Virtual Machines on a Mac

Virtual Machines on a Mac
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Why Use a Virtual Machine?

Are you starting out with a new operating system, or want to sample software that is only available on a different OS? If so, you might be considering using emulation software to perform this task. However beware – emulation isn’t the answer in most cases.

These days, emulation has been pushed into second place in favor of virtualization. Whereas emulation will allow you to run software from a different platform by providing a software layer to translate the code into something that your host platform can use, virtualization allows you to create a virtual computer. This means that with software such as VMware, VirtualBox or Parallels you can create a virtual computer and install Windows on it.

With so many virtualization options available to users migrating from Windows computers to Mac OS X, it should come as no surprise to find that tools such as VMware are becoming increasingly popular.

Choosing a Virtual Machine on Mac OS X

So with so many virtual machine options available for Mac OS X, which one do you choose? For the quickest results and with a fast setup you will probably find that Parallels is the popular choice, but thanks to VirtualBox and VMware Fusion you can get a better all-round experience.

A virtual machine solution should allow you to run the majority of VM file types as well as provide stable performance when running demanding applications. For instance if you needed to run Microsoft Access on your Mac, you would expect the virtual machine software to be able to cope with this without too much trouble.

One good tip to remember is that whatever solution you choose, the default files might find their way into a location that you have specified for a Time Machine backup, so keep an eye on this or your backups might suddenly become very large!

VMware Fusion

Possibly the most feature-packed solution is VMware Fusion, the amazing tool that creates a virtual computer environment and allows you to install an operating system within it. You might install Windows, Linux, Solaris or even Mac OS X itself within Fusion, and this is becoming an increasingly popular solution for ex-Windows users who want to use a Mac.

Making the change from one operating system to another is difficult, but with VMware Fusion it is made very easy. While other virtualization solutions offer the facility to create a VM and install an operating system and favorite applications on it (useful if your favored apps are incompatible with OS X), Fusion simply and easily lets you import an entire, existing Windows desktop created with VMware’s free conversion software.

Once you’re running Windows in VMware Fusion you can even drag the application out of the VMware window and move them around your Mac’s desktop!

Console Emulation on Mac OS X

There is more to virtualization than common desktop computing, however. Gaming can also be enhanced with the more traditional form of emulation, and this is clearly illustrated by the number of games console emulators available for Mac OS X.

For instance, you can play games for the NES on your Mac, just as easily as you might play Gameboy titles, Super NES titles or even Sega Genesis games. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what is available, although note that there are legal issues surrounding the use of these applications, and unless you already own the original titles you should not be attempting to download and run the ROMs.