It had been just over two years since I had had the (dis)pleasure of booting a Microsoft operating system. Two weeks ago I decided to see what all the fuss was about with Windows 7 and at the same time take a look at Parallels 5 Desktop for Mac. I hadn’t used Parallel’s since version 3 and I’d heard good things about it as well. Two birds with one stone.

And while I was at it, I figured I’d give Office 2010 and Visio 2010 a go as well. Certain sites that I make regular use of were developed by folks that haven’t heard of things like standards and W3C so I often find myself having to log onto a terminal server just to access information or open documents.

After downloading all the relevant installation files and obtaining all the appropriate license keys, I was ready to go.

The Parallel’s installation went off without a hitch and was super quick. Pretty unobtrusive and what I expected.

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I fired up Parallel’s for the first time and clicked on the button to install a new OS. I pointed it at my Windows 7 image and clicked next. It recognised it as a Windows 7 image and pretty much did everything else on it’s own. I gave the OS access to only one of my CPU cores and 2048GB of RAM. I also chose not to have any integration between Mac OS X and Windows as I would be uninstalling before the trial expired.

I couldn’t believe how quick the Windows 7 install was. I run the VM on an external LaCie 7200rpm disk connected with firewire 800, but even so, the installation was nothing like what I was used to with XP (I never installed or used Vista, so I have no idea what that installation process was like). I logged in for the first time, it did some stuff and was raring to go. First thing I did was take a snapshot, just in case I ended installing something that blatted my VM or I decided I wanted to go back to a clean install.

I played around with IE and some of the other apps that come bundled with Windows 7 and was very happy with the performance inside my VM. Considering that I gave it access to a fair amount of resources I was very happy that it wasn’t bringing my system to it’s knees.

Next I installed Office 2010 Beta and Visio 2010. Also went off without a hitch, but did require a fair amount of downloading of additional components. Not the end of the world. After the installation I took another snapshot. Again, just in case I wanted to get back to a near clean install. I opened up a few Word and Excel documents, a few diagrams in Visio and set up Outlook to connect to our Exchange server, again all without any issues. One thing I did find rather annoying was that every time one of the applications encountered some new feature it would need to install an add on from the Interweb. I suppose some of this will go away once the product is out of beta.

I had now completed installing everything I wanted to try out and so far so good. The apps all seemed pretty light and very very responsive in my VM. The combination of Parallel’s 5 and Windows 7 was leagues ahead of where I was some two years ago with Parallel’s 3 and XP. In fact, if Parallel’s runs a special anytime soon or gives me a big discount on upgrading from 3 to 5 I may actually consider leaving it installed for the odd occasion I needed to access a Terminal server. The prospect of keeping it patched and anti-virused and anti-malwared really doesn’t excite me, but I can always just revert to a snapshot if something bad happens.

I’m not really sure what all the fuss around Windows 7 is. It looks OK, but there isn’t really anything that jumps out at me as a killer feature. I guess it’s not XP or Vista and is apparently stable as a primary operating system. Maybe I’m just used to that with Mac OS X and FreeBSD ?

As an aside I’ve been playing with VMWare 3 as well, albeit not with Windows 7, but I really think that Parallel’s have taken it to the next level.

I’ll post any new revelations here as I come across them.