Mac Virtualization State of the Union: VMware Fusion 4, Parallels Desktop 7, and VirtualBox 4

“With each passing year, the number of tasks that can be accomplished only in Windows, and not natively in Mac OS X, decreases. This is due in part to the rise of Web applications, in part to Windows apps being ported to Mac OS X, and in part to new Mac-only or cross-platform applications that are superior to the older Windows-only options. Lots of people still legitimately need to run Windows on a Mac, but that number is certainly shrinking,” Joe Kissell writes for TidBits.

“Boot Camp continues to work fine, but I gave up on it long ago,” Kissell writes. “I consider it unnecessarily awkward and inflexible compared to virtualization software. Plus, the performance gap between Boot Camp and virtualization has shrunk significantly, and very few applications and external devices work under Boot Camp but not in a virtual machine.”

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“The only real question for the vast majority of people who still need to run Windows on their Mac is which virtualization program to use. As of Parallels 7 and Fusion 4, that’s more of a toss-up than ever,” Kissell writes. “Although I’m sure both developers can still squeeze out a few more percentage points of performance, my sense is that we’re close to reaching the theoretical limit of how fast Windows can run on a Mac (and it’s plenty fast). In addition, improvements in Windows itself and in the various virtualization programs have made setting up and using Windows on a Mac so easy and seamless that users can often ignore the differences between operating systems, freely downloading and running nearly any software without regard for the platform it was written for.”

Kissell writes, “I’ve used both Parallels Desktop 7 and VMware Fusion 4, and I thought this would be an appropriate time to offer a ‘state of the union’ on virtualization software for the Mac.”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Bloomberg’s Jaroslovsky reviews Parallels Desktop 7: There’s no better solution for Mac users who want Windows compatibility – September 14, 2011
VMware launches VMware Fusion 4; offers full Mac OS X Lion integration – September 14, 2011
Parallels offers 60% off Desktop 7 for Mac to entice VMWare Fusion users to switch – September 13, 2011
Mossberg reviews Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac: Runs Windows quickly and smoothly – September 6, 2011
Upgrading from Windows to Mac even easier with Parallels Desktop 7 – September 2, 2011
New Parallels Mobile app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch controls Macs, PCs, plays Flash and more – September 1, 2011
Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac makes Windows programs roar with Mac OS X Lion features – September 1, 2011


  1. Try VIRTUAL BOX first. It does not have the aesthetic polish and “features” of the paid options… but it works great, seems just as fast, and is “free” for personal use. If it does what you need and you do not need the fluff, then why burden your mac with more code. It started as an independent open-source project but is now part of Oracle and they seem committed to on-going development (updates on a regular basis). Yes, a “small” amount of mac os capability is required to install / use optimally. That is to say, it is not an app recommend to grandma. I have used it with seriously robust apps like autocad, revit and max… and it “works” just fine… up to the point of needing direct gpu accelerated 3d (which is not yet there).

  2. Yes, shrinking.

    So let’s cut to the chase here; why just not find another program to handle that ONE task needed?

    Are you really truly telling all of us there is a need for this virtualization as good a it gets – come on – if there is no way what-so-ever to run that one task any other way… Then to buy a copy of Windows and a copy of the virtulalization software… And to install that ONE damn application because there is simply no alternative I would like to hear of this situation.

    Content is created. One needs to start fresh from the ground ip sometimes. So if you can not port that .ai file into Intaglio or iDraw… Try converting the PDF of the original .ai as a new reference point.

    Like come on…. I think crossover has the right mentality here… Most of the need is those who want their windows games and fear to lose the investments made. Okay.

    The Windows market is shrinking.
    The virtualization programs are becoming useless.
    Talks of the need for this type of software is for what?


    1. If there were replacements for Frame Maker and SolidWorks that ran under OSX, I’d be done with Windows. On the other hand, since I no longer use Final Cut Pro and all of the Adobe software I use is available for Windows, maybe it’s time for me to just completely switch to Windows? Hey! look out for that flying pig!

    2. There is very little, if any, good pro-level securities trading and charting software written for Mac. Believe me, I’ve looked. I wish there was so I could ditch Windows. But alas, no. So I run Win7 in Bootcamp and also have Parallels on board. Otherwise, the rest of my stuff is Mac.

    3. MS office is the main one for me.

      Yes ive looked at open office and iworks, both are like showing up to race at the indy 500 with a gokart.

      I have office 2011 on my mac but mac VBA is missing ADO and apparently something basic like connecting to an ODBC source was deemed not important to the macbu. Those 2 things make mac:office useless to me for data analysis in excel.

      1. Also – your honestly and comment is as well – much appreciated – I see from the others – there definitely is a need far greater then i see or have to run windows.

        Does your lively-hood depend on these softwares?

