Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Windows XP Pro Virtual Machine

I've been virtualizing my Boot Camp partition for almost as long as I've had my Mac. Initially I used Parallels but switched to VMWare Fusion after a few weeks. My rationale behind this was that whether I opted to boot directly into Windows or virtualize, I would always be using the same workspace. This sounds great in practice, but it turns out that I would only rarely actually boot into Windows, and only rarely for class. The vast majority of the times I would boot into Windows it was because I wanted to play a game. Most of the time I used my Windows installation for anything other than gaming, I would be virtualizing.

There are some serious downsides to virtualizing my Boot Camp partition. The biggest one is that I have to boot and shutdown the partition every time I want to virtualize it. Virtual machines, on the other hand, can be suspended between uses which saves time on start up and shutdown. Also, VMWare can save snapshots of virtual machines so if something happens that royally screws up the operating system, you can revert back to an older snapshot.

I've been meaning for a while to rebuild my Windows installation so today I decided to put that on hold and setup a Windows virtual machine. The installation is very streamlined and VMWare Fusion takes care of the whole process. I told it which disk image to use for installation media and it identified my install disk as being Windows XP Pro. The next screen asks for a password to use and for the product key and that's all there is to it. The next time I had to provide any input what-so-ever to the virtual machine was to log in. Once I logged in, the VMWare Tools application automatically installed itself. It couldn't have been any easier.

I have decided to keep this installation as stripped down as possible. I will only install software that I either need or think I will need in the near future. Here is a list of what I installed:
  • Mozilla Firefox - favorite web browser for years
  • Google Chrome - backup web browser
  • Revo Uninstaller - Windows add/remove programs replacement utility that scans the harddrive for leftover files from uninstalled programs
  • Flash Player - so I can load web pages properly
  • Notepad++ - fantastic replacement for Notepad
  • Zone Alarm Free - excellent free firewall
  • Avast Home - excellent free anti-virus
  • Daemon Tools Lite - disk emulator
  • Java Development Kit - I've had at least one class where I have to program in Java every semester for two years now
  • MS Office 2007 - office suite
  • MS Visio 2007 - need this for class
  • 7-Zip - open source archive manager
  • Foxit Reader - super fast, tabbed replacement for Adobe Reader
I left out a bunch of what I would require to be critical Windows software for a desktop installation but this is really intended to only do things I am unable to do in OS X, plus a little bit more for flexibility. Now when I finally get around to rebuilding my Boot Camp partition I can do so with a different purpose in mind allowing for a less bloated installation and a smaller footprint.

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