Thus, I can only comment on performance in a subjective manner.

So, instead, I installed Office 2003, as these are the applications I use most often on my work laptop. Office installed easily and, in no time at all, I was opening up and working with Word and Excel documents that I had previously created. Note that Fusion makes it easy to share files between the Mac and VM windows. In the Windows installation, the desktop automatically includes a VMware Shared Folders icon. Double-clicking that opens up a folder to take you to your main user folder on the Mac side. By default, these folders and files are read-only, but they can be configured either during installation or later in use as read/write shared areas.

So, I was able to grab Office files from my Mac folders and open and run them from Windows. Performance was similar to running Office on my Pentium IV work laptop. If anything, it was a little snappier on the Mac/Fusion than on my work laptop, which is bogged down by the Lockheed Martin installed firewall, virus scan, and automated system management tools.

Note that the Windows installation doesn't include any virus or internet security software. As with the operating system, you have to purchase that yourself.

Connecting to my printer wasn't too difficult. I have an HP 6150 All-In-One printer with wireless connectivity. I first connected to it by hardwire via USB port. Installation is virtually the same as on a PC. First, select your VM window and connect the printer to the USB port. Then, select the Virtual Machine > Settings menu item from the Fusion application. The printer shows up in the list of USB devices. Select the printer. Then select the Connected checkbox, and select Apply. The printer is the connected to the Windows machine as a USB device and you will be prompted as normal for the drivers/ installation CD. Once installed, the printer worked without incident.

The documentation also says that the printer can be connected to over its wireless connection, but that involved some additional software on the Mac side (Apple Utilities for Airport Express) and network configuration. Unfortunately, I ran out of time to test that option.

I did, however, have no problem connecting to the internet. My Mac connects to the internet through a Linksys wireless router configured with WEP-128 bit encryption. When Windows installed, it was automatically configured to connect through the Mac's wireless network. I was able to open up Internet Explorer right away, connect to Windows Update and update the XP system, install plug-ins and view Flash content, media player content, etc.. I also have a Verizon broadband cellular USB interface that I can use for connectivity. Transitioning between those devices on the Mac side was transparent to the Windows machine. I suppose I could also have connected the USB cellular modem directly to the Windows VM, but it was easier to connect it to the Mac where I already had installed and configured it.

I'm not a big PC gamer and don't have any graphics-heavy Windows-based games, so I didn't try out game play under the VM environment. I wouldn't expect it to be that great, but I can't lay that on the Fusion software - the MacBook Pro hardware graphics are already sluggish themselves on Mac native games. I didn't expect that trying graphics heavy games through the VM environment would work any better. Windows Media Player and Flash content played without any throughput problems under Fusion, so the graphics handling was adequate enough for that usage.

One last feature that I tried was the Snapshot tool, which allows you to capture the state of your virtual machine at any given time. This lets you easily back up to previous states in the event of catastrophic problems in the VM environment. So, I took a snapshot, installed a few applications, then reverted to the previous snapshot state. This worked flawlessly - I was back to the original state without the installed applications. This is a very nice feature for error recovery.

One advertised feature that intrigued me, but I did not have time to use, was the free "VMware Converter Starter Edition". This is an application you would run on your existing PC that would take everything on that PC and roll it all up into a virtual machine file. You can then take that VM file, copy it over to your Mac, open up Fusion and connect to it and, "boom", there's your complete PC now running inside your Mac. I would imagine you would have to manually reconfigure and adapt the hardware settings from the original PC configuration, but it seems like a cool way to get someone converted to using a Mac.

Boot Camp support
If you have already installed XP on Boot Camp, can Fusion use the existing partition? I did not have Boot Camp installed on my machine, but according to
VMWare's website: "VMware Fusion makes it easy to install Windows as a virtual machine on your Intel-based Mac, and makes a perfect complement to Apple Boot Camp. Use your existing Boot Camp partition as a virtual machine, or use the built-in Windows Easy Install to install a fresh copy of Windows on a new virtual machine."

Summary
VMware Fusion is an excellent product for running PC applications on your Mac. It provides easy installation, setup, and operation of virtual machines for over 60 different operating systems. It provides many features to manage the virtual machine environments that interact seamlessly to the Mac OS X Desktop, Dock, and hardware environment. These features made it easy to install and run Windows applications, get network connectivity, attach and configure external devices (thumb drives, backup hard disks, printers, etc.), and move files back and forth between the Windows and Mac environments. It also contains advanced features to manage both the virtual machine environment, the operating systems running within them, and the connectivity to the Mac host. I experienced no bugs or issues with any of the normal, everyday usage applications that the general user would employ. For most common uses, Fusion appears to be a very stable, reliable environment and I highly recommend it.

Pros

  • Easy to install and configure
  • Very reliable and stable
  • Provides easy access to Windows applications that can be seamlessly woven into the Mac desktop environment
  • Boot Camp support

Cons

  • Cost may be prohibitive for some users who are already using the free Boot Camp


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice