Using VMware Fusion for Mac to get more from your Windows VM

VMware Fusion for Mac is a boon for IT pros that work with various OSes. VMware Fusion 4, in particular, can create snapshots and allow a Windows VM to use built-in Mac devices.

Being an avid VMware Fusion for Mac user, I am always on the lookout for interesting and productive ways to use

my virtual machines to their fullest potential.

More resources on VMware Fusion for Mac

VMware Fusion 4 – Migrate your entire Windows PC to your Mac

VMware Fusion performance tips for Mac users

VMware Fusion for Mac: Advanced tips for power users

IT pros new to VMware Fusion 4 will find a couple of interesting features that make virtual machine (VM) configurations easier and allow you to use built-in Mac devices with a Windows VM.

Using VMware Fusion for Mac snapshots 

I use VMware Fusion for Mac to run multiple virtual machines, which usually include a mix of Windows XP, Windows Server OS, CentOS as well as virtual appliances, such as Citrix Systems VPX NetScaler.

At times, I need to reconfigure these machines’ networking and resource requirements, depending on what I’m working on. This is where the snapshot feature comes in. By using snapshots, I can revert a VM to any configuration that was specific to a task, upgrade or a point in time.

Using snapshots with VMware Fusion 4 are even easier than in previous versions, with the addition of more options and the familiar Snapshot Manager that has been a part of VMware Workstation and vCenter products for some time. IT pros that prefer to see snapshots in a tree-dependency format, found in other VMware products, will appreciate this addition.

Also, we can now back up snapshots with Time Machine, the native Mac OS X backup utility. In addition, the new options can reduce the size of a snapshot and allow for better visual integration with the AutoProtect interface, which is the automatic snapshot scheduling utility.

Where to store Fusion for Mac VMs

I run VMware Fusion VMs on both a MacBook Pro laptop and desktop iMac, so the portability of VMs is a must for me. My daily support and system administration work relies on my ability to remain agile and flexible. I need to work on whatever Mac I may be using, at the time of a call.

The consistency of the VMs that I work with on either machine is important to ensure that I have exactly what I need to do the task at hand. Most of the time, I am on the road. But I receive many calls late at night or early in the morning, so you can find me tackling issues by the bright glow of my desktop. As such, storing VMs on a portable USB drive is a simple, efficient, and very productive solution for folks like me that move between hosts consistently.

While the obvious drawback is speed (I have solid-state drives in my Macs), it does not outweigh the benefit of easily moving the machines -- including their snapshots -- between my Macs.

Tapping native Mac devices for a Windows VM

Another VMware Fusion 4 feature is the ability for a Windows VM to use built-in Mac devices, such as the USB-based iSight camera and the IR receiver. To make these devices available to a Windows VM, simply install the Boot Camp drivers in the VM.

As you can see, VMware Fusion for Mac is a powerful tool, which, with a little tweaking, makes it possible to run the vast array of Windows and Linux software, while taking advantage of Apple’s elegant hardware and interface. Stay tuned for more tips about VMware Fusion for Mac.

This was first published in February 2012

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