Connectix program turns one computer into several
Originally published in Business in
Vancouver, September 4, 2001, Issue #619 The high-tech office
by ALAN ZISMAN (c)
Have you ever wanted a different computer than
the one you were
using? I don't mean the faster, more powerful, more expensive model
some of us dream about, but another computer running some other
Few of us have the desk space or income to indulge our
fantasies, but Connectix's $300 Virtual PC for Windows may
previous version has let Macintosh owners run Windows (or Linux)
a handy feature especially in a business context where some
are only available in PC versions.
The new version won't let PC owners run Mac software;
if that's your
need, check out the open source Basilisk II, which does a good job of
a PC into an older-generation Mac. Instead, VPC-Win turns your PC into
a different PC.
It's not as pointless as it sounds. Perhaps you need
to run a piece
of software that won't run on your current system. Or perhaps you want
to try something out, but are afraid it will wreck your setup. Or you
to help someone with a different setup than yours.
VPC-Win allows you to create virtual hard drives on
your existing system.
On each, you can install the operating system and software of your
When you start the program, it lets you boot up the virtual drive of
choice. As far as it knows, it's running on a separate computer; in
it's just another program running in a window or full-screen. It can
the Internet or your network along with many (though not all) devices
to your computer.
Running multiple PCs on the same piece of hardware
takes some reasonably
hefty system resources. You'll need enough RAM for your host operating
system as well as for the additional one you're running, and for any
you want to run under that system. Realistically, count on needing 128
MB or more. And you'll need to set aside a lot of drive space as well,
often a gigabyte or more for each virtual computer. Luckily both RAM
big hard drives are cheaper than ever.
It's hard to accurately measure performance, but a
will inevitably run slower. Performance on my 700-MHz notebook seemed
however. At the moment, while on my real computer using Windows 2000,
installed virtual systems running Windows 3.11, OS/2, Red Hat Linux,
98SE and a prerelease version of Microsoft's next generation
XP. (I couldn't get either Corel Linux or BeOS to work.)
More than I need, I suspect, but unlike real
computers, it's not traumatic
to get rid of one or more. Simply delete the single file that is its
hard drive and it's gone.
While Virtual PC is clearly not for everyone, it means
I can test out
Microsoft's beta operating system without any risk of messing up my
system. For helpdesk personnel, it's a way to support multiple setups
a single system. For software or Web page developers, it's a way to
their work under multiple environments. For techno-hobbyists it's a
Previously, users wanting to run multiple systems
might divide their
drives up, then install and boot to the system of their choice. This
faster performance and requires less RAM than VPC, but is more complex
to get up and running. And with VPC, I can switch back to my host
system in seconds and leave software running in the background while
working in a different environment.
VPC-Win comes with PC-DOS. You can install the
operating system of your
choice or you can order (at added cost) OS Packs from Connectix: CDs
operating systems pre-installed. Just drag a (large) file to your hard
drive and you've got another computer ready to boot up.