MacTech Labs: Virtualization Benchmarks, January 2011
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MacTech Labs: Virtualization Benchmarks, January 2011

Virtualization Benchmarks

By Neil Ticktin, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher

Head-to-Head: How do VMware Fusion 3.1 and Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac compare?

Why Virtualization?

In 2005, Apple announced the switch of the Mac platform from PowerPC to Intel processors (the first Intel-based models were available in early 2006). This introduced some interesting opportunities for the Mac, including the ability to run operating systems other than Mac OS X on a Mac. This includes not only your everyday Windows 7 or XP, but also other Windows OSes, including 64-bit versions, and a wide variety of Linux and other OSes.

You may already understand your options for running Windows on a Mac, but in case you don't, your first choice is to decide between Apple's Boot Camp, and a virtualization product like VMware Fusion, or Parallels Desktop for Mac. With Apple's Boot Camp, you can run Windows natively, but you have to reboot every time you want to switch between Mac OS and Windows. In addition, you can only use one OS at a time. Despite a speed advantage for some things, that's not particularly convenient. For that reason, MacTech recommends a virtualization product for most users.

Virtualization gives "switchers" (those switching from Windows to Mac) more comfort because they can use their old applications; and more easily get to their old data. It gives all Mac users the ability to use some critical piece of software not available on the Mac. For example, your job may require you to run Internet Explorer, an older version of Outlook, or some other software that your corporate systems support. Of course, you may simply want to play a Windows game not available on the Mac.

With virtualization, like you'll see in Parallels Desktop for Mac or in VMware Fusion, you can run Windows alongside the Mac OS, getting the best of both worlds. For many, this may mean running Windows in a "window" on your Mac. Both VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop also have the ability to run Windows applications even more transparently or full screen, but we'll leave that for another discussion.

Your final option is to use Parallels Desktop for Mac or VMware Fusion to access/use your Boot Camp volume rather than a virtual hard disk. This gives you the option of sometimes booting Windows natively, and other times, using the volume for virtualization. As the performance of doing this improves, this has become a real option for users.

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