I downloaded the free Windows 7 Release Candidate from Microsoft's Technet Site. I'll be running it under VMware Fusion for now though I'll probably have to install it elsewhere to see the feature I'm really interested in: Windows XP.
Yeah, I know that sounds funny, but XP is very much a part of Windows 7. You download Virtual PC and XP from http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/default.aspx and install them into Windows 7. With that done, you can install XP applications as you normally would. Those apps run either in "Seamless Mode" (where they appear to be running in Win 7) or you can go right into the XP desktop if necessary. Apparently that's often necessary at this point.
This is quite a can of worms, isn't it? First of all, you might find that Virtual XP may not work at all if you don't have the right processor. Secondly, you'll have to keep up with XP patches as well as those for Windows 7. What's going to happen in 2014 when Microsoft officially stops providing those XP patches? Depending on what you are using XP for, you might need to install separate XP A/V and security software - uggh.
Oh, I almost forgot: you'll have to have ponied up for the Professional or Ultimate editions (you'll get Ultimate if you download from the link I gave above) and of course you'll need plenty of RAM. Microsoft says 2GB but my bet is you'd be very unhappy with that.
So what's it like running Windows Seven under VMware Fusion on a Mac Book Pro?
Not as awful as you might think. Because I'm somewhat memory constrained with 2GB, I only gave Windows Seven 1 GB of RAM to work with. That tends to hobble the performance just a tad, as the Control Panel "Windows Experience Rating" points out. It rates this machine as a 1.0, the lowest possible rating (highest is 7.9). However, it got that score for having lousy graphics performance. The Processor score was actually 3.3, RAM managed 4.5 and the hard drive got 6.4 - the system is a bit sluggish but it certainly meets my needs of curiosity and familiarization.
But.. I really wanted to see that Virtual XP and that would require Boot Camp. I've been avoiding Boot Camp from day one because I don't want to waste the disk space. Would this force me into it? Well, maybe, but first - where the heck is Boot Camp Assistant? It's supposed to be in Applications/Utilities but no, it wasn't. Turns out that it had gone missing on at least some installations but those didn't seem to include me. Maybe I deleted it sometime in the past? I don't know, but I had to go find it on the DVD and reinstall it.
But that didn't get me anywhere. Boot Camp Assistant couldn't repartition my hard drive because it insisted that some files could not be moved. I tried repairing the disk as suggested in an Apple document, but still got the same error. It certainly would be helpful if Boot Camp would say what files it can't move - it's quite possible that these are files I could do without, at last temporarily. If Boot Camp bothers to keep a log like that anywhere, I can't find it, so for now I'm stuck. I either reinstall from scratch or buy an external Firewire drive or just forget Boot Camp.
I have about a year to play with this free version. After that I'll have to buy or beg a real installation. That should be enough time to either figure this out or break down and start from scratch.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2009-11-07 Anthony Lawrence