Why have two when one will do?

I read an interesting article today over at MacWorld about using Parallels or Fusion on Intel Macs to allow you to run Windows applications alongside your Mac ones. Personally I’m a fan of VMWare Fusion for this task, having been a long time user of VMWare Workstation on the Windows and Linux platforms at work, but I know Parallels has its fans to.

However one thing struck me about the article that I think missed the point (and I even added my two-penny worth in the comments). The author talks about which version of Windows to install inside your virtual machine, and inevitably discusses Vista given that unfortunately XP won’t be sold past the end of June this year. Vista Basic is slated as being too bare-bones to consider, however that depends really on why you’re installing Windows in the first place. I use Fusion so that I can run Helium Music Manager which is an excellent Music collection management application that is pretty much without equal anywhere. If you’ve ever visited the All Music Guide (AMG) and Discogs websites, imagine all that power in an application and applied to your own music collection. Add to that an incredibly powerful ID3 tagger, a wealth of customization features, multiple file format support, player with last.fm support, reporting tools, in fact too many features to list here – that’s Helium Music Manager!

But the whole point of this is that Helium is the application I want to run as there’s no OS X equivalent, but as Cross-Over can’t handle it, I had to go the virtual machine route. What I need is the bare minimum Windows installation I can get so that more processing power is devoted to the application I want to run rather than the platform supporting it. Consider for a moment the various applications and services that come bundled with Vista Business Edition. There are hundreds. Hundreds of resource gobbling items that do nothing but detract from what it is that you’re running Parallels or Fusion for in the first place. Vista applets to consume your hard disk space. Vista services to consume your processing power. Consider also that not everyone has unlimited resources on their Mac. Many have 1Gb or 2Gb as a maximum and if you’re running Vista or even XP, then a fair chunk of that is needed to run the virtual environment, even before you’ve loaded your favourite Windows application.

So, if you want the leanest, meanest Windows platform you can lay your hands on that is sufficient to run your must have Windows app, why not consider XP Home (while you can still get it), stripped of all it’s unwanted extras using a program such as nLite? The same goes for Vista Basic given similar treatment courtesy of vLite. I’ve never seen Windows looking so good!

Then again, if you want the fully saturated version of Vista Ultimate running alongside OS X, and you’ve got the resources to do it (and the king’s ransom to pay for the license!), then be my guest. Just be aware that your chosen Windows application might not perform as snappily as you’d hoped.


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