Parallels Vs. VMware Fusion
December 13, 2007 5:12 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking at purchasing a MacBook Pro for my job at a non-profit. I do web design and IT (as well as Accounting, which is what I'll need to keep running Windows XP for, and Outlook for the Exchange server). I'll install Bootcamp for XP, but much of the time, I will not want to reboot into XP. Would Parallels or VMware Fusion to a better job of meeting my needs? Does either one do a better job of running off the Bootcamp partition?

Also, we are entirely a windows environment now, any tips for integrating the Mac? (I know that the Domain Controller Security Policy on the server needs to be changed).
posted by mac-way to Computers & Internet (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just so you know, Apple is discontinuing Boot Camp as a stand-alone beta for Tiger as of the new year; but since it's incorporated into Leopard, you won't have a problem as long as you buy a new MBP or upgrade the OS.
posted by Dasein at 5:28 AM on December 13, 2007

You should be able to use your bootcamp partition as a disk for parallels or vmware fusion, so you can do both - use the emulator if you need something "quickly" or can't be bothered to reboot, and reboot the mac into xp when you need windows for a longer period. Check the knowledge base of and for details.
posted by DreamerFi at 5:54 AM on December 13, 2007

I own Parallels 3 and VMWare Fusion for the same scenario you describe - I do web development in Coda on the Mac and use VMWare to run SQL Server & IIS (don't ask). VMWare has a large start-up footprint but once you have it running it is pretty responsive - much better performance than Parallels in my experience.

For the Mac, either turn on IMAP in your Exchange server so you can get your email in Mail.App, or use Outlook or Entourage. There are various settings to tweak to get the Mac on the domain with security, just Google "Mac Exchange Server ", etc. for the specifics when you encounter a problem.
posted by Mr. Banana Grabber at 5:57 AM on December 13, 2007

IMHO Parallels is 100% the way to go. Don't even bother partitioning the drive. BONUS you can easily create a single file copy of your XP/Vista image, which can easily be moved from Mac to Mac etc. I need to use BOTH Mac and PC throughout the day, so rebooting for BootCamp is not an attractive option.
posted by Gungho at 6:59 AM on December 13, 2007

Virtualisation, hands down. (As opposed to BootCamp)
Then, VMware Fusion, hands down. (As opposed to Parallels).

You can freely try both Parallels and VMware, as they've both got free trials available on their site. You can also convert between the different formats using the various import tools available on the VMware/Parallels websites.

In theory you can use Entourage to connect to Exchange, although I've never used Exchange/Outlook/Entourage so I don't know anything about that.

Disclaimer: I work for a VMware Partner, although we mainly do VMware Virtual Infrastructure (ie. server virtualization)
posted by lodev at 7:08 AM on December 13, 2007

I've got both Parallels and VMWare installed and VMWare runs much faster. I ended up uninstalling Parallels eventually. Also, installing linux flavors like Ubuntu was super easy on VMware, on Parallels it required a hack that I couldn't get to work.
posted by mathowie at 7:32 AM on December 13, 2007

FWIW, I do .NET/SQL development on XP, running on Parallels on my Mac. I originally set it all up in Boot Camp, and pointed Parallels at that, but quickly realized that I was never using Boot Camp because Parallels is pretty much seamless for everything but games.

Also, you're a bit more limited in Parallels when you point it at Boot Camp. For instance, you can't Pause the VM, which is a handy feature when you want to free up extra memory. You're also at the mercy of a fixed Boot Camp partition size, whereas a native Parallels VM can be set to "expand as needed".

You might want to check out CrossOver Mac, which is essentially a commercially supported version of WINE. It's cheaper, and doesn't require a Windows license because you're not actually running the OS. YMMV per application, though- definitely check the compatibility database.
posted by mkultra at 7:35 AM on December 13, 2007

Don't use Boot Camp as a source drive for Fusion/Parallels. If you do, you lose the ability to pause a session and quickly resume it. Instead you have to watch Windows boot every time you need to use an app.

Fusion seems to be more stable than Parallels in recent builds. I'm not sure about speed, as nothing I do in Windows is taxing enough to tell the difference.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 7:45 AM on December 13, 2007

I also do .NET development on my Mac using Windows XP in a VM. Once I purchased my MacBook pro, I started using Parallels. I was quite successful and very pleased with the results. However, I recently installed the VMWare Fusion trial just to try it out. After about a week I dumped my Parallels disk image and uninstalled the Parallels application. Fusion is faster and less "glitchy" than Parallels. I guess all that experience VMWare has in doing virtualization is showing through.

So, I agree with the above. Don't use Bootcamp and use VMWare Fusion to install a virtual Windows XP instance.

One thing to be aware of though: Make sure you allocate sufficient space for your VMWare disk image that will hold Windows XP. It is harder to expand it in the future under VMWare than under Parallels.
posted by rglasmann at 7:56 AM on December 13, 2007

I have both on my MacBook. Parallels has much better integration with OS X, namely Coherence mode which allows Windows apps to run under the OS X desktop & also IMO a better toolkit for integrating networking & FS sharing. VMWare has lots of appliances pre-loaded with application suites you can download or buy. Parallels has a tool for converting VMWare images but I haven't had much success with it, which is why I keep both programs around.
posted by scalefree at 8:53 AM on December 13, 2007

For what it's worth, scalefree, the most recent versions of Fusion include Unity mode, which is similar to Coherence mode in Parallels.

Also, in response to the original question (echoing others above), I used to use Parallels, but have since switched to Fusion. I found Fusion to be, overall, nicer to use, and less "glitchy."
posted by esd at 9:36 AM on December 13, 2007

I've had a lot of problems with Parallels. They are issuing new builds pretty frequently to keep up with integration problems in Leopard and it still freezes on me everyday.
posted by mattbucher at 9:47 AM on December 13, 2007

I am a total novice but need to rather quickly set up a windows environment on my NEW iMac <> I take it VM is the choice of most here but where can i go to learn a bit so i dont completely mess up the installation: like really basic stuff like how big a partition to create etc...?
posted by dougiedd at 11:46 PM on January 16, 2008

VMware Fusion hands down.

With Parallels I tried installing XP on a brand new Macbook a few days ago, and immediately got a kernel panic. Had to do the custom install just to get XP installed. I couldn't use Coherence mode because of it.

Installation on VMware Fusion just worked. Unity works too. It all just works.

Parallels is just way too buggy.
posted by pixelsmoke at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2008

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