VWMware Fusion Beta 3 Adds New Features, Takes a Giant Step Toward Release
by Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First
published in Low
April 11, 2007 Mac2Windows
Competition is a wonderful thing - the existence of the Mac OS prods Microsoft into improving Windows
(and vice versa - yes, Mac fans, Apple has included features that appeared first in Windows).
users wanting to run virtualized sessions of Windows or other PC
operating systems are benefiting from the hot competition between
current Windows-on-Mac favourite Parallels Desktop
and VMWare Fusion
(still in beta for Mac).
In January, I noted the emergence of VMWare Fusion
that company's first Mac virtualization product, going head to head
with the prerelease beta of Parallels Desktop 2.0. Since that column,
Parallels Desktop 2.0 has been officially released.
Fusion has not yet made it to official release, but the company
recently released Beta 3, with improved performance and new features.
It can be downloaded for free, and registration with VMWare is required
in order to get a needed serial number.
The user agreement for
running Fusion Beta 3 "restricts formal reviews of this beta product.
This restriction will be lifted when the product becomes generally
available this summer." I've been granted permission to write about
this beta for Low End Mac at this time as long as I restrain myself from commenting on performance or comparing features to other products
- these are reasonable restrictions, since prerelease products have not
yet been tuned for performance and may be missing features (or
including features) compared to the eventual release versions - so no
comparisons between Fusion Beta 3 and Parallels Desktop in this article!
to Beta 3: The ability to make use of an already-installed copy of
Windows XP in a Boot Camp partition, letting an existing Windows
installation do double-duty by allowing users to boot directly to it or
to run it as a virtualized session on top of Mac OS X.
This is a
neat trick: VMWare's software virtualizes video, sound, and network
adapters that don't exist on Macs, so it's interesting that a single
Windows installation can cope with these changes. In fact, it copes
surprisingly well. When starting up Fusion for the first time, my
existing Boot Camp partition was listed in the "Virtual Machine
Library", along with the virtual machines I had created using the
earlier beta version. It was not necessary to create a new virtual
machine to make use of this feature.
was, however, useful to click on the Settings button and increase the
amount of memory allocated up from the default 256 MB. I opted for 512
MB, in my opinion the lowest reasonable amount for Windows XP.
new in the settings is an option to Accelerate 3D graphics, which
VMWare notes is "currently experimental". I didn't test this, but it
could be a big step forward for Windows virtualizers, making it
possible to play Windows games with good performance without having to
boot directly into Windows using Boot Camp.
Fusion also includes
an option to use two virtual processors and offers USB 2.0 support and
the ability to automatically connect new USB devices. The user's Home
folder can be set as a shared partition, one route to moving files back
and forth between the Mac and Windows sessions.
the settings, I started up my existing Boot Camp Windows XP
installation running under Fusion. Fusion posted a warning.
XP and Vista make use of Microsoft's Product Activation feature; they
need to be activated in order to use them over extended periods of time
and to make use of Windows Update. And as VMWare notes, making changes
to the hardware setup can nullify activation. Their suggestion: Make
your changes, including installing the VMWare Tools prior to activating.
time Fusion starts up, it repeats that activation warning - at least
until you check the option to stop showing it. It follows it with a
request for a password; I don't know why.
XP started without
problem; sound, video, and networking all worked even prior to
installing the VMWare Tools. Nevertheless, I installed the tools, which
is an option in the Virtual Machine menu. Doing so loads a CD image and
installs replacement video, network, and mouse drivers promising
improved performance. The Tools also make it easier to switch between
the Windows and Mac desktops and to drag and drop between them.
that Windows complains that these new drivers "have not passed Windows
Logo testing". This is the case with many (or most) Windows drivers;
ignore the warnings and proceed anyway.
I noted in my earlier column, the Fusion window includes a toolbar with
large icons along the top; these icons, allowing users to turn hardware
such as CD-ROM, Sound Adapter, USB printer, etc. on or off are
potentially useful (though they duplicate functions available from the
menu bar). However, depending on your Windows desktop size and the
resolution of your Mac's monitor, this tool bar may make the window too
tall to display without scrolling.
