Saturday, September 18, 2010

OS Virtualization (Parallels Desktop/VMware Fusion) vs. Bootcamp

If your only computer is a Mac, and you have a need to run Windows, you're faced with two options: use OSX's Bootcamp and boot into Windows or use virtualization software, such as Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion.

Parallels Desktop 5 has been tested to be superior to VMware Fusion 3 (see comparison here) so I'll be talking about Parallels in this post.  Also, Parallels Desktop 6 was recently released on September 14 and features a 64 bit engine, surround sound 5.1, and superior 3D graphics rendering speeds.


Installing Windows 7 in Bootcamp is fairly straightforward.  After the installation is complete, reboot your computer and hold down the Option key to get the below screen.  Select your Windows partition to load Windows.

Hold down the Option button at reboot when you see the white screen to activate this menu.

The OSX installation disk does a good job of installing all the drivers needed for Windows 7.  The only problem child is the graphics driver.  When playing a video or a game, the computer begins to run very hot, and the fan is constantly on at full speed.

A software alternative is to download additional software to control fan speeds, or you can simply use a laptop cooling fan.  Nonetheless, the overheating issues are a problem and a hassle.

On the flip side, using Bootcamp to run Windows 7 is advantageous because all of your system's processing resources are dedicated to the running OS. 

Parallels Desktop:

I currently have Parallels Desktop 5 on my computer (I will be upgrading to version 6 soon), and the installation was also straightforward.  The graphics drivers work well, and I haven't experienced additional overheating.  Parallels also allows Windows 7 to run Aero Peek as you get a more accurate rating on the Windows Performance Index (version 4 features outdated graphics drivers that disable Aero Peek due to the Windows Performance Index graphics rating of 1.0 regardless of hardware).  The sound is a little softer compared to the volume in OSX; however, the difference is slightly noticeable.

When running the virtual machine, you can choose different views: window view, full screen view, and coherence.  The coherence view allows you to run the Windows programs as if they were standalone programs in OSX.  This is my favorite feature.

Coherence view in Parallels Desktop 6

Parallels gives you the option of customizing the system resources to the VM.  You can chose a single core or multiple cores and also choose how much RAM you want to dedicate to the VM.  

The only disadvantage to using Parallels to run Windows 7 is that you can never dedicate all of the hardware resources to the operating system since OSX is always running in the background; however, with customizable resource profiles and improved graphics performance in version 6, this should not be much of an issue.

The Verdict:

Parallels Desktop is such an efficient VM application that I removed my Bootcamp partition and haven't regretted it one bit.  Version 6 is aimed at PC gamers who have Macs and need maximal graphics performance.

If you absolutely have to run Windows on your Mac, Parallels Desktop is the best way to go.  If you just bought a Mac, miss your Windows functions, and have no specific application or gaming need for Windows, suck it up and learn OSX... after all, that's what this blog is for.

The price is $79.99, while the upgrade option (needs version 5) costs $49.99.  Parallels Desktop's product page is located here:

Thursday, September 16, 2010

MacDrive: Using both NTFS and FAT32 formatted disks on Windows systems

My personal computer is a MacBook Pro, but my work computer is a Lenovo T400.  When I purchased my MBP, I came across a problem: how do I seamlessly swap files back and forth?

My PC is joined to a corporate domain, so I did not want to mess with the settings and join it to my home network and enable file sharing.

An immediate solution was to use Dropbox and link both computers to my account.  The only problem was that my free account was maxed out at 2GB, and if I wanted to move a big file (say 500mb), I'd have to move it into the Dropbox, wait for it to upload onto the cloud, and then wait for it to sync with the other computer... it was quite time consuming.

OSX uses the FAT32 file system, while Windows uses the NTFS file system.  OSX is able to read NTFS drives but not write to them.  Windows 7 does not recognize FAT32 drives at all.  At this point, I could transfer files from PC to Mac (put the files from PC on the NTFS external hard drive and then plug into Mac) but not the other way around.  Also, my main external 2TB hard drive is also my OSX Time Machine backup drive.  Since Windows 7 is not natively able to read FAT32 disks, I didn't have the capability to move my large files from the 2TB drive to PC.

I came across MacDrive, and it's a Windows application that allows Windows to read from and write to FAT32 drives.  The installation is quick and simple, and the program runs in the background, taking up about 2MB of RAM.  MacDrive solved my file swapping dilemna, and both my Mac and PC are able to read and write to my 2TB external hard drive.  It is the only program that I found that's easy and simple to use. 

MacDrive retails for $49.99 for a single license.  The official website is located here:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Steermouse: Using your multi-button PC mouse on a Mac

If you've recently purchased a Mac computer but prefer your old multi-button PC mouse (Logitech, Microsoft, etc), Steermouse serves as a software solution allowing you to take advantage of your mouse's full functionality on OSX.

Official Steermouse website:

Having used Apple's Magic Mouse for a month, I just found it to be highly uncomfortable and a hassle to use.  Although it supports multi-finger gestures, the side-swiping forward and back motions did not feel natural and jarred the mouse from side to side.  It made me long for my trusty Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX.

The Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX paired with a Macbook Pro

By default, the Logitech mouse works on OSX; however, the use of the shortcut button underneath the scroll wheel and the forward/back buttons on the side were disabled.  Steermouse enables this functionality, and it allows you to customize the action of each button.

Buttons 6, 7, and 8 allow other buttons, besides the fwd/back ones, to be customized.

At only $20 US for a single computer license, it's a bargain considering the savings versus buying a trendy $70 Macbook accessory... the Magic Mouse.