Virtual PC 6.0 for Mac OS X Has Reached Practicality

by Derrick Story

Since the news broke that Microsoft has bought Connectix's Virtual PC, much of the online discussion has speculated as to what Microsoft is going to do with this popular Mac product. I'm not sure myself. But technically speaking, I'm very interested in the latest release of VPC. I have version 6.0.1--running Windows XP--on a 1GZ 15" TiBook, (in full screen mode even). And I have to tell you, for the first time I'm impressed with VPC's performance on Mac OS X.



In the past I did recommend version 5 because it was valuable for Web testing and other light PC tasks on a Mac. But only for short periods of time. It's difficult to turn back our internal "computer performance" odometer to the old days when waiting for a page to slowly appear was acceptable. Version 5 of VPC was just too painful for more than 20 minutes at a time. But, then, that was all I usually needed to view newly designed Web pages or to make sure that all the components on a CD worked properly.



Then I installed version 6 on a 1GZ TiBook. Even using Windows XP Home Ed, I noticed a tremendous speed difference between version 5 and 6. Plus, now I could run Windows full screen on the 15" PowerBook instead of being limited to 800 x 600 resolution. (And you can even put Windows apps on your Mac OS X Dock.)



It's funny what we'll do given the opportunity. I'm writing this weblog live in IE 6.0, running on XP Home, via Virtual PC 6.0, on Mac OS X 10.2.4, on a TiBook. See, if you stick to working with text, you can do anything!



To give VPC 6 the ultimate test, I loaded Ulead's VideoStudio 7 on to XP and played around with some clips. Believe it or not, VPC could actually play .avi clips smoothly in VideoStudio. The .mpgs and .movs did experience some stuttering, but the application never crashed and performed well enough for me to use it for research as part of a project I'm working on.



Side note here: Ulead's VideoStudio 7 seems to be a darn good application if you want to edit DV on Windows. It costs less than $100, and is far better than Windows Movie Maker.



I've only had one gotcha so far. I enabled "Security Lockout" in VPC's Security Preferences panel. I entered my normal password twice as required, and checked the lockout "PC Settings" box. Then a while later, when I went to change some settings, VPC balked at my password.



In the help menu, VPC lists this stern warning: "Warning: Passwords are stored using a triple-DES encryption. It is not possible for Connectix to retrieve passwords, even in an emergency. Please note your password and use the "hint" feature. Passwords are case-sensitive and are always required to access preferences."



Well that's nice. But you know what? My hint text is scrambled, leading me to believe that so is my password. So, I would recommend avoiding this option until I have more information on what happened. (And no, I didn't forget my password, and the caps lock is not turned on.)



Other than the fact that I can not longer change my VPC preferences--fortunately I set the RAM allocation to 512MB!--I'm truly impressed with the usability of version 6. If you're a VPC owner with a fast computer, it's probably worth the $99 upgrade fee.



However, this will most likely be the last weblog I write in IE 6 on Win XP, on VPC, on OS X. Safari with its built-in spell checker and speedy performance (not to mention much better font rendering) is just too much fun.





28 Comments

anonymous2
2003-03-08 11:02:53
don't believe it!
virtual pc 6 while it runs faster, also causes a great deal more crashes and disappearing cursors and lockups than version 5.


check version-tracker before you go down this road to misery. buy yourself a cheap pentium II laptop or tower for your testing - VPC is slow, unreliable, expensive and destabilizes your system. the used laptop will probably cost less than VPC with Windows 2000


this is on a G4 DP 500 with a ATI Rage 128 and Radeon 7000. connectix now support only quartz extreme graphics cards and windows 2000.


enjoy! there are a legion of unhappy purchasers who got burnt on both VPC 5 (speed) and VPC 6 (stability, additional upgrade price). VPC worked under OS 9. it's not much use under OS X.

derrick
2003-03-08 13:54:59
That's Not My Experience
Even though I would certainly research beforehand to see how VPC 6 runs on a particular machine prior to upgrading, my experience has been terrific.


