Longtime Mac/Unix guy seeks Win XP for virtualization -- but which version?
October 6, 2007 12:49 PM   Subscribe

The new Mac's on its way, the time has come to purchase a copy of Windows to run under virtualization on it. The question is, which version? And how to customize by size for my needs?

What I want to use it for: primarily testing web stuff in IE 6 and IE 7. Secondary use -- I'd like to learn basic .NET development. Chances are I'll also be running a few miscellaneous PC-only apps over time.

The first thing I'm wondering is if it matters in the least if I choose XP pro over XP home. I see the different lists of features out there on the net, but other than Remote Desktop, none of them mean much of anything to me. Are there real pros to pro, and cons to home?

The second thing I'm wondering is how it's possible to get legal very stripped down installations of Win XP a lá TinyXP -- I see it discussed here and there, but I'm a bit of a torrent n00b who's wary of random ISOs from fishy tracker sites and isn't quite sure how these things fit with the concept of legally running your software. How can I either make sure that I get a nice trustworthy TinyXP version that runs smoothly, or how can I do minimal/stripped-down installs myself from a retail copy?
posted by namespan to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Using IE 6 and 7 at the same time is problematic. It is, I think, possible to have 6 and 7 installed simultaneously, but it's not trivial.

I use XP Home for web testing and occasional .NET dev (with Microsoft's great free Visual C# Express). I've never particularly needed any of the Pro features.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 1:18 PM on October 6, 2007

Unless you need the extra functionality of XP Pro, Home will do you fine, and will tap both of the processors on your Core Duo/Core 2 Duo chip.

Never obtained or installed TinyXP, but you shouldn't have any problems getting this running under Parallels or VMWare. Not sure if it's possible to install or Ghost this onto a Boot Camp partition, but I'd be curious to hear more about this.
posted by porn in the woods at 1:18 PM on October 6, 2007

Using IE 6 and 7 at the same time is problematic. It is, I think, possible to have 6 and 7 installed simultaneously, but it's not trivial.

There are a couple of ways to go. There is a hack out there that allows you to install a ton of different IE versions in different directories.

MS also issues virtual machine installations that expire every 3 months (so you cant use it as a permanent windows install), with IE 7 pre-installed. This is what I use at work to test in ie7, because it's a more accurate simulation without all the directory weirdness of the other way.

I dont know how running this on a mac (virtual machine within a virtual machine) would work, but you could try...
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:38 PM on October 6, 2007

Response by poster: Using IE 6 and 7 at the same time is problematic.

Yeah, this is pretty much why I want to know how to do slimmed-down installations... I plan to have two separate XP images, one exclusively for each browser, but I don't want to sacrifice the disc space that might be involved in a default install.
posted by namespan at 1:40 PM on October 6, 2007

Well, geeze, you're virtualizing it. Just install a version of Windows, patch it up, and activate it. Then copy it to another directory, and open it a second time. Make sure to tell the VM program 'yes, I moved this, write new machine information', which will assign a new MAC address to the virtual network card. (this is important: otherwise, if you open them both at once, neither will be able to network properly.)

Whatever version of Windows you end up with, make sure you buy a 'retail' copy, which is more expensive. With a retail copy, you can transfer it as many times as you want, as long as you're running it on only one physical machine at a time. With an OEM copy, it's tied to the first motherboard you install it on. Under virtualization, that won't be as painful, but if you buy a retail copy, you can use it anywhere you like, including if you want to transfer it to a real PC or run it under Bootcamp instead.

XP Pro has a bunch more networking features than Home, and by default I suggest using that. You can probably make up for many of Home's missing features because it will be virtualized, but Pro will absolutely work with everything, no matter what. Retail full-install Pro is about $250.
posted by Malor at 2:21 PM on October 6, 2007

the disk space required for a basic xp is pretty small vs the size of modern hard disk. An extra install is probably $2 worth of disk space, tops.
posted by Good Brain at 2:23 PM on October 6, 2007

These might be interesting / useful: Nlite will make a stripped down install CD, XPlite will strip down an existing installation, Multiple IE installer, and IEs for Linux.
posted by rjt at 3:15 PM on October 6, 2007

xp pro includes iis 5.5 which may be of use if you are doing .net development. other than that home should be fine
posted by phil at 3:48 PM on October 6, 2007

I just did kirkaracha's link for my workplace, and it works BEAUTIFULLY. Highly recommended, couldn't be easier.
posted by davejay at 11:07 PM on October 6, 2007

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