I like to use split disks with my Parallels virtual machines, since it makes backing up the drive image a lot faster and easier. It seems that Parallels Compressor isn’t able to properly compact a split disk, though.
Today I decided to run Compressor since my Windows XP virtual disk was over 15 GB, even though it had less than 6GB used. After running compressor, the file ballooned to 19GB! I converted the drive back to a single file and it’s now down to 6GB.
I’ve set up my iMac to triple boot Windows with Boot Camp, Leopard, and Tiger. It’s not too difficult. You need to back up all data on your machine first.
- Format the drive as a single partition and install Leopard
- Install Windows with Boot Camp
- Open disk utility, shrink the Leopard partition, and create a new partition.
- Install Tiger in the partition you just created
I’ve been using the new version of Parallels for about a week because Windows feels more responsive under Parallels and I really like the features. However, I find that it slows down my entire system very badly and uses a lot of CPU time even when Windows is idle. I finally decided to go back to VMware. I find that my system is a lot more responsive. However, window redrawing is ugly with Unity and switching between windows is a bit slower.
Competition is definitely a good thing for Mac virtualization software. I had switched to VMware because I found it to be faster than Parallels (at least on my old MacBook Pro). When Parallels released their new beta yesterday I decided to give it another chance and I was pleasantly surprised.
It now feels faster than VMware and the improved Coherence looks great. Unlike VMware, it boots directly into Coherence; with VMware I have to switch manually into Unity after it finishes starting up. It also doesn’t seem to slow down other applications as much as it did on my old MacBook Pro. It does seem to run down the battery faster than VMware if I use it unplugged, though.
This benchmark comparison from CNet Labs confirms my own subjective non-scientific observation: VMware is a lot faster than Parallels. I found that Parallels would sometimes make my old MacBook Pro freeze for as long as several minutes while starting up Windows, which didn’t happen with VMware Fusion. I haven’t installed Parallels on my Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro, so I don’t know if the performance would be any better.
I was puzzled by why Parallels 3.0‘s Windows sharing feature didn’t work on my MacBook Pro, although it did work when I tried Parallels under Leopard. This item at TUAW explained it.
I had installed MacFUSE 0.4 so I could experiment with procfs, which makes a lot of hardware and software information available as a file system. However, Parallels includes MacFUSE 0.3 with NTFS-3g, which it uses for read/write access to the Windows virtual drive. If a different version of MacFUSE is installed, that feature won’t work. After removing MacFUSE 0.4, I was able to see my Windows virtual drive in the Finder.
One limitation of Parallels Desktop 3.0 is that you can no longer resize a disk image (although Parallels says that will be fixed in an update to be released soon). If you need to resize a hard drive now, I found a good work-around for Windows XP: Acronis True Image Home.
The free trial copy will work nicely. First thing you have to do is add a new hard drive to your virtual machine of the desired size. After you install True Image go to Manage Hard Drives and Clone your existing hard drive to the new one. You can simply use the automatic operation. It will then ask you to reboot and it will boot right into their cloning utility, which took about 5 minutes to clone a 7GB hard drive with about 4GB of data on my MacBook Pro. After it finishes, it will shut down the machine. At this point, go to the VM configuration, remove your old hard drive, and change the connection for the new drive to IDE 0:0. When you start up, the Acronis tool will run once again to finish setting up the new drive and will finally reboot into Windows. You can then remove True Image.
On the flight to San Francisco, I was sitting next to someone who worked for a software company that specializes in virtualization (not Parallels or VMware). He told me that Apple hired several people to work on virtualization. I suspect Boot Camp in Leopard will involve virtualization.
Right now I’m at YVR waiting to board my flight in a few minutes. While I was waiting I installed VMware Fusion beta 4. I had previously installed Parallels 3.0 so I got a chance to compare the latest versions of both applications. So far Unity looks very cool – unlike Coherence, Windows applications aren’t all in the same layer. If you click a Windows application window, only that window will be brought forward, not the entire Windows layer. I’ll try to write a more detailed comparison later.
Parallels released Desktop 3.0 today, which I pre-ordered as soon as it was announced. Coherence got even better – you can now open Mac applications from Windows or tell Windows to open web pages in the Mac browser. It also seems to use less CPU and doesn’t slow my machine down as much as the older version did. Running Linux in Parallels no longer sucks, since they now have Linux tools that provide mouse synchronization. Now there isn’t much reason to switch to Vmware.