updated 10:05 am EDT, Thu September 18, 2008
First Look: Fusion 2.0
No matter how much you may love your Mac, there may be at least a handful of Windows programs that don't have an equivalent Mac OS X version. Rather than buy a separate machine, of course, you can always use Boot Camp to turn your Mac into a PC. However, a more practical solution may be to run Windows inside a virtual machine using Fusion 2.0.
Unlike older virtualization programs, which mimic the complete configuration of a PC, apps such as Fusion essentially trick operating systems into thinking they have exclusive hardware access. Mac OS X runs in the background, while any additional operating systems run inside a window.
The real advantage of running another operating system is to access programs unavailable on Mac OS X, which usually means running a Windows program. Since loading Windows and then navigating through the Start menu to load a particular program can be clumsy, you can skip this process using a special Unity feature. Unity lets you treat your favorite Windows program as just another Mac OS X icon, which you can drop into the Dock.
Because Windows is infamous for crashing, you can protect yourself using a special Snapshot feature, which essentially freezes the state of Windows at a particular moment. If Windows then crashes, or is wrecked by a virus, you can use the Snapshot feature to return the OS to an earlier state. Naturally, you'll lose any changes you may have made since.
Snapshots can only protect you, however, if you take the time to save them. For convenience Fusion uses the AutoProtect feature, which will automatically capture snapshots at periodic intervals. This increases the hard disk space needed, but does provide an additional layer of security.
To keep Windows safe from malware infections, the program also includes a complimentary 12-month subscription to McAfee VirusScan. After this subscription expires, you'll need to pay for additional protection.
Besides installing Windows off a CD or DVD, you can also run Windows directly from a Boot Camp partition, or even convert a virtual machine from Parallels. If you have an existing Windows PC, you can run a converter program that will transfer your Windows programs and settings into a virtual machine on your Mac. Although this process isn't difficult, it does involve multiple steps that make the whole process more complicated than necessary.
One area where the Mac trails Windows is in the availability of games. For enthusiasts the program now supports DirectX 9.0, allowing Mac owners to play more graphically advanced titles.
Fusion 2.0 gives any Intel-based Mac the ability to run multiple operating systems safely, and relatively easily. At $79.99, Fusion 2.0 is also a fairly inexpensive solution for keeping a Mac while accessing vast amounts of Windows titles.