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Virtual Windows 7 not the same thing

When CNET News' Ina Fried gets Windows 7 running via a VMware Fusion virtual machine on an iMac, the operating system loses a little bit of its luster.

Emboldened by my success in getting Windows 7 to run on a Mac Mini using Boot Camp, I decided to press my luck. So Wednesday night, I took my Windows 7 beta disk home and set out to load it onto a virtual machine on my iMac.


Talking Windows 7
CNET News' Ina Fried discusses Windows 7 with CNET technology analyst Larry Magid
Download mp3 (1MB)

Having used Parallels successfully in the past to run Vista, I decided to give VMware's Fusion a try--my first experience with the product. Getting up and running was relatively straightforward, a process aided by the fact that VMware lets you enter information such as your password and product key at the outset--handling the rest of the install process by itself.

Although Windows 7 is not officially supported, VMware does have a helpful blog post up on how to install it.

What I found was that Windows 7 loaded on my iMac, even without having a full 1GB of memory to dedicate to the virtual machine. But although I got Windows 7 in body, I felt as if I had lost the spirit of the operating system. The two things I like the most about Windows 7--its zippiness and its graphics--were muted in the virtual experience.

After weeks of enjoying near-instant boot times, it was torture to find myself with the XP experience of having to turn on the machine, then go get a cup of coffee while it finished loading.

Now playing: Watch this: Talking Windows 7

In fairness, I might have had a different experience, had I loaded it onto a particularly beefy Mac capable of devoting 1GB or more of memory just to the virtual machine. My iMac has just 1GB of memory total, so I gave half of that over to VMware, a choice that no doubt crimped the speed of both the Mac and the virtual machine.

Even still, I was able to do a lot on my virtual Windows 7 machine. I used it to watch the U-Haul police chase that I had missed. Not only was I able to check in on Facebook, I was able to play the Boggle-like Scramble game to which I am addicted (and the performance was acceptable).

I loaded Firefox on to the machine so that I could use CNET's blogging tool. Despite my fear of writing directly into the tool (not a good idea, even when not running a beta operating system in a virtual machine), it worked just fine.

Overall, I'd say Windows 7 on my iMac falls into the category of "I definitely can, but I'm not sure that I'd really want to." With Windows machines so cheap, I'm not sure that one isn't better off getting a Netbook and having it sit next to their Mac, if they really need to run a Windows app or two.

For more of my thoughts on Windows 7, check out the Editors' Office Hours segment I did earlier this week. I've included the video above.