Just this morning I was building animated titles in Ulead's VideoStudio 7 on Win XP with no problem at all. Other activities such as Internet browsing have worked well too.


I've had no crashes, and my TiBook seems just fine overall. I'd be curious to hear from others with different configurations than mine and yours, to see how things are going for them.

anonymous2
2003-03-08 16:26:35
yet another blog comment ibookVPC5X
Was able to open a genealogy program using VPC5 on a 500mhz G3 ibook, OSX.1.5, 384RAM. -Worked fine and is a lot easier then having to deal with a 2nd computer. However, I would buy a 2nd computer if it was critical to my business and lived in something bigger than a bread box. Testing video and sound files on 5 I would image would be dificult. Sound on the radio in Windows 98 VPC5 is really choppy with ADSL.
Signed
Bouncing with pent-up demand for streaming-info, computers and books and other real stuff
jldera
2003-03-08 17:05:03
Re: don't believe it!
Wow, that's not my experience at all. I'm running VirtualPC 6 on an 800MHz TiBook. Guest OS is Windows XP Professional. I found the speed pretty decent, especially after I installed the VPC Additions in Windows. These open up some nice features, including better integration with Mac OS X.


My big hope is that Microsoft codes some good DirectX support into the next release. Imagine if a Mac could run Windows games as well.

anonymous2
2003-03-09 12:44:55
Windows 2000
I've used every version of Windows on VPC 6 and Windows 2000 is the fastest. I couldn't believe how fast it was. It's like it's actually running on my machine without an emulator. WinXP comes in second, and the Win9x family is so rediculously slow I don't use them anymore. I have a dual 800 Quicksilver.
anonymous2
2003-03-09 21:53:18
Database Testing
Has anyone tried to use SQL Server on VPC? I know it's crazy, but I move around alot, and while OS X is my OS of choice, ASP and SQL Server are where I've made most of my money, so if I could write and test my code on VPC/SQL Server I'd be a lot happier than carrying 2 computers with me everytime I move.


Thanks,
Joe

MSchienle
2003-03-10 06:31:49
Database Testing
I haven't tried SQL Server, but I did use Oracle 9i for a class I was taking last year. I was using a PowerBook 2000 (aka Pismo), 500 MHz G3 with 1 GB RAM. I installed Windows 2000 and allocated 512 MB RAM to it. This was under VPC 5.0, so I expect 6.0 shouldn't do any worse. The only real issue I ran into was that I had to use a fixed disk size for Oracle, it wouldn't install on an expandable disk. I'm pretty sure I set up a 15 GB partition (out of 60 GB) on the internal disk for it.


It was usable for training, but out of the question for production. I'd also hate to throw some really complicated queries or large amounts of data at it.

anonymous2
2003-03-15 03:54:01
iBook
Ive got a white iBook 600 and only use VPC6 with XP Pro for an FX charting program. I bought VP the week it came out and almost gave up on it because the image kept corrupting. However, since installing the patch I have had NO problems. Obviously on this machine it runs like a dog when loading Win applications (I'm ordering a 12" PBook), but it is fine once up & running and beats buying & carrying a Win laptop for my limited use. If I close the XP session with "save state" or just let the iBook sleep when not in use, the slow loading is not an issue. OSX does everything else, and thats what I care about - XP is just a legacy system.
derrick
2003-03-16 07:43:03
AirPort Networking... Easy!
One thing that I didn't spell out in the body of the weblog, but what I think is a terrific feature of VP, is how it automatically detects my AirPort wireless network and enables me to jump on while working in XP. Never has WiFi been so easy on Windows.
tjtrujillo
2003-03-21 05:37:30
Issues
I have had several crashes that involve dissapearing cursors and complete lockouts. Running VPC6/Dos with Win98 added later (been running same configuration since VPC3.) TiPB500 with 512mb and VPC6 assigned 256mb.


I have noticed that the screen refresh rates and time from typing to display on screen is still slow.