    4. Show me windows server configuration tools for the Mac and I’ll gladly dump my fusion. Working in a cross platform environment requires it…cheaper than running a windows machine AND more convenient.

    5. As web developer, I primarily use Parallels to test multiple versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox for Windows. I need to maintain several copies of Windows to test each major release, (including Windows 7 via Boot Camp). I have recently dropped support for IE6 though, and have since trashed my Windows 2000 VM.

  3. VMware Fusion has a feature that lets the user “import” an existing (non-virtual) Windows installation into a virtual machine. It also let me import my existing Connectix Virtual PC Windows VM (from my old Power Mac G5) into a VMware Fusion VM (on my Intel iMac).

    Anyone know if Parallels Desktop can do this trick? Since I have VMware Fusion 4, I can give Parallels Desktop a try for $30 using the “cross-grade” price. But I’m not going to bother if I have to pay for a new full Windows license. I selected VMware Fusion when I got my first Intel Mac was because I knew I could keep using my existing Windows XP license.

    1. Yes Parallels can import from a real Windows box. You have to install a piece of software on the PC first, and it does take quite a while to do over a LAN. I have also imported an old MS VirtualPC from an old PowerMac, though that was several versions of Parallels ago (but likely they haven’t removed that feature)

    2. Yes. Parallels imports a Win 7 installation as a virtual machine in a snap. As a matter of fact, I think the best way to use virtualization software is to first create a Boitcamp partition and install Win7. Then install the virtualization software. I’ve been using Parallels and like it. When I upgraded from Parallels 6 to 7, it was super easy. No need to reinstall Windows or mess with the partition. If you don’t use a separate Bootcamp partition Parallels tech support tells you that you will need to reinstall Windows. So a Bootcamp partition install is definitely the way to go, plus it gives you a backup way to get to Windows in case you need to run Win7 natively. Hope this helped.

      1. That’s not what I’m asking about… 🙂

        I’m not going to create a separate partition for Windows. What I have (as a starting point) is an existing Windows VM in VMware Fusion, or an existing Windows VM in Connectix (MS) Virtual PC, or maybe an existing Windows installation on a “real” PC (if I choose to set up that old laptop again). They are all Windows XP, and I do not have a full retail (not OEM) installation package (so I can’t use those discs to install Windows directly). I need to be able to “import” one of those existing Windows installations to create a Parallels Desktop VM.

        But “simon” (above) says I can do what I need. So I might spend $30 to compare Parallels Desktop to VMware Fusion.

  4. I have to have a peecee for exactly ONE thing – using IE for a website that FINRA (Securities Regulators) requires us to use. It only works with IE, and it’s a real pain. Both Parallels and VMWare sometimes start up quickly, and sometimes slowly. They also both sometimes cause my whole system to bog down. I wish the gummint (and quasi gummint agencies) would use standards that don’t require Microsoft IE.

  5. VMWare etc. aren’t just for running Windows. I use them to create SPLAT test environments for instance. You can emulate five or six gateways/proxies plus a Management server if you have 8GB RAM. Only lasts 15 days, but a damn sight cheaper than buying a bunch of Power-1 appliances.

  6. Unfortunately there are going to be software programs that will never be ported over to the mac as the development costs that have already gone into the existing software is huge. Take for example our bidding and accounting software that is used for the construction industry. Our accounting software is based on MS SQL Server 2005/2008. They’re not going to port it to the mac unless the industry pushes them in that direction and I don’t see it happening. Same with our bidding software.

    I’ll just have to be content running the software in a VM on my mac (which isn’t a problem as I believe a mac runs windows better than my PC does).

    1. Here’s another somewhat-related example…

      Some folks who use Quicken are grumbling about not being able to run it with Lion, because it is (still) a PowerPC-based application that Intuit is too lazy to update to Universal or Intel.

      Buy a copy of Quicken for Windows. With Fusion or Parallels, you can have Quicken running under Mac OS X Lion, and it will be the latest version (not the older PowerPC Mac version).

      For PowerPC-based AppleWorks users, I believe there is a Windows version of AppleWorks 6 (if you can find a copy).

      I’ve been having some nostalgic fun recently with an old Mac OS 9 game called Alpha Centauri (probably my favorite game ever). I haven’t played it in years. There’s an unofficial Mac OS X patch, but it’s buggy, and it’s PowerPC-based, so it wouldn’t work under Lion anyways. I recently found a re-issue of the game (last version with expansion pack included) being sold for about $15 on eBay. It’s the Windows version (of course), and it runs great in my VMware Fusion Windows XP VM. It plays “full screen” in the VM’s window, so I have a window playing the game on my Lion Desktop (which is actually better than before when the game took over the screen).

      It may not be worth the cost and effort if you don’t have a Windows installation already, using VMware Fusion or Parallels Desktop (or BootCamp). But I already have it, and I’m now finding it MORE useful than before.

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