It's been more than four years since Apple moved to the Intel platform. In that time, VMware and its competitors have been leapfrogging each other, trying to create the best-of-breed desktop virtualization environment for the Mac.
Fusion 3 is the latest update from VMware. It brings new features and capabilities that provide a boost in performance, better graphics capabilities, and support for Windows 7 as a guest OS.
VMware Fusion 3: What's New
VMware's Fusion 3 offers a number of new capabilities; over 75 by my count. Though many of Fusion 3's new capabilities are under the hood, and won't be apparent to the casual user, it's a substantial release that concentrates on performance, easy migration from a PC to a Mac, support for Windows 7, and optimization for use with Snow Leopard.
- A 64-bit native core VM (Virtual Machine) engine takes advantage of the 64-bit Intel processors used on most Macs.
- Supports assigning up to 4 processor cores to the guest OS.
- Better memory performance and reduced memory footprint for virtual machines created with Fusion 3.
- Faster disk performance when used with Snow Leopard.
- 3D graphics support.
- DirectX 9.x support.
- OpenGL 1.4 and 2.1 to take advantage of all Windows OSes.
- Supports multiple displays.
- Supports Windows Vista Aero and Windows 7 Aero, Flip 3D, and Aero Peek.
- Migration Assistant moves an entire Windows system from your PC or Boot Camp to a virtual machine on your Mac.
- Easy upgrade of existing VMs to Fusion 3 format.
- Can import existing Parallels or Windows Virtual PC VMs.
- Improvements to the Unity interface allow you to run Windows applications as if they were part of the Mac OS.
- Always-on application menu available from the Mac's menu bar.
- Full-screen menu bar for complete control of your VM environment, even in full-screen mode.
VMware Fusion 3: Installation
The installation of Fusion 3 didn't present much to write about. There were no gotchas or unexpected turns of events.
VMware Fusion 3 is offered in two formats: as a boxed CD and as a download from the VMware web site. If you choose the download option, you'll be presented with a not-so-clear choice between VMware Fusion 3.x, which weighs in at 415 MB, and VMware Fusion 3 Light for Mac, which weighs in at a svelte 170 MB. The Light version contains the Fusion 3 software, VMware Tools (a set of specific drivers to integrate various guest OSes, Fusion, and your Mac) for Windows, and OS X Server.
The full version contains VMware Tools for every guest OS that Fusion 3 supports, and by the way, that's over 140 operating systems. The full version also includes a copy of McAfee Virus Scan. If you're not in a hurry, I suggest downloading the full version. If you're a bit anxious to try out Fusion 3, you can choose the Light version, and download subsequent VMware Tools for Linux and other OSes as needed.
No matter which method you choose, installation is as simple as double-clicking the installation package and following the onscreen instructions. By the way, as a nice touch VMware includes a separate uninstaller should you ever want to completely rid your Mac of Fusion.
VMware Fusion 3: Virtual Machine Library
When you launch Fusion 3, you're greeted with the Virtual Machine Library window. This single window is home to the list of installed guest OSes, as well the available commands and options for using Fusion 3.
You can use the Virtual Machine Library list to:
Use your Boot Camp partition as a VM under Fusion 3. This lets you use the same installation of a Windows OS for both dedicated Windows use in Boot Camp and as a VM you can access while using OS X.
Install a guest OS as a new virtual machine. With over 140 OSes supported, chances are you'll be able to run whatever operating system you want using Fusion 3.
Convert an existing Windows computer to run as a virtual machine. This may be one of the handiest migration tools VMware has ever offered. If you just switched to the Mac, you can use the Migration Assistant to bring your entire PC's contents to your Mac as a virtual machine.
Download a trial virtual machine. VMware keeps a catalog of Virtual Appliances you can download and run in Fusion 3. Virtual Appliances are pre-configured virtual machines that can include a ready-to-run OS or an OS plus a specific application. For instance, have you ever wanted to host your own WordPress blog? There is a Virtual Application that combines SUSE Linux OS, WordPress, Apache, MySQL, PHP, and phpMyAdmin, all pre-configured and ready to run. Download and install the Virtual Appliance and you have a ready-to-run WordPress server. All you need is something to say.
VMware Fusion 3: Creating a Virtual Machine
Fusion 3 offers four different methods of creating a virtual machine.
- Use an existing Boot Camp partition.
- Install an OS from a CD/DVD.
- Migrate an existing Windows PC's data to your Mac.
- Download a pre-configured Virtual Appliance that already contains a guest OS.
We will take a quick look at two methods: installing an OS from a CD/DVD, and migrating an existing Windows PC.
Installing Guest OS
VMware Fusion 3 uses a simplified guided system that automates the entire process. All you need is an install CD/DVD or disk image for the OS you wish to install. Provide user account information (and a license key if you're installing Windows) and Fusion 3 will perform the entire installation while you're off having lunch.
I tried the easy install process for both Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.10. Fusion was able to detect the type of OS being installed and perform the installation without any problems. Of course you don't have to use the Easy Install method. You can manually install an OS if you prefer, but unless you like watching an OS being installed, the Easy Install method is the simpler option.
Designed to easily copy your entire PC's OS and data to a Fusion virtual machine, Migration Assistant may be one of the best features of Fusion for those switching from a PC to a Mac. All that's required is for your PC and Mac to be networked together. Install the Migration Assistant application on your PC, and then follow the onscreen instructions. In just a short time you can have a working copy of your PC running on your Mac. What's cooler than that?