Tom

anonymous2
2003-04-29 18:44:50
Windows user wanting to make the switch
I'm in the process of seriously considering purchasing a Apple Powerbook G4 1GHz 512MB 60GB and trashing my Wintel machine. My uses for my machine have changed to focus on home DVD authoring and photo editing.


However, I would like to use my new Mac to run XP with Office XP, Visio, and possibly some other business apps. What was your experience with running Office XP (Outlook, Excel, Powerpoint, Word, Project) and Visio?


I don't need blazing fast speed, just tolerable speed (ie: watching the screens constantly redraw as I scroll through a spreadsheet would probably drive me mad).


Thanks for your insight,
Dave

derrick
2003-04-30 08:56:41
Windows user wanting to make the switch
Well, a better solution would be to use MS Office for Mac OS X. The files are completely compatible with the Office for Windows apps, and you'll have much better performance. If you use Office for Windows via Virtual PC, it will work, but I'm concerned that the lack of performance will wear you down over time.


As for Visio, that's a different matter because there isn't a Mac version of that application. In that case, Virtual PC would be a good option, as long as your Visio work isn't too intensive.


Overall, the best plan is to use OS X apps when you can, and tap Virutal PC for those needs that OS X doesn't provide natively.


Finally, get the fastest computer you can. You'll thank me later...

anonymous2
2003-04-30 14:26:45
Windows user wanting to make the switch
Thanks for the insight,


Does os x office come with a version of Outlook?


Even if it doesn't, I'm sure I can switch to whatever the standard OSX mail client is.


derrick
2003-04-30 15:42:18
Windows user wanting to make the switch
The email/calendar/contact client for Mac OS X is called Entourage, which is included in the Mac OS X/MS Office suite. It's quite good.
anonymous2
2003-05-04 15:54:43
Windows user wanting to make the switch
Using os x mail is a much better choice due to superior junk mail handling and the integration of all i apps with each other.
anonymous2
2003-05-05 08:07:23
Does this software correct for ASP.net pages
We are testing the rendering of some ASP pages and we have found that pages we have created in ASP.net work fine on a PC but they do not display properly on the Mac. Does Virtual PC adjust for this so that a Mac user can see the page the same way as a PC user?
Sorry about the "anonymous" handle. I got an error when I tried to register.
derrick
2003-05-05 08:39:06
Does this software correct for ASP.net pages
Well, there's a control in the Preferences that says something like, "adjust PC screen to Mac" and with the option "ajust Mac screen to PC".


I'm not sure of the nature of the ASP page problem, but I'd start there...

anonymous2
2003-06-14 11:55:14
How did you install for great performance?
I have an emac with 512mb ram running OS x.2.6. I also installed Windows XP Home Edition with Virtual PC 6.0. But my experience is that it crawls with half my ram allotted to VPC6. For example, although my internet connection works, no pages load--the progress bar starts, then crawls to a crawl and never completes. Just clicking open the Start Menu requires a 30 second wait.


I don't understand issues like Fat 32 and NTFS, etc. So I have no idea if what I did was good or bad. I just followed directions. I loaded VPC6; loaded the included PC Dos 2000; loaded from my WXPhe CD; and clicked all the default choices made for me by the computer.


Can you share with us your steps or secret?


Judge Michael J. Gregorek
Michael@Gregorek.com

anonymous2
2003-06-14 20:27:29
How did you install for great performance?
I'll preface this with a note that your experience could be different with XP and an out-of-the-box PCDOS 2000. I've used VPC wih PCDos since 2.0, and I've always installed Win98 from the standard full install CD. It is important that you don't simply install Windows over PC DOS, as both performance and Mac integration will suffer. Instead, you must find a way to make a boot disk or have a connected floppy drive (or does XP not even use a boot floppy?). At least, this is necessary with Win98. That way, the OS is installed on an otherwise-new hard drive. In my VPC experience, Windows should not be installed over PCDOS, only over MSDOS or other versions of Windows, but pereferable on a new hard drive image.


