VMware vs Virtual PC

I say VMware, no contest. Tony Ring is pulling for Virtual PC:

First off, I last saw you way back in the TechTV days – the Screensavers with Kate and Leo. Sadly, TechTV jumped the shark for me when that show morphed out of existence. Tonight I was cruising the net looking for help with Vista problems and ran into you on YouTube, watched some of your videos on Vista, and wound up here.

I have a suggestion for your scanner and fax problems under Vista. Microsoft Virtual PC 2007. I believe that they give it away for just this reason. So, you might be thinking that it’s crazy for them to expect you to use some other product to work around the issues Vista DOES have, etc. etc.

Let me digress. I am an independent software consultant. I make my bucks doing implementation and configuration work for fat monsters like Oracle PeopleSoft. It keeps me traveling and my wife on a perpetual shopping spree, so all is good I suppose.

The nature of what I do means I deal with multiple large clients that each have private networks with BIG IT BOSS GUY security schemes. They give me access to do my thing, but it quickly became impossible for me to reconfigure my laptop to each different network environment every time I visited a client. Because of this I was forced into using Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 and now 2007.

I set up completely independent virtual environments for each client with all their domain crap, Novell crap, and you name it crap. When I get to their site I fire up the virtual machine I have for them and literally pick up where I left off when last working there. As a side benefit, I’ve gravitated toward keeping all of my files related to that client in their virtual machine instance. It’s really awesome and I can’t think of life without it.

Digressing further – you may wonder how I get away with all these “different” copies of XP? Well, I think this is legal so I will explain. Virtual PC has a thing called a Differencing Disk. It works like this. You create a base virtual machine and load your one licensed copy of XP on it and activate it. Then you configure another virtual machine as a Differencing Disk off of the base virtual machine. You can then customize the differencing instance as much as you like without changing the base disk in any way. Need to set up a second special instance? Just create a new differencing disk and customize it for the new client. You can effectively set up the same XP instance a dozen different ways. So long as I don’t use more than one instance at a time I’m pretty sure it’s legal. The nice thing is that when you’re done with a differencing disk – like you tried some new software and decided you really don’t want it – you just delete the disk and set up a new one. Nice and clean. You never have to reinstall XP again. Great stuff.

Well, this started out as a tip for you, so I guess I better get there.

I too have problems with my scanner at home and MUST have it to scan my weekly receipts and bill my clients. Vista choked on it. What did I do? I set up a differencing disk virtual machine running XP and installed my scanner on it. I also installed everything I need to make it a nice place to go and do my weekly billing. All in one package. I fire it up, do my work, shut it down and go back to wrestling with Vista and enjoying every minute of it.

In this way it’s easy for me to keep Vista.

Why do all this to keep Vista?

I’ve only been running Vista Business for a month or so now, but I can tell you the networking seems much more secure for someone who is on the road a lot. It is much, much better at handling rapidly changing network environments. My fingers would wear down if I tried to explain all the issues I used to run into with XP. My best guess is that some of the environments I used to hook into would push firewall rules or something into XP that would then cripple my ability to connect to other network environments. It was maddening. Vista is, thankfully, completely immune to this so far. What a relief!

I have other problems with Vista, and I’m just learning it. I was watching your video and realized the virtual pc route might save Vista for you.

Virtual PC may be free, but VMware is still better (for all the reasons I’ve previously explained). If all you want to do is test software, then I suppose Virtual PC is perfect – but if you’re looking for full power and compatibility, you have to look far beyond what Microsoft is handing out.