VMware Fusion performance tips for Mac users

VMware Fusion for Mac allows you to run multiple guest OSes on Mac OS X, but VMware Fusion performance depends on several variables, including memory and hardware configuration.

Running different operating systems on the same machine is a great capability. And for some of us, it's a downright necessity.

Because IT administrators work with a variety of users and applications, many IT professionals use multiple OSes. Sometimes, developers write code that is compatible with specific operating systems or Web browsers, and administrators need a variety of OSes to troubleshoot and issues.

With VMware Fusion for Mac, users can run multiple operating systems in Mac OS X. The following tips will help you get started.

VMware Fusion performance and configuration

Apple computers come in a few different flavors these days, and any Intel-based machine will run Fusion. The out-of-the-box configurations should suffice for Fusion to run one or two OSes, but if you run more than one OS without suspending another, you may encounter VMware Fusion performance issues.

To ensure optimal VMware Fusion performance, install as much RAM as you can on your Mac. Also, ensure that you're running Mac OS X 10.5 or higher. (Some folks have gotten Fusion to work with late versions of Tiger, but it's problematic). I have an early-2008 MacBook Pro and a dual-core iMac. Both computers have more than 4 GB of RAM, and I can run three operating systems at the same time(Mac OS X, Windows XP Pro and Windows 7) without major memory issues.

Also, consider the hard disk that runs the guest OS. Again, the default configurations are probably more than sufficient. But if you're a power user, I recommend that you get an external drive with a FireWire 800, USB 3.0 or external SATA interface. Or you can replace your factory drive with a solid-state hybrid drive, such as the Seagate Momentus XT, which provides fast access times and more space. In my experience, such drives work well with guest operating systems, and they make the host's OS X fly.

VMware Fusion for Mac: OS support

Fusion supports more than 140 different guest OSes. And for some, I'm not exactly sure why. (Windows ME? Seriously?) Read the FAQs on VMware's site and in the Fusion help file for more information on installing guest OSes.

When they run on virtual hardware, not all operating systems behave the same way. Some need a tweak to get them just right. It may also be tricky to install VMware Tools, which is required for some software features.

VMware Fusion tricks

One VMware Fusion performance tip that I love deals with the Spaces features in OS X. After I log into my Mac, Fusion instantly fires up two OSes in full screen -- each in its own Space. I can flip back and forth between desktops by hitting the Spaces hot-key combination.

First, start your virtual machine (VM). Ensure that Spaces is enabled in System Preferences (click on the Expose's and Spaces icon), then assign a VM to an available Spaces screen and reboot, and you can glide between VMs effortlessly.

More on VMware Fusion for Mac

VMware Fusion FAQ

FAQs on VMware Fusion

VMware Communities: Fusion

Fusion videos

A power user's guide to VMware Fusion

Some other things to try: Place guest applications' icons in the OS X dock. (Yes, it can be done.) In Unity mode, enable the setting to share applications between the virtual machine and your Mac. This option is located in the Fusion preferences pane.

Also, try converting a physical Windows computer to a virtual Fusion machine using the Migration Assistant. Simply download and install the free VMware vCenter Converter application on the Windows computer. Launch the vCenter Converter application, and convert your local physical machine. (You can also prefer remote conversions too.)

Then choose which disks to convert. I recommend leaving the defaults for first conversion. And enter the information for the destination machine. Select Virtual Standalone Machine, and name it. Next enter the desired location of the newly created virtual machine files. (I use an external FireWire drive for speed and portability.) Click through the defaults, and convert it. Once it's finished, copy the file to your Mac, and import it into Fusion.

Consulting VMware Fusion users

I have to give kudos to the users of Fusion. VMware's Fusion User Community website is huge, and features great content to guide all kinds of users. From videos to forums to how-tos and FAQs, the website has pretty much every kind of resource.
And if you can't find an answer, create a new post in the forums. I can pretty much guarantee that someone will help you.

About the author:
Mike Nelson has been in IT for over 20 years, with exposure to a very diverse field of technologies and solutions. He has devoted over half a decade to virtualization and server-based computing. Nelson is currently a senior analyst at a Fortune 100 company in the U.S. Midwest.

This was first published in December 2010

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