Daniel Rasmussen
rasnet@rconnect.com

anonymous2
2003-06-15 19:25:26
VPC 6.0 Win98 Question
I have a flat screen iMac (15" Superdrive, 800 mHz with 256 RAM). Today, I purchased VPC 6.0 DOS at the Apple store. Have not yet opened it. I have a full version of Win98 SE from when my husband built a PC for me, and need to run one of my work programs in Win98 (nothing similar available in Mac software). This is why the VPC purchase (I want to switch fully from the PC). Do you have suggestions on how to install this on my Mac bypassing the PC-DOS altogether, since someone here posted one should not even install the PC-DOS? I do have a USB floppy drive, if needed for this purpose.


Thanks for your suggestions before I open this software, in case it cannot be done.

anonymous2
2003-06-16 12:43:11
How did you install for great performance?
I think I understand what your main point is: that I should load XP on a blank HD image to avoid the PCDOS slowing down the XP. As a Mac user, I wasn't aware that there was a difference between MSDos and PCDos. I assume that VPC must permit loading onto a blank image; otherwise I have to figure out this whole boot disk thing you were talking about. Any more clarifications?
anonymous2
2003-06-30 10:41:24
How did you install for great performance?
Update: On the Connectix Forums a couple of posters recommended installing XP on a blank HD as NFTS Quick. Whatever the reason is, I'm going to try it.
jnchrls@cutpaste.us
2003-08-20 20:30:41
Installing components in xp
I have been unable to install the faxing component in XP. The wizard requests a file that I assume is on one of the two disks that came in the box.


The problem is that XP can't find the file on disk one and XP can't read disk two. What is disk two for???


anonymous2
2003-10-28 07:49:19
How did you install for great performance?
You also need more RAM for better performance. Remember that you need enough for OSX, WinXP and applications on both. Try upgrading to 1GB.
anonymous2
2003-12-26 17:20:00
Database Testing
Have you had any luck finding out whether MS SQL 2000 server will run on the mac?


I too would like to switch, but I work for a consulting firm where my job is to install Microsoft's Great Plains software on a SQL / MSDE server.


Thanks,
Jim


khemani
2004-02-07 07:20:17
Windows user wanting to make the switch
as a user of both mail.app and entourage, i find it difficult to say that one is better than the other. indeed, mail.app does integrate with apple's other personal information management applications - namely addressbook, ical and isync. and these applications follow apple's ui standards. however, i would disagree that all of these applications tie together better than the entourage counterparts. in fact, not only do the entourage components tie together better, but they also are far more feature rich than the apple pim counterparts. the exception, as you mentioned, is the junk mail handling now present in mail.app.


i personally migrated from entourage to mail.app / addressbook / ical when i started using a cell phone that would sync via isync but not with entourage. i believe that there are now 3rd party tools that let entourage communicate with other devices via isync, but i have not had the time to reinvestigate. i will take a look when microsoft updates its office suite.


on a related note, keeping my mail on an imap server has made migration and investigation of different mail applications very convenient. i am looking for a similar solution for a client independant store of calendar and addressbook information. is there a viable option other than an exchange server?

Emac user
2006-04-06 05:58:38
I use virtual pc 7 and i have windows xp pro installed. It is agonisingly slow and even to run a basic aplication it has long annoying pauses before it decides to act!


It's a pity that this new 'Bootcamp' software only runs on Intel macs, because if it ran on my Emac I would be over the moon. It apparently is a lot faster than tan VPC and you can even play windows games on it! Grrrr

Emac user
2006-04-06 05:59:34
I use virtual pc 7 and i have windows xp pro installed. It is agonisingly slow and even to run a basic aplication it has long annoying pauses before it decides to act!


It's a pity that this new 'Bootcamp' software only runs on Intel macs, because if it ran on my Emac I would be over the moon. It apparently is a lot faster than tan VPC and you can even play windows games on it! Grrrr