Virtual PC 7 with Windows XP Professional full review

Although many more major applications and games are produced for the Mac nowadays, there is still the odd Windows-only 3D or financial application to contend with. This is where Virtual PC comes in, as a way to run PC operating systems on your Mac.

You can install various operating systems on the same Mac and choose between which virtual machine (as each separate OS is known) you want to run. XP Professional is the version that comes with this release, so you’re bang up to date. Microsoft was obviously holding back the release of Virtual PC 7 to coincide with the release of Service Pack 2 (SP2), its major security update to Windows XP. The other reason for the delay is new compatibility with the G5 processor, though this raises its own problems. If you run VPC on a G5 with more than 2GB or RAM, you become prone to crashes and kernel panic and this duly occurred on our first test machine. Microsoft is apparently developing a fix.

Installation is noticeably faster, with full installation of the application and the operating system, including restarts, taking less than 40 minutes. Although this took place on our other machine, an 867MHz G4 PowerBook, this is quicker than some installations that I’ve experienced on a real PC.

There’s definitely some streamlining somewhere, probably one of the most obvious benefits from the Microsoft acquisition of the product from Connectix. Expanded preferences mean you have more control over the way the virtual machines run, and performance is good for most common PC tasks, with the drag-&-drop between the windowed VPC and the Mac desktop also noticeably more rapid.

Printing is seamless on Panther, and networking is easy too. Connectix perfected the integration between Mac and Windows Internet connections with Virtual Switch and Shared Networking, which works like a dream over the PowerBook’s Airport connection. Some designers still don’t have a Mac in mind when creating Web pages, so this is another key reason for buying the software.

As well as fast startup, the application now shuts down more rapidly. The Fast Save feature is on by default, so that all Windows-based programs running when you shut down will be running when you restart. Only the current OS shuts down, so you can switch to another in your virtual machine list.

The problems come when you’re used to using keyboard shortcuts and use 1-W to close a window – do this and the application closes down. It saves your work, but it’s a pain to start up again.

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