OSX Lion and Windows 7 on the same box (Vmware, Parallels and Bootcamp compared)

I only have Macs in my house. I just kept throwing the Windows machines as they started to die off without replacing them (Yes, all the HPs and Dells are in the trash now). Although, I do lot of IOS and Ruby on Rails programming which is perfect with OSX Lion, but I only do that as a hobby. At the end of the day I have to remember that my 16 years of expertise as a Microsoft developer is what pays the bills :). 

I have tried all 3 options of running Windows on OSX. i.e Parallels Desktop, VMWare and Bootcamp.

Parallels and VMWare seem like the ideal solution at first because you don’t have to reboot your laptop into windows. You click the VMWare or Parallels icon and it fires up the Windows machine in a virtual environment. Sounds great right ? In my experience, it sounds great only in theory. Both solution do work without any problems, but performance is a different ballgame altogether. Running Visual Studio 2010 on the VMs is a pure torture. It is so slow that it is almost unusable. (I have a Macbook Pro, OSX Lion, Core i7 2Ghz with 4 GM ram and I allocated 1.5 – 2GB ram to the VM)

So, I ended up just firing bootcamp and tried to install Windows on the second partition. It did have its challenges but nothing that I couldn’t overcome. Here is what I ran into:

  1. Low disk space – OSX reported I have 350GB free, but Bootcamp kept complaining that I don’t have sufficient space. Weird right? Well, no matter how much Apple makes you believe that OSX doesn’t get fragmented, it actual does. The easiest way to defragment is to backup your machine using Time Machine, format your machine completely (i.e boot with OSX Lion DVD and use disk utility to format your partitions) and restore from Time Machine backup. This is the easiest and free way to defragment your HDD. Once you do this, Bootcamp will be a happy camper and will let you proceed.
  2. Made a mistake of allocating less space to Win 7 – I allocated 50 GB to windows 7 and thought I can install Visual Studio 2010 on it without any issues and it did work great! But then the greedy developer I am, I wanted to install Visual Studio 2012 RC on it too. And that is where I ran out of space. The solution – Reboot into OSX and use disk utility to reduce OSX partition size. Then reboot back into Windows 7 and download this free tool called Minitool Partition Wizard. Fire up the tool, click the Bootcamp partition and then choose extend merge. This will let you extend the partition and use the space you freed up using Disk Utility. (Disk Management built into Win7 will not work)

After all was done, I am loving Bootcamp/Windows 7. It is blazing fast for obvious reasons. Obviously, a virtual VM solution just cannot compare to an OS running on real hardware. I know you are still thinking “But I would hate to reboot my computer every time into Windows!!!!!”. Well, if you fire up the VMware or Parallels VM from a suspended state, you will end up wasting the same amount of time that you would physically booting into Windows 7 too. And when you want to get back to OSX, Lion will be waiting for you with its “remember open programs” feature that I have come to love. 

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