The View menu includes the
ability to turn off toolbar display. (VMWare Tools display driver seems
to use a default 1024 x 745 resolution that fits everything on screen
and displays the toolbar too . . . a handy thing since the option to
turn off the toolbar doesn't seem to stick between sessions).
one of the features of the VMWare Tools install allows dragging and
dropping between the Mac and Windows desktops. Less nice: The location
of my shared Mac Home folder wasn't immediately obvious. It didn't
appear as a link on the Windows desktop or in My Computer.
up My Network Places didn't show it either, until I opted to Add a New
Network Place. There, in addition to the standard list of Microsoft
Windows Network shares was a new VMWare Shared Folders item - drilling
down, I was able to locate my Mac Home folder. It works, but like many
things in Windows, you need to know where to look.
my Boot Camp partition's Windows XP installation worked as a virtual
session; the next question was whether it would continue to allow me to
boot to Windows. Remember, in order to work properly, it would need to
use the correct video, sound, and network drivers for the hardware
actually installed on my iMac.
(Normally, my Mac has an icon for
my Boot Camp Windows partition on my desktop; when Fusion is making use
of that partition, the icon disappears. When quitting Fusion, it takes
a moment or two for the drive to mount again. Until that happens, the
Windows partition is not listed in the Startup Disk system preference).
everything down, I rebooted my Mac, this time choosing to boot to the
Windows partition. (A reminder to Boot Camp users: pressing the
option/alt key when you hear the boot chime lets you manually choose to
boot to Mac OS X or Windows, a handy trick if you've haven't used the
Startup Disk preference or if [as in my case] the Windows partition
hadn't been remounted on the Mac desktop.)
And again, everything
worked. Without apparently spending time discovering new hardware, the
Boot Camp installation started up with the correct video, network, and
sound drivers in operation. This is immediately noticeable: in Boot
Camp, I have Windows set to use my 17" iMac display's full 1440 x 900
pixels; running in a Fusion window on my Mac desktop, I prefer to set
the display at 1024 x 768 (or, in this case, 745) pixels. I can move
from one to the other without needing to manually fiddle with display
For me, the ability to make use of a Boot Camp
installation of Windows XP is an important addition to Fusion; as a
result, I no longer need two XP installations - one for Boot Camp, the
other to run in a virtual session while running OS X.
not the only thing new to Fusion Beta 3; many users will find the new
Snapshot feature especially useful. This lets users capture a
"snapshot" of the current state of their Windows machine. Later, if a
software or driver install (or virus or spyware) makes the system
unusable, they can revert back to the snapshot. (They will, however,
lose any work saved since making the snapshot. Note that this option is
not available when running a Boot Camp installation.)
the previous betas - and unlike Parallels - Fusion Beta 3 supports
64-bit operation, allowing extra performance from the Mac's CPU(s) and
allowing users to make use of 64-bit PC operating system versions. The
new beta offers users the option to turn off debugging features for
Also new in Beta 3: a Windows Easy Install feature makes creation of a new Windows virtual session quick and easy.
has yet to announce pricing for Fusion; I don't know whether they will
match the pricing of VMWare Workstation for Windows and Linux (US$200),
match the free availability of Microsoft's Virtual PC for Windows or
VMWare's free Server or Player versions for Windows and Linux, or set
some other price point. (Fusion's beta version is freely available for
VMWare Fusion Beta 3 is a big improvement over the previous prerelease version. I'm looking forward to this summer's release. Reader comments:
Eric Tung notes:
"Two slight additions to your article:
When using a BootCamp partition, the password is required to prevent any user from erasing the BootCamp partition (source: http://www.vmware.com/community/thread.jspa?messageID=616482)
VMware signs drivers for release builds but not for betas, so installing VMware Tools will be easier in the final version."
- April 11 2007