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News

Review: VMWare Fusion 4 – Run Windows 7 on your Mac

Updated specifically for Lion, Fusion 4 is here to help you run Windows 7 on your Mac

Since Apple made the move to Intel processors, Mac users have had the unique ability to run Windows on their machines.
It can be done natively on any Mac using a process called Boot Camp, but requires shutting down your machine from one operating system and then booting into the other. As a result of the painstaking nature of this system, virtualisation software came along offering users the ability to run both systems simultaneously, even allowing users to access apps and files from Windows. VMWare has been at the forefront of this particular branch of Mac software since its inception and has now, in its fourth version, delivered a product that is not only compatible with Lion but helps users take advantage of its best features, like Mission Control and Launch Pad.

Setting up is much the same as it has always been, with users needing a working licensed copy of a Windows operating system (or a Linux build) and a copy of Fusion 4. Upon launching Fusion, you select the boot disc for Windows, select a partition size for the operating system to live on and then wait for your new operating system to load. If you are an existing user of VMWare or, alternatively, have a copy of rival software that contains a virtual machine, you can import them, rather than going through the task of re-installing and importing odd files and documents.

For most Mac users, Unity Mode is going to be the most efficient way to run Windows. It does so as if all the apps from the other system have been installed natively. In short, you don’t need to think about where the apps are, you can just use Launch Pad as you normally would and everything is right there. New applications that you download will also appear there too.

Another boon for the software is its ability to run several versions of Lion. This is a new feature made possible by a relaxation of Apple’s licensing laws. While for the most part this applies to developers who might want to test newer versions of the software, everyday users could take advantage of loading two different versions of Lion to run different versions of software. Sadly, users aren’t allowed to run Leopard, Snow Leopard and Lion on the same machine to solve problems when older software hasn’t been updated to run on newer operating systems. A classic example of this would be the dropped support for Rossetta in Lion and the resulting apps that won’t now work. Apple’s licensing laws prevent this and, if you try to do this, you’ll be promptly greeted with a message from Fusion stopping the action.

While the installation and use of this system is pretty fluid and we found responsiveness to be good, we did see a big drain on battery levels with virtual machines running. Admittedly not as much as we’d seen in previous incarnations, but the increased number of machines able to run and the options available lead to a situation where multiple virtual machines running at once took a severe toll on our MacBook Pro’s battery. Desktop users are of course free to run as many machines as they wish.

Users who would prefer to keep their machines separate can of course do so and operate each machine in an individual window. The coolest way to do this is to run each in the new Lion-enabled full-screen mode, which would give you the opportunity to swipe through virtual desktops using the multi-touch gesture on your Magic Mouse or trackpad. This is a great system and it makes brilliant use of the multiple desktop opportunities in Lion.

Perhaps the biggest selling point of the latest version of Fusion is the price. As a new user, you can get it for the price quoted on the previous page until the end of this year. Existing customers who bought after 20 July will get a free upgrade.

So, if you’re looking for a complete solution to help get the most from multiple operating systems while running the latest version of OS X, VMWare’s Fusion 4 may be the answer.

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