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Virtual PC Brings Windows to Mac OS X

by Derrick Story

Over the years Connectix has provided plenty of buzz at Macworld expos.

When RAM prices were through the roof, they released RAM Doubler that gave us affordable relief for our memory-starved Macs. A few years later, they timed the controversial debut of the Virtual Game Station with the dawning of the iMac. And when Connectix added Virtual PC (VPC) to its product line, Mac users realized they could have their cake and eat it too. In fact, along with Microsoft Office, Connectix's Virtual PC has probably saved more Macs from the corporate scrap heap than any other application.

Still, I never realized how popular VPC really was until this year's WWDC in San Jose, CA. During the conference I took a very informal poll asking folks which of their favorite OS 9 applications they were most anxious to have Carbon-ized for Mac OS X. You might be surprised to read that the responses were:

  1. Microsoft Office (in large part this was a response to the need for a solid e-mail client for Mac OS X).

  2. Virtual PC.

  3. Photoshop.

So when Connectix announced its Virtual PC Test Drive for Mac OS X in late July, I knew that this was something I should review right away. Keep in mind as you read this article that Test Drive is beta software (which expires at the end of Jan. 2002), and it is only available to customers who have, or are willing to, purchase the full version of VPC 4.0.2 for Mac OS for about $200.

What's this on my Mac OS X dock? It's an entire Windows 98 environment compliments of Virtual PC by Connectix.

Packing for your trip

VPC 4 users can download the 3.4MB Test Drive installer, launch it, then direct the application to their PC image already residing on the OS 9 partition. Actually, this is quite clever, and it saves quite a bit of configuration time.

Once you have the Test Drive installed (I'll go more into that process later), it loads your Windows 98, 2000, ME, or NT environment right there in Mac OS X. This includes all of your VPC preferences and Windows applications. Test Drive parks itself on the dock and plays nice with the other kids. And I have to say that it's fun to minimize and maximize Windows 98 the same way you can iTunes and other OS X programs.

If you are not currently a VPC user, you need to purchase version 4.0.2, install it on your OS 9 partition, add your Windows applications, make sure everything runs smoothly, download VPC Test Drive, and install it on your Mac OS X partition. I definitely would call this the scenic route, so you'd better set aside a couple hours to make this trip.

That doesn't mean that existing owners won't encounter a few potholes too. The Test Drive only runs if VPC 4.0.2 and the 0006 Additions are installed on your OS 9 partition. If you're running an earlier version of VPC, or if you've never bothered to install the 0006 Additions, you need to do to so before launching Test Drive.

Comment on this articleDo you think Virtual PC for Mac OS X will be one of the first killer apps for Apple's new OS?
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As you might imagine, the system requirements for your Mac are pretty hefty to run VPC:

  • 192MB to 320MB RAM (depending on your performance tolerance)
  • 500MB to 1.5GB free hard disk space (depending on the version of Windows you install).
  • Mac OS 10.0.4

Once you have everything in place and launch VPC Test Drive for the first time, it will ask you for a registration number. Your existing VPC 4.0.2 number won't work. You need to go to the Test Drive Registration page, and provide your name, e-mail, and registration info so Connectix can send you a special number for the Test Drive.

Enter that new number when Test Drive prompts you to do so, and within a few seconds you'll have Windows running inside of Mac OS X.

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