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November 25, 2008 4:31 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to do to prep my MacBook Pro for running Vista as a virtual machine?

I need Windows to run two or three specialized programs. I am also a die-hard Apple lover. Thus, I don't know what needs to be done to a Vista system to keep it from catching every virus ever made. I'm running last year's MacBook Pro model OS X 10.5 with free virtualization software VirtualBox. And please explain everything as if you were teaching someone who knows nothing about Windows (of any type), and only just barely knows anything about VirtualBox, or any virtualization software. Links are appreciated.
posted by photomusic86 to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
 
Before you do anything, install anti-virus software on the virtual machine. AVG Free will take care of this just fine. I'm sure others will have more complete help, but I thought I should put it out there. Remember, if you have shared folders between your OS X install and your virtual machine (or even if you don't, it can still happen,) any virus you pick up in the virtual machine can and will mess with your OS X install.
posted by InsanePenguin at 4:41 PM on November 25, 2008


Before you go the full virt route, see if your apps rune via Wine. Try Darwine or Crossover. No Windows license required.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:07 PM on November 25, 2008


What are the specialized programs? It may be possible to install them under crossover/wine without a full install.

But if you're going to install Virtual box...
1) Install Virtual Box
2) Create an Image (an area) for the Guest OS.
3) You'll then Install Vista.

Then - the part you directly asked: A) Install Antiviral package. B) Install Anti-Malware package. C) Turn on the firewall. D) Run Firefox.

A) Antivirus - Here are five good free antiviral software packages from lifehacker.
B) Anti malware software; spybot or ad-aware are both excellent.
C) Turn on vista firewall.
D) Run Firefox as your browser.
posted by filmgeek at 6:11 PM on November 25, 2008


You don't need to do anything special on the Mac end. Have 2Gb of RAM (or more) and lots of hard disk space free (at least a few gigs left even after the Windows "drive" is accounted for), and you're fine. After that, Filmgeek's steps look right to me.

That said, I disagree with over-worrying about viruses. Yes, Windows is a giant virus magnet, and sure, run AVG or whatever, but don't go crazy with paranoia -- you're much safer than your average (real) Windows user already, since getting a virus on your (virtual) Windows machine is such a minor problem it's barely worth worrying about. The virus can't touch your "real" computer, so if you get infected with something, just throw away the whole "machine" (one file) and replace it with a backup anytime.*

If only (real) Windows boxes were so quick and easy to deal with!

* Tip: Backup your whole Windows 'machine' in one go from the Mac side of things. One big file. Easy.
posted by rokusan at 6:39 PM on November 25, 2008


My advice: Use XP if you can. I've used Vista as a VM (on VMWare Fusion 6.5) at work and it is the slowest VM of all to work with. I go and make coffee and come back and it's still not booted up. Any other VM (Linux or Windows) takes almost no time, 30 seconds at the most.

I agree with filmgeek's suggestions, I use AVG, spybot and Firefox always, and I have the native XP firewall running.
posted by WilliamWallace at 6:56 PM on November 25, 2008


That said, I disagree with over-worrying about viruses. Yes, Windows is a giant virus magnet, and sure, run AVG or whatever, but don't go crazy with paranoia -- you're much safer than your average (real) Windows user already, since getting a virus on your (virtual) Windows machine is such a minor problem it's barely worth worrying about. The virus can't touch your "real" computer, so if you get infected with something, just throw away the whole "machine" (one file) and replace it with a backup anytime.*

This is wrong. While the boot disk may not be rendered completely unusable, the virus can and will infect the "real computer," which can in turn help spread the virus and can also fsck with your "real computer's" HDD. VirtualBox allows shared folders, no?

Never stop worrying about viruses. It's not being paranoid, it's being safe. Why take chances when simple preventative steps are so easily available? (And free.)
posted by InsanePenguin at 7:16 PM on November 25, 2008


Why not max out your memory at 4Gb, it couldn't hurt, and probably will help. (I'd also recommend Parallels to run the VM. I use it for Vista and am constantly impressed by its performance.)
posted by whiskeyspider at 7:19 PM on November 25, 2008


I second bumping the RAM, that is crucial to a happy fast VM, especially if you want to run Vista.
posted by cftarnas at 10:51 PM on November 25, 2008


Just for kicks I tried to fire up Vista in a VM. Giving it anything less than two gigs of memory was a total disaster and it was unbearable to do even the most basic tasks like: booting, browsing the filesystem, changing settings. That means the host machine should have, say, three or four gigs of memory.

Other than that, it should pretty much just work. Listen to the advice of everyone who suggests you should treat the VM like it is diseased; not because it is, but because using it as a complete naif means that it is likely to become so. Windows in the hands of the uninitiated tends to -- after a surprisingly short period of time -- either become riddled with crapware of various kinds, or riddled with anti-crapware of various kinds. Either situation is undesirable.

Do not install any products from a company known as Symantec, no matter how attractive they might seem. These things are universally worse than the problems they purport to prevent, and a source of an entire category of problems of their own.
posted by majick at 11:02 PM on November 25, 2008


This is wrong. While the boot disk may not be rendered completely unusable, the virus can and will infect the "real computer," which can in turn help spread the virus and can also fsck with your "real computer's" HDD. VirtualBox allows shared folders, no?

If there's a Windows virus that can impact a Mac filesystem over a network share, then use that host Mac to further spread itself... well, I've never seen such a beast, and it strikes me as the sort of thing that would be quite famous. I can construct elaborate theoretical ways in my imagination, but I've never seen or heard of one in the wild, no.

I use Windows every day, both on a real PC and in a Mac-based VM. Using it in a Mac-based VM is amazingly refreshing. Any question about viruses or OS problems? Poof, drive deleted, copy restored. Thirty seconds to a "fresh install".

My point was that it's a reduced concern, not a completely disregardable one. I did also say go ahead and install AVG, not much harm there, but you really do not need to be nearly as careful as you would on a native Windows disk/computer. It's not quite Mac OSX's world of "pfff, viruses? get serious." but in terms of a reduced-worry way to use Windows, it's pretty liberating.
posted by rokusan at 12:02 AM on November 26, 2008


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