Mac OS X: Virtual Machine vs. Boot Camp

Posted by jun auza On 12/11/2007
Mac OS X: Virtual Machine vs. Boot Camp - My sister-in-law just handed me her brand new, shiny black Apple Macbook; the one with a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB memory and 160GB hard drive. Like majority of new Mac owners, she wants to run Windows applications on it.

I have two options to help her out. One is to install Windows using a desktop virtualization software like Parallels, VirtualBox, or VMWare Fusion. The other is through Apple’s Boot Camp.

Now which method did I like better?

Before I'll answer that, let me give you a brief overview of Virtual Machine and Boot Camp:

In computer science, a virtual machine (VM) is a software implementation of a machine (computer) that executes programs like a real machine. It is considered as one of the distinct classes of desktop virtualization. Virtual machine technology is used to host multiple instances of a standard, single-user desktop PC operating system (e.g., Windows XP) on a server machine. With desktop virtualization, a user can directly access the guest desktop operating system while inside the host OS (e.g., Mac OS X).

Boot Camp is a utility included with Mac OS X v10.5 "Leopard" that assists users in installing Microsoft Windows XP or Windows Vista on Intel-based Macintosh computers. Boot Camp guides users through non-destructive re-partitioning (including resizing of an existing HFS+ partition, if necessary) of their hard disk drive and using the Mac OS X Leopard disc to install Windows drivers. In addition to device drivers for the hardware, the disc includes a control panel applet for selecting the boot operating system while in Windows. In short, Boot Camp will let you dual boot OS X and XP efficiently.

Now which way did I choose?

If you are not in a hurry, I will compare some of their essential features so that we can easily point out the advantages and the disadvantages:


The Verdict:
After considering the hardware specifications of my sister-in-law’s laptop computer and the possible applications that she will often be running with it, I immediately decided to go for virtualization using Parallels Desktop for Mac. The other reason for choosing VM over dual boot is its ability to switch OS a lot faster and easier, or even use two or more operating systems at the same time. If my sister-in-law is into gaming or her Mac is a little low-end, it would have been a different story because I will definitely just install Windows using Boot Camp. Low-end hardware cannot handle VM well, and advanced 3D games will possibly run slow in VM environment.


So there you have it. I hope this article will somehow guide those who are torn between desktop virtualization and Boot Camp on installing Windows or just about any other OS for their Mac.

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