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VMware Fusion 2.0 first look: Time Machine-like functionality, tighter Mac, Linux integration

By John Rizzo
September 17, 2008

After releasing several public betas this summer, VMware yesterday shipped VMware Fusion 2.0, a major new version of the virtualization software for Mac OS X on Intel Macs. The new version includes over 100 new features, including tighter integration of Windows and Linux with Mac OS X, better 3D graphics support, and on-the-fly resizing of virtual disks. And a combination of new features gives Fusion 2.0 functionality similar to Leopard's Time Machine, enabling a user to restore Windows to one of many previously saved state. VMware Fusion 2.0 a free upgrade for current Fusion owners.

Two new features enable the Time Machine-like behavior. One is the ability to save multiple snapshots, a feature that VMware Workstation for Windows has had. The other is a new feature is called Auto-Protect, which adds the ability to automatically record snapshots at set intervals, such as hourly, daily or weekly. A snapshot is an image of the virtual hard drive. It includes the data on the hard drive, the Windows configuration for that virtual machine. Each new snapshop contains changes to the previous one. If Windows gets infected by a virus or otherwise goes south, or you accidentally delete data, you can role the virtual machine back to one of past dates.

Fusion 2 also comes with a 12-month subscription of McAffee Virus Scan Plus. You don't have to worry about installing it, as Fusion will ask you if you want to install it or not.

Unfortunately, Fusion 2.0 still doesn't give you the option of to declining to save changes to the state (the snapshot) when you quit the virtual machine, an ability that the old Virtual PC had. This was the ultimate virust protection strategy: saving data files to the Mac side and not saving the state of Windows.

Mac OS X integration

Integration between with Mac OS X and guest OS's continues to improve. Fusion 2.0's new Mirrored Folders feature displays the contents of the Mac OS X Documents, Desktop, Music, and Pictures folders in the equivalent Windows folders (My Documents, etc.). Windows Explorer sees the mirrored folders, which means you can access the Mac Documents folder from Windows Explorer. (For those looking for the technical explanation, Mirrored Folders uses the Windows shell redirect function.)

VMware has improved the Unity feature, which enables users to hide the Windows desktop. VMware Fusion can now start up in Unity mode, so that the Windows desktop isn't seen at all. Unity is also supported for some versions of Linux running in a virtual machine.

A new feature called Shared Applications launches Windows applications as the default app to open specificed Mac document types. It also works the other way: Mac applications can open when a Windows file is double-clicked.

This also applies to links in a web browser. For instance, you can set it up such that when in a Mac browser, clicking a web email link can open a Windows email application, and vice versa. Clicking a link in an Outlook email message could open the web page in Safari.

A keyboard mapping feature defaults to enabling you to use Mac keyboard commands in Windows, and lets you change the mapping. It Also gives you equivalents to keys that don't exist on the Mac keyboard, such as F16.

Perhaps the ultimate Mac OS X integration feature is to run Mac OS X in a virtual machine. Apple doesn't allow that, but Fusion 2 does let you run Leopard Server in a virtual machine. (Parallels has a separate server product, Parallels Server for Mac.)

Improved Graphics

Fusion has lagged behind Parallels Desktop in 3D graphics, previously supporting DirectX 8.1 (Parallels 3 supports DirectX 9.) Fusion 2 supports DirectX 9 Shader Model 2. Microsoft Photosynth runs very smoothly in Fusion 2. (VMware said that AutoCAD runs better than in previous versions.)

Fusion 2 now supports multiple monitors includes displaying the Windows desktop across multiple monitors and dragging Windows application windows across displays when the Unity feature is turned on. Full-screen windows can be on one display or all displays. VMware said that Fusion 2.0 supports up to 10 monitors connected to a Mac, though Mac OS X "only" supports 8. The VMware web site shows a video demonstration of Windows on 8 monitors connected to one Mac.

Other improvements

Other improvements include:

  • Installation: The Guess the Guest feature recognizes the guest OS when the installer disk is inserted. This applies to Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X Server.
  • Fusion now auto-installs VMware Tools in Linux guest OS's.
  • You can now resize virtual disks with a slider. You also don't have to partition within Windows.
  • The ability to convert a Boot Camp partition to a virtual machine
  • Improved Windows networking: Windows guests now able to join Active Directory domain with NAT networking if WINS is enabled in Mac OS X; various other improvements with NAT networking
  • Windows virtual machines can print to any printer attached to the Mac, without additional setup
  • Improvements in shared folders between Mac OS X and Windows
  • Improved USB performance, robustness; support for graphics tablets and mice with more than three buttons
  • Imports, from within Fusion, virtual machines from Virtual PC and Parallels Desktop
  • Now includes a VNC server for remote control (Leopard has a built-in VNC server)
  • You can run a scripting language, VMRun, from Terminal command line

If you've tried VMware Fusion 2

See also our VMware Fusion Tips and Reports page.

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Copyright 2008 John Rizzo. All rights reserved.