How do you run windows when your primary OS is not Windows (need help)

My laptop is a Macbook. It runs Mac OS X. While the OS is awesome, it's not the most popular one. This would mean that there's software that is only made for Windows. And it's software that is custom, specific and generally cannot be changed for another software [running on OS X].

There is however one piece of software which even though it runs on OS X, I want on Windows. And that is Microsoft Office. MS Office for Mac OS X sucks. The ribbon interface is so ugly on Mac, the menus so different. And it deleted one of my presentations (while presenting it !!!). Don't even get me started on OpenOffice, iWork and all the copycats. When everyone around you is using MS Office, you have to use it too. Period.

So we agreed that I need Windows

The most common thing to do is get a virtual machine. I was using VMWare Fusion with one Windows XP and one Windows 7 installation for quite a while. The problem is the HDD. It just can't keep up with both machines (the host and the virtual). While stopping the swapping in the virtual machine can help, it doesn't fix the problem. And I have the fastest plate hdd available - 7200 rpm, a lot of cache. Also getting a lot of RAM also helps considerably - I have 4GB but the issue with the HDD remains.

I went to the competition

People said that VirtualBox and Parallels would do the job better. I tried VirtualBox for a day. Importing failed due to hardware inconsistencies and even while loading it just made the host os unresponsive. So I guess the competition doesn't do the thing better. What next?

What about remoting?

Using a dedicated machine that stays somewhere and logging on it only when needing windows could do the job. This means I have to buy an extra machine. Remoting would mean that I would need net constantly. And Remote Desktop for Mac is pretty bad. I could always switch to TeamViewer (also available for my phone), but it is not the best either. Also copying stuff while using my phone's 3G is not viable if the stuff is in the hundreds of megabytes scale.

What about SSD?

While the classic HDDs are good for working on serial pieces of data, SSDs shouldn't have the problem working in parallel with 2 streams of data. I have a friend who bought 50GB OCZ drive and he says his machine now went supersonic (a lot faster). The drive was like 130 euros. I can't work with 50GB. 128GB could maybe do the job but it's going to be tough. And buying a bigger one would be very expensive. Also I haven't asked how does this drive behave with a VM. It's important to do so.

And no I would NOT install Windows

...or get a Windows laptop. No way. No BootCamp either.

Conclusion: I need help

This problem would be relevant for everyone using any OS that is not Windows. So, people-not-using-windows, PLEASE HELP ME decide what to do.

6 thoughts on “How do you run windows when your primary OS is not Windows (need help)”

  1. Вземи си още памет, и си действай с виртуалката. Аз така правя - с VirtualBox.
    Тънката работа е да предпазиш RAM-та на guest-а да не влезе в swap-а на host-а, щото тогава става страшно. 🙂 Иначе, swap-а на самия host не е толкова фатално да си работи, въпреки че ако имаш достатъчно памет, е по-добре да го няма, разбирасе. Аз си ползвам най-редовно един VirtualBox с Windows XP за офисни задачки, и нямам оплаквания. Е, като изключим RAM-та, де.

  2. I seem to have somehow missed the fact that the post was in English. Translated:

    Buy more memory, and soldier on with the VM solution. It's what I do - using VirtualBox.
    The trick is to keep the RAM of the guest from being swapped out on the host - if it does, things tend to go bad, quickly. The paging mechanism of the guest isn't of such great concern, however, if you've got the memory, things will certainly be faster if you disable it. I routinely use a VirtualBox VM with Windows XP for my office tasks, and I'm quite happy, especially with the "Seamless Integration" mode.

    You could also try a hybrid SSD disk.

    1. The trick with disabling swapping on the client was found some time ago. I even blogged about it here.

      120 GB OCZ Agility2 (one of the fastest SSDs) is around 170 pounds still pretty expensive.

  3. At least 5 of my colleagues are working on MacBooks. They even tried to convince me to get one. But I am not in experimental mood this year 🙂

    Anyway, I cannot talk form my experience, but they talk about Prallels - this solves the problem. Why don't you give it a chance?

    1. I skipped Parallels because it couldn't import my VMWare Fusion images and was pretty lazy to install windows from scrap.

      I'll give it a try. But first I'll check my HDD for errors, cause it seems that I might have bad sectors or something ugly. This could be dragging my machine down.

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