Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac 7.0 review: Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac 7.0

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MSRP: $129.00
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Lets you experience Windows on your Mac.

The Bad Slow; expensive; emulates a slow PC at best; no video-card support; not recommended for PC video games.

The Bottom Line Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac 7.0 is slow and a bit expensive, probably because it includes a Windows license, but it's cheaper than buying and maintaining a real PC--even a low-end one.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.3 Overall
  • Features 7.0
  • Service and support 7.0
  • Setup and interface 8.0

Microsoft Virtual PC 7.0

While Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac 7.0 allows you to run Windows software on a Mac, using any operating-system emulator is like watching a talking dog: you may not think the dog speaks all that well, but the fact that it's speaking is simply amazing. Virtual PC 7.0 doesn't beat the basic emulation problem: you're unlikely to see performance better than that of a bargain-basement PC. But Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac 7.0 offers previously stranded Mac users entry into Windows-only Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and the world of the few remaining PC-only applications, such as Microsoft Access. It also lets designers or customer service reps who need to check PC compatibility or technical issues from a Mac do just that. For those reasons, Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac 7.0 offers business users enough return on their investment.

Installation is a two-step process. First, run the Virtual PC installer, then restart, and install Windows XP Professional. In fact, you can install multiple versions of Windows (if you have copies) by setting up different virtual machines; you can then choose which virtual machine to start up. This is useful for Web and application developers who need to check for compatibility across different versions of Windows.

Launch Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac 7.0, and you're greeted by a standard Windows XP desktop, which you can run in a window or in full-screen mode. Within a separate Virtual PC Settings window, you can modify the virtual level of RAM and VRAM, the virtual machine's networking settings, and more.

The main feature of Virtual PC is that it is, indeed, a PC. Everything you can do on a PC, you can do in Virtual PC--almost. Microsoft originally promised video-card support for version 7.0, but that fell by the roadside before release. Instead, Virtual PC for Mac 7.0 emulates an old video card with no more than 16MB of VRAM. The result is that any graphics-intensive task will be as slow as molasses. Running Windows Media Player on Virtual PC 7.0 is worthless, even on a dual-processor 2GHz Power Mac G5 with maxed RAM. Printing, however, is seamless--just click Print, and Virtual PC uses your Mac's default printer.

All emulators run slowly. On our top-end Mac G5, Virtual PC for Mac 7.0 is usable, though it feels like moving underwater. Windows, for instance, are slow to resize. Some games, such as Homeworld, are playable despite a few mouse-compatibility issues. But Doom 3 won't even install. On a new Mac, Web browsing is viable, if not snappy.

Microsoft's Virtual PC for Mac 7.0 Web site offers e-mail support, troubleshooting newsgroups, and a knowledge base of helpful answers to support questions. Live technical support includes two free toll calls and two free e-mails; additional help will cost you $35 per request.

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