Virtual PC Is Virtually Perfect
By Dave Horrigan
2:00 a.m. Jan. 2, 2002 PST
Over the last few months a new trend has emerged: More and more Windows users are changing over to a Mac.
For the most part, PC users are confident they are making the correct decision, but occasionally, they have serious concerns about whether they will be able to open files and do business on a Mac without a lot of hassles.
The fact is, there are very few commercial PC programs that don't have a Mac equivalent. But even though the Mac applications can replace or even surpass the PC apps, much of the time changing over to a cross-platform application isn't practical because of the expense or retraining it requires.
But this situation no longer prevents anyone from changing over to a Mac. Mac users now have Virtual PC 5.0.
Virtual PC 5.0 from Connectix (prices range from $80 to $200) shipped last week and contains some cool new features.
First of all, Virtual PC allows you to install a Microsoft, Linux or IBM operating system on your Mac. VPC tricks the guest operating system into thinking your Mac is a PC so you can actually run PC programs.
VPC 5 takes it one step further and will run up to 11 different operating systems on your Mac all at once -óproviding you have OS X as one of those operating systems.
You can load DOS, Linux, OS 2, Windows 2000, 95, 98, ME, XP Home and Pro, and of course OS X and Mac OS 9. You can run any combination; RAM is the only limiting factor. While this trick has other uses, the popular purpose is to impress people who have trouble running just one operating system on their PC. And it really is impressive.
Of course, that isn't the only nifty trick VPC 5 can do. For example, installing Windows XP on VPC 5 takes about 15 minutes. Some PC professionals have spent days, even weeks, installing XP on their boxes.
VPC 5 is cleverly designed so that if you change back and forth from Mac OS 9 to X you don't need to install two versions. You just install VPC5 in OS X and create an alias for it in OS 9.
When using OS 9, VPC has all but two of the features it has in OS Xómultiprocessor support and virtual switch, which lets you network among the different operating systems running on your machine. This enables a network manager to create a Windows server on your Mac and test how well different Windows clients can access it. Since more and more IT pros are toting PowerBooks these days, this is a handy feature.
But since most people wanting to use VPC 5 are not network administrators, Connectix went to great lengths to make it friendly to the more casual user.
The "undoable drives" feature is a good example. With VPC 5, the user has the option of undoing any session, even across reboots of Windows itself. For example, if you install a Windows application and it starts acting up -- or if you download an infected file -- you just undo the session and everything reverts to the way it was when you started. This feature is not yet available on regular Windows machines.
VPC 5 has numerous other improvements. You can now drag the VPC window to any size you like, which is much more convenient than changing Windows' screen resolution. VPC 5 also offers support for Pocket PC devices as well as many USB devices and printers. If you have a DVD drive, it will now allow your Mac to read DVD Data formatted disks. And of course, most importantly, VPC 5 is faster than previous versions.
With the advent of this new version, PC users have no problem crossing over to the Mac. It's one thing to tell PC users that a Mac is better, but to show them that even a PC is better when it runs on a Mac really drives the point home.