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You are here: MacNN Forums > Software - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Alternative Operating Systems > Taking the Windows Plunge for Grad School: Now for Some Questions...

Taking the Windows Plunge for Grad School: Now for Some Questions...
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NormPhillips
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Apr 16, 2009, 12:36 AM
 
Some background: I've been a Mac user for at least a decade now. This past December, I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. Unable to find a job, except as a teller (to pay the bills for the mean time), I've decided to go back to school after a short five months. I'm now going to pursue a Master of Science in Finance (yeah, I know, not exactly the best field to study right now, oh well...) Anyway, the school requires a Windows laptop for software they have students use (SAS and Crystal Ball), which they give out for free. As a result, I'm forced to take the plunge. I've just bought a copy of Windows XP, but I have a few questions first...

1) With Boot Camp, can Windows be installed on an external (USB 2) hard drive?

2) Which is better for Windows XP Home edition SP3 on a MacBook Pro 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo with 2GB of RAM and Mac OS X v. 10.5.x - Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion?

3) Can Windows be installed on an external hard drive with either of these products?

4) Is there a free or inexpensive product like Fusion or Parallels that allows me to run Windows and Mac OS simultaneously and seamlessly?
     
cwkmacuser
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Apr 16, 2009, 12:51 AM
 
I think you can use an external hard drive. You may want to use Parallels. You can share files between Windows and Mac back and forth easily. However, a free alternative is VirtualBox. You should be able to find it online. I would not use BootCamp, because it boots Windows like you were using a actual PC, so you can't share files between operating systems. Unless you like Windows, I would use the software your school provides in Windows and use Mac OS X for everything else.
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TheoCryst
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Apr 16, 2009, 01:59 AM
 
Originally Posted by NormPhillips View Post
1) With Boot Camp, can Windows be installed on an external (USB 2) hard drive?
Nope, sadly. Windows will not boot from anywhere except an internal drive. No USB, no FireWire.

2) Which is better for Windows XP Home edition SP3 on a MacBook Pro 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo with 2GB of RAM and Mac OS X v. 10.5.x - Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion?
Virtually identical. There are dozens of reviews on the web that show product X is slightly (read: insignificantly) better/faster/smoother than Y at obscure task Z. I've always used Fusion personally, but that's a completely arbitrary choice.

3) Can Windows be installed on an external hard drive with either of these products?
Both of these products, by default, use a simple file to store the OS. Of course, you can toss that file anywhere you want -- external, internal, iPod, network, you name it.

4) Is there a free or inexpensive product like Fusion or Parallels that allows me to run Windows and Mac OS simultaneously and seamlessly?
Both allow seamless integration, and you can get either one for $40 as a student. Check your local bookstore. If you're feeling daring (and cheap), check out Sun's VirtualBox, a free and open-source virtualization tool. It's nowhere near as pretty as Fusion or Parallels, but it does support "Seamless" mode (intermingling Windows and OS X windows). And you really can't beat free.

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ghporter
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Apr 16, 2009, 07:29 AM
 
You can boot Windows from an external drive. It's just a turbo-royal-nucular PITA to do it, and it's entirely unsupported so you're playing without much of a net. It takes tinkering with the boot process files Windows uses, making alterations to them so that Windows doesn't re-enumerate the external ports. BIOS/EFI does that at startup, but Windows does it again for some weird reason, losing any external boot source in the process.

So I'd go with either Fusion or Parallels. I don't have any experience with Fusion so I can't compare them. DO install an antivirus package on your Windows VM though-use Clam AV or Avast! or some other free package-because you don't want to have to rebuild the VM when (not if) it gets buggered up by the big, bad outside world.

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angelmb
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Apr 16, 2009, 08:40 AM
 
If you are going to use either VMware Fusion or Parallels, once you get everything you need installed, zip the virtual machine image (inside "Documents -> Virtual Machines" for VMware Fusion) and store it as back-up just in case anything goes wrong with Windows or the hard disk. You could use the snapshots feature within VMware Fusion, but getting the image as zip file let you store it e.g. on a USB drive, not to run from it since it is after all a zipped file that would need to be unzipped. But since Windows is going to be such a must and knowing how erratic it could become, any preemptive measure is welcome.
     
NormPhillips  (op)
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Apr 16, 2009, 06:53 PM
 
Thanks for all of the help so far.

Finding out that either software costs about $40 for students, which do you prefer... VMWare Fusion or Parallels Desktop?

I know people say it's virtually the same, but still I'd like the best solution. I've looked it up online, and most reviews rate them the same. There's one that rates Fusion better and there's one that rates Parallels better.

Just FYI... MacBook Pro 2.16GHz 2GB RAM Mac OS X Client v. 10.5.x with Windows XP SP3 Home Edition running Oracle Crystal Ball and SAS software, preferably via External 7200RPM USB2 HD
     
ibook_steve
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Apr 16, 2009, 07:26 PM
 
Search the forum. There are many Parallels vs. Fusion discussions. My preference: Parallels. And it recently was speed tested as faster than Fusion for just about everything.

