Virtual PC 4

If you’re a creative professional working in a mixed platform environment, chances are you’ve had to occasionally use a Windows PC. Often Windows is the only way to view email attachments, access certain Internet Service Providers, and take advantage of other Windows-only office packages – such as Microsoft Access. Using Virtual PC 4, Connectix’s latest release of their flagship emulation software, it’s possible to run a wide selection of Windows software and hardware with speed and stability, all on a Mac. This gives the best of both worlds at a fraction of the cost of any hardware-based Windows solution. Pentium standard
Virtual PC has been around since late 1997, and was one of the first Windows PC emulators for the Macintosh to support all the hardware functions of a standard MMX Pentium-based PC. It achieves this by making a PowerPC pretend to be a Pentium. Virtual PC boasts features such as the ability to transparently use Windows-networking protocols with full ethernet support – including Novell NetWare (IPX), TCP/IP, Microsoft Networking (NETBUI), and Microsoft Remote Access Service (RAS). Also, users can enjoy full drag-&-drop support of text and graphics between the two platforms, and take advantage of hot-swappable USB devices that don’t yet have Macintosh drivers. While the previous version of Virtual PC supported a maximum memory allocation of up to 128MB RAM, the latest release supports up to 512MB RAM, enough for most requirements. Combined with major improvements made to the core CPU emulator, and the all-new multimedia features, Connectix claims this latest release is twice as fast as the previous versions. Launching windows, opening folders and browsing the Web using the shared IP are now a lot more responsive. Applications such as Microsoft Access databases run faster, and when using memory and CPU intensive applications – such as Web servers and middleware apps – on an iMac DV with 384MB RAM and Mac OS 9.04, Virtual PC 4 is surprisingly fast and stable. Among the newly added features is the expandability of the Windows disk-image. When you create a PC hard drive and you’re using Mac OS 9, the drive expands as needed (up to 127GB), and best of all, it uses only the space it actually requires. Yet another feature is the ability to run multiple PC operating systems – provided you have the installation disks to install them alongside the pre-installed and pre-configured Win 98. It supports anything from Red Hat Linux to Windows NT/2000 – Windows 2000 server will run, but is not recommended. These systems are viewed as familiar Mac thumbnails and can be toggled between. Restart rethink
Another clever time-saving feature is the ability to pause, shutdown or restart these virtual machines without restarting the host operating system. Virtual PC 4 doesn’t include a Windows 98 installation disc. This could prove a bit problematic, and will almost certainly annoy first time Windows users. The disc is required anytime you want to update the installed system-software where it requires changes made to the PC’s database of drivers. In my case, I needed a new networking service, which was not part of the pre-configured Windows 98. To get the most out of Virtual PC, you’ll need a high-spec machine with plenty of memory – at least 128MB – running Mac OS 9.0.4. One other feature to note is the enhanced support for the Velocity Engine, providing even better performance on G4s when running graphics and multimedia applications.

OUR VERDICT

Using Virtual PC 4, Mac creative professionals can test HTML pages, hybrid CD-ROM disk images, access Windows only ISPs, view Windows email attachments, connect to Microsoft networks and more. Virtual PC 4’s low memory requirement, familiar Macintosh interface, new features, and improved speed and stability make it an ideal solution for Mac users wishing to take advantage of Windows applications and features at an affordable price.

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