VMware Workstation 7, VMware Player and Microsoft Virtual PC

A little over a week ago,  I was pleasantly surprised by an email from VMware announcing the  release of VMware Workstation 7. Since I actively participated in the beta, they gave me a free license key for the new version. That’s reason enough to love it in itself! But, to be honest, I have been using VMware Workstation for quite some time now. I vaguely remember Y2K testing with it back when is was an IT pup. Since I got the fresh copy, I decided to completely redo my laptop with a fresh install of Winders 7 and all of my handy convenience programs (Office, TortoiseSVN,  TweetDeck, FeedDemon, Firefox, Pandora, etc.). Since Winders 7 and IE8 have some compatability issues with some things, I decided to create a hybrid of what I did when I ran Ubuntu as the host OS. Since I was making things fresh, I created a Winders 2003 template then spawned a VM to host all of my favorite tools for VMware. I will most likely create spawns of the template for other things, like SAN tools. This gives me modules to do the job of the day and portability in case the host crashes.

So, let’s say I didn’t get a free copy of Workstation. What are the options? Would I be able to justify the $189 for it? Let’s look at some of the differences, starting with the free stuff:

Windows Virtual PC

The newest version of Windows Virtual PC is available as a free download. I want to say that I did NOT download or install it, so my comparison is based on marketing materials from the Evil Empire’s site.

Pros

  • It’s free
  • “Access your Windows 7 Known Folders.” I think this compares to shared folders, but it looks like it may be limited to the folders in the “Libraries.”
  • USB Support
  • Clipboard Sharing
  • Seamless Applications. It sounds like their version of unity, which I almost never use anyway.
  • It supports Windows XP mode in Windows 7

Cons

  • Requires AMD-V or Intel-VT CPU feature. They list this as a feature…
  • It only runs on specific versions of Winders (The newest version only runs or Win7)
  • It only runs Winders guests
  • No VM Teams
  • No snapshots

VMware Player

The newest version of VMware Player is also available as a free download. It also installs when you install Workstation. Unlike previous versions, this new version allows you to create VMs.

Pros

  • Its free
  • Easily share ANY folder
  • USB Support
  • Clipboard Sharing
  • Unity mode
  • Supports many versions of Windows and Linux for host and Guest Operating systems
  • It supports Windows XP mode in Windows 7

Cons

  • No VM Teams
  • No Snapshots
  • No Clones

VMware Workstation 7

The newest version of VMware Workstation is available for free download for a 30 day evaluation.

Pros

  • Easily share ANY folder
  • USB Support
  • Clipboard Sharing
  • Unity mode
  • Supports many versions of Windows and Linux for host and Guest Operating systems
  • VM Teams
  • Multiple Snapshots
  • Automatic VM Backups

Cons

  • Not free

As you can see, even VMware Player offers much more than Windows Virtual PC. It supports Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 users, and it does it even better than Virtual PC. You do, however need to use VMware Converter to change the Windows XP VHD to a VMDK. It also supports many more operating systems as hosts and guests. It even supports more versions of Windows. This MAY be good enough, but not for me. Here are the features I most like about VMware Workstation:

VM Teams

The idea of a VM Team is similar to then new vApp found in vSphere, but it has been in workstation for quite some time. I guess I should say that the vSphere vApp is similar to a VM Team. It allows you to create a set of VMs that work with each other. You can set startup delays, bandwidth throttling, etc. It offers you a thumbnail view of all of the VMs in the team as well.

VM Team

Multiple Snapshots

The ability to take multiple snapshots has been around for a while, too. It allows you to take snapshots on the fly and revert to a point in time if needed. This comes in handy for developers testing code. I use it for a few things. I have a “Virtual Data Center” set up with an ESX server, and ESXi server and a vCenter Server. I have it set up with snapshots at certain states of the installation process. If I need to create a script for a certain task or create a dcoument, I can create a linked clone of the team based on a certain point in the process.

Snapshot Manager

AutoProtect

The new AutoProtect feature is my favorite. It automatically creates snapshots to back up your VM. You can set it to create restore points every hal-hour, hour or day and how many snapshots to retain. It will tell you how many hourly, daily and weekly snapshots it will keep and how much additional disk space it expects to use. Its great for me because I sometimes forget to take a snapshot before installing something.

AutoProtect

Free VMware Workstation Training!

VMware is offering a self-paced online course to introduce you to VMware Workstation. It covers many of the important features.

Conclusion

As a technical professional, you really cannot do without the features provided by VMware Workstation. There are so many things that you can do with it that you can’t do with Virtual PC or VMware Player that it should justify the cost. Looking for a free copy? If you are in the Philadelphia area on November 19th, consider attending the PAVMUG meeting, you may just win a copy. My next post will be covering what is planned for this day.

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