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Rumor
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Apr 17, 2009, 05:34 PM
 
Originally Posted by cwkmacuser View Post
I think you can use an external hard drive. You may want to use Parallels. You can share files between Windows and Mac back and forth easily. However, a free alternative is VirtualBox. You should be able to find it online. I would not use BootCamp, because it boots Windows like you were using a actual PC, so you can't share files between operating systems. Unless you like Windows, I would use the software your school provides in Windows and use Mac OS X for everything else.
Incorrect. When you use Boot Camp, you have a choice of the size of the partition. The smaller one (FAT32?) allows transferring from XP to OS X and vice versa. If you use NTFS, you can only pull files from your XP partition in OS X, but cannot pulls files from OS X while in XP.
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ibook_steve
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Apr 17, 2009, 06:01 PM
 
Originally Posted by Rumor View Post
Incorrect. When you use Boot Camp, you have a choice of the size of the partition. The smaller one (FAT32?) allows transferring from XP to OS X and vice versa. If you use NTFS, you can only pull files from your XP partition in OS X, but cannot pulls files from OS X while in XP.
Unless you use MacDrive from Mediafour. Works great.

Steve
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cwkmacuser
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Apr 17, 2009, 07:27 PM
 
Originally Posted by Rumor View Post
Incorrect. When you use Boot Camp, you have a choice of the size of the partition. The smaller one (FAT32?) allows transferring from XP to OS X and vice versa. If you use NTFS, you can only pull files from your XP partition in OS X, but cannot pulls files from OS X while in XP.
Quite confusing!
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ghporter
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Apr 17, 2009, 10:21 PM
 
OS X can (natively) READ but not WRITE to NTFS partitions. There are software tools that allow OS X to (sort of natively) write to NTFS partitions, one of which is MacDrive. MacFUSE also lets OS X do it.

Less confusing?

FWIW, Windows can't even see that an OS X partition even exists.

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cwkmacuser
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Apr 18, 2009, 12:00 AM
 
Thanks Glenn. That's easier to understand.
( Last edited by cwkmacuser; Apr 18, 2009 at 12:23 AM. )
Chris K.
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ibook_steve
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Apr 18, 2009, 01:52 AM
 
Originally Posted by ghporter View Post

FWIW, Windows can't even see that an OS X partition even exists.
Unless you have MacDrive, that is.

No, I don't work for Mediafour! I just find it very handy.

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cgc
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Apr 18, 2009, 09:46 PM
 
Just leave your Parallels virtual drive on your Mac drive and be done with it...is there a reason you want to use an external drive?
     
NormPhillips  (op)
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Apr 19, 2009, 03:44 AM
 
Yes there is: I have 30GB left on my internal hard drive. With limited space, I don't want to take much more... Is there a problem running Parallels on an external hard drive?
     
ghporter
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Apr 19, 2009, 10:11 AM
 
Parallels itself doesn't take up much disk space, so I'd leave it in Applications. The virtual machines it creates can be ANWHERE, so you can put them on your external drive and they'll run find.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Charles Bouldin
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Apr 19, 2009, 10:17 AM
 
"2) Which is better for Windows XP Home edition SP3 on a MacBook Pro 2.16GHz Intel Core Duo with 2GB of RAM and Mac OS X v. 10.5.x - Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion?"

I've used both, and in fact have both installed on my Macbook Pro now. For lightweight Windows use (XP Pro, but all I do is a little Word, Excel and a couple of Windows only Apps, no gaming) Parallels and VMWare are almost indistinguishable. I think Parallels is *slightly* faster, but VMWare has been in the game longer. The big PITA is if you switch between the two, you have to go through the *#%$^^&* Microsoft activation for WIndows AND Office.

If your Windows needs are similar to mine, I don't think you'll go wrong with either.

I picked up VMWare after being a Parallels user for 2 years when VMWare had a sale because I was unhappy with the Parallels tech support (email, slow). I haven't had an opportunity (thankfully) to find out if the VMWare support is any better.
     
NormPhillips  (op)
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Apr 19, 2009, 12:43 PM
 
The two pieces of software I'm worried about though are Oracle Crystal Ball and SAS. They do go through a lot of complex and intense math equations. I mean, I'm not that familiar with either software... But I don't think they're to the level of Mathematica, but they're a lot more intense than Word.

http://www.oracle.com/crystalball/index.html

http://www.sas.com/

Anyone familiar with how these pieces of software run on a setup similar to mine on Parallels versus Fusion?
     
zaghahzag
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Apr 20, 2009, 02:31 PM
 
i'd be surprised if you could find a difference between the two at math-based software - windows code isn't interpreted like PPC to intel code is, the instructions are already native to the CPU.

I used paralells for a long time but it eventually ate my windows partition, and I gave up on it. YMMV, but the consensus around the lab now is that fusion is better. For me, parallels never recovered from trying to add 3D support.

one thing, i think you might have the same MBP i have - you might consider maxing the ram to 3 or 4 gigs. If you're running a VM with windows, that eats as much ram as you give it (at least 512 megs)..
     
