Fast OS switching on Intel Macs

by Giles Turnbull

Until very recently, this sort of thing was just a daydream:

But now, thanks to Parallels and Virtue, it's possible to turn your Intel Mac into a multi-OS environment within which you can flit from OS X to Windows to Linux or pretty much anything else that takes your fancy, with a simple keystroke.

Don't be fooled by appearances. In this video clip, it looks as though the user is leaving OS X completely when using Ubuntu Dapper and Windows XP. In reality, both of them are running inside Parallels, which is running on OS X. The visual effects that make each new OS swoosh in from one side are simply that - visual effects. Apple's own Boot Camp solution is different; it lets you boot into different operating systems. Under Parallels, the "guest" systems are running inside their own virtual machines alongside the "host" OS, Mac OS X.

In the video above, we're shown each OS doing some basics, running a browser and perhaps one other app; it would be interesting to see just how far you can push the CPU before it falls over.

But that doesn't make this demonstration any less impressive. For people working in one OS and wishing to test something in another, or simply use a single Windows app in an otherwise Mac-oriented workflow (hello, Lotus Notes users!), a setup like this looks pretty compelling.

Note also that Parallels is still a Release Candidate, so you should be prepared for unexpected behavior, crashes and so on. Be backed up, people.


Chris Rimmer
2006-05-22 06:59:20
Well actually Lotus Notes has a Mac OS X client. It's no less hideous than under Windows, but it does run. I find it is things like Visio and TOAD that I need that only run under Windows.
The Gibbon
2006-05-22 09:39:20
Cool... looks much better than VPC. Can't wait to get a MacBook Pro...
2006-05-22 11:46:28
2006-05-22 12:09:00
VPC was emulation, and sucked, Parallels Workstation is virtualization, and does not suck. Simplified, emulation has to fake a totally different hardware with software (a very slwo proposition), and virtualization (thanks to the intel chip) does not.

I don't believe Parallels supports the graphics card much though, and I primarily want Windows for the games, so Boot Camp for me.

2006-05-22 17:26:33
Chris.... I gave up on Visio and switched over to OmniGraffle and have never looked back. My problem is SolidWorks, the only app for which I require a bloody Windoze box (and a $$$$ graphics card). I did manage to get SolidWorks running on my 1GHz TiBook under Virtual PC, but it was unbearably slow (like 266 Pentium speed).
Macademia Nut
2006-05-22 18:12:40
I tried with Parallels and VirtueDesktop. Whenever I use parallels in full-screen mode on one of the virtual desktops and try to switch to another virtual desktop, Parallels crashes all the time.

Did anyone else have this problem?

Thanks in advance.

2006-05-22 18:44:56
I'm having the same problem as Macademia Nut. Sometimes tho, it won't crash, it will flip desktops, then immediate flip back to XP and make it windowed again.

2006-05-22 19:59:53
Erm that demo is JUST Parallels. Im running it myself. With Parallels you dont need Virtue anymore.

2006-05-22 23:57:22
Short memory, eh? In the early 90s, Apple had a machine with a built-in DOS card. You could switch from OS 8 to DOS with a keypress. While you couldn't have two "windows" open with the different OSs, you could copy and paste data between them.
2006-05-23 02:16:00
Unfortunately the Release Candidate of Parallels doesn't allow you to do this fast switching, it's a known issue that was not present on beta 6. The cause is that, when the mouse and keys are released from the virtual machine, Parallels stops working at full screen and you end up with plenty of flickering. Parallel's acklowledged that and is working with the Virtue's developer on a fix.
Mike Galvin
2006-05-23 10:37:11
This is ace, I have my reservations about Mac's but this is very cool!
2006-05-23 12:05:54
Looks great! I'd love to know how it performs :). MacOS looks great, but not great enough for me to switch (that, outside of the fact of them being so damned expensive :-|)...
Sean S.
2006-05-23 19:06:53
I wish I could do the same thing on my Linux box, but due to Apple's inane copy protection scheme I would have to go buy a copy of the PowerPC version, partition a drive off, and then use PearPC at a huge performance hit to get to Mac OS X. Funny, if Microsoft refused to let its OS be dual-booted on Apple hardware or something similar, people would be screaming murder.

2006-05-29 19:53:05
>> outside of the fact of them being so damned expensive

Heh, a Core Duo 1.8GHz laptop with a 13" wide screen at $1099 seemed cheap to me, but I guess people have different standards.

>>Funny, if Microsoft refused to let its OS be dual-booted on Apple hardware or something similar, people would be screaming murder.

Now why would MS want to do that in the first place? So many people just like to forget that Apple makes money selling their hardware (Macs) primarily. The OS is the incentive to buy their hardware. Kind of like the Windows environment (i.e., the ability to run Win applications) is a huge incentive to buy Windows. Now would MS do what they can't to prevent something like WINE to succeed? You bet your life they would.

2006-06-02 15:33:39
I got a question~ if I want to get the fast switiching (like the video). Do I need to install both of the Parallel and Virtue?
2007-06-30 10:19:48
can anyone tell me how to do that? i wanna try it on my black macbook pls i hv windows xp and os x on it.