NormPhillips  (op)
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Apr 20, 2009, 06:32 PM
 
Yeah, my MBP is only expandable enough to 2GB (what I have it at now). It's an original Intel Core Duo. Thanks though.
     
BigDogDaddy
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Apr 20, 2009, 07:20 PM
 
I have both VMware Fusion and Parallels.

I use VMware Fusion every day at work. I imaged my laptop and ran it for months before IT figured out I was only using the old laptop as a paperweight and holder for the licenses on the software. It is very reliable in operation and quite quick. Now my IT manager is doing the same.

Parallels works fine... At home I have the first version 2.0 I purchased (build 1940) which is rock steady. Every upgrade since I've put on other machines first and none of them has been as stable. They charged when they added Direct 3D support (version 3). They charged again when they added "Faster and more Reliable" (version 4). All Fusion upgrades have been free (and about as often).

So I'd recommend Fusion.

As for hard drive space, I think you will end up wanting to upgrade your hard drive. Not much way around it. Also both programs work much better with 4 GB of memory rather than 2 GB.

So I'd budget 40 for Fusion, 89 for a 320 GB hard drive from Mac Sales (with External case so you can swap easily) and 50 for a 4 GB memory kit. Possibly more than you want, but would definitely make your experience better. (Whoops, just noticed you had the original Core Duo, so no 4 GB for you!)
( Last edited by BigDogDaddy; Apr 20, 2009 at 07:21 PM. Reason: Needed to learn to read :))
     
laup
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Apr 20, 2009, 10:44 PM
 
I agree with the previous thread: although they are close, VMWare Fusion is now preferable. I found it very irritating that some Parallels updates (still within version 3) wouldn't install properly and that I had some troubles after I did install. Discovering the nature of the problems required a lot of searching because Parallels Tech Support is not so hot. Finally, I have had some stability issues with Parallels: from time to time Parallels tools would quite working and would have to be reinstalled.

I have been using VMWare Fusion for some weeks and find it to be at least as good in all respects and--so far--problem-free. Further, I have a better impression about their support.

As earlier respondents indicated, however, it's a close call and you'll find adherents on both sides.
     
datsunzcr
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Apr 22, 2009, 11:12 AM
 
Download Sun's VirtualBox for free. With this software, you don't need to run BootCamp.

Run Virtual Box and install XP or Windows 7 beta - it hates Vista and so do I.

Run Windows in Virtual Box on the Mac Desktop. It will slow the machine down a little, but you have plenty of hardware to run on. The nice thing about Virtual Box is when you are done with Windows, just delete it. The other thing is that you don't have to partition your hard drive.

The only thing that I would add is more RAM.

Warning: Parallels has be hacked by virus people and they exploit the Windows interface to get at your Mac. VM Ware works fine, but wants you to do the whole BootCamp thing. I never like repartitioning a hard drive on the fly - that's just wrong to me somehow!! If you need help, just write back and I'll be more than happy to help.
     
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Apr 22, 2009, 04:28 PM
 
I am quite pleased with VMware Fusion, it has nothing to do with BootCamp if you don't want to. I like it better than Parallels. BTW It's the first time I have heard about that Parallels exploit-thing. Care to elaborate?, thanks.
     
akulavolk
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Apr 22, 2009, 04:30 PM
 
I'd definitely recommend running Fusion or Parallels instead of Bootcamp. Performance on all but really demanding media apps is fine. And the snapshot functionality and ability to easily dupe an image to an external drive is a must if you're doing work (classroom or home) that you don't want to lose.

I also recommend NOT using Vista in a VM. I've tried XP on both Fusion and Parallels. It works fine. Vista dragged them down quickly.

The only problem with keeping a VM on an external drive is reliability. I've had more external drives fail than I think is reasonable. That's easily solved by a good nightly backup routine. Buy a 2nd external. Hard disks (even nice, bus-powered portables) are cheap now.
     
cwkmacuser
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Apr 22, 2009, 09:11 PM
 
Originally Posted by datsunzcr View Post
Download Sun's VirtualBox for free. With this software, you don't need to run BootCamp.

Run Virtual Box and install XP or Windows 7 beta - it hates Vista and so do I.

Run Windows in Virtual Box on the Mac Desktop. It will slow the machine down a little, but you have plenty of hardware to run on. The nice thing about Virtual Box is when you are done with Windows, just delete it. The other thing is that you don't have to partition your hard drive.

The only thing that I would add is more RAM.

Warning: Parallels has be hacked by virus people and they exploit the Windows interface to get at your Mac. VM Ware works fine, but wants you to do the whole BootCamp thing. I never like repartitioning a hard drive on the fly - that's just wrong to me somehow!! If you need help, just write back and I'll be more than happy to help.
Yeah, really. Get VitualBox. It will saye you money!
Chris K.
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NormPhillips  (op)
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Apr 28, 2009, 11:13 PM
 
I ended up getting Parallels to run Windows XP Pro with the education discount. I'd like to thank everyone for their help.
     
cwkmacuser
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Apr 28, 2009, 11:18 PM
 
No prob. Hey, have you checked out the "Life, Sockpuppeting, and Everything Else" thread? Everybody's having a lot of fun!
Chris K.
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