Running Windows on a MBA

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by franmatt80, Jul 13, 2011.

  1. franmatt80 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 11, 2010
    I'm looking to pick up an 11" for work. Only problem is that I very occasionally need to access our central folders on the VPN, which can only be done through Windows - I have VMWare on my MBP and just boot it up on the odd occasion I need it.

    What's the least space-hungry way to do this on an MBA? Is it better to run Bootcamp instead of VMW? Is there an alternative that takes up less space? Could you store it and run it from from a USB key or something similar?

    Thanks for your advice...
  2. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Apr 2, 2006
    Shropshire, UK
    To take up the least possible space, I'd recommend VMWare Fusion or Parallels and put the VM onto an external disk: You could put it on a thumb drive I guess but it would be very slow and I'm not sure how long the thumb drive would last (they're not really designed for continuous use like that)

    Bootcamp will take up the most space as you need to allocate the maximum you'll need and it will immediately take it away from OS X. A Virtual Machine on your SSD will take up the amount of space that is in use.

    I believe you can install bootcamp onto an external drive but it's a bit fiddly
  3. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    With bootcamp you don't need an additional application, just the OS, so strictly speaking that is the most space friendly option.

    I'd prefer VMware only because I don't have to leave OSX ;)
  4. alecgold macrumors 65816


    Oct 11, 2007
    I have it on a MBA 13" ultimate with parallels and it eats around 10Gb. When I used bootcamp in the past, I think it used around 15-20Gb and that was cramped. advanatage of using VM/Parallels is that the free space is "compressed" when the system is not in use, Bootcamp needs a fixed amount of space.
    On the my air it runs really fine with XP, even when I have lots of other programs open and two windows XP sessions running.
  5. Hyper-X macrumors 6502a

    Jul 1, 2011
    First of all what OS is your VPN client designed to run on? The reason I'm asking is because if you can use XP instead of Win7, that's the route I'd suggest. XP has a smaller install footprint and if you only need it to use your client, there's no need to use Win7.

    Next, Bootcamp doesn't necessarily mean a larger install, you can allocate the size of the bootcamp (windows) partition. However with bootcamp it means you'll need to restart your Mac to choose the Windows installation (dual boot). The biggest issue here is time since you'll be booting between each OS.

    My suggestion is to employ VM software like Fusion or Parallels. Both are good however I found Parallels to be a bit faster (not by much, maybe a few seconds). You make the choice.

    XP requires around 1.5-2GB of HDD space to install, if you don't intend on putting a lot of files/apps onto the Windows VM, keep the install small to around 5-10GB. Just make sure you manually set the HD size in the VM software before you start the Windows install. Also set your RAM to about 512-768MB for XP.
  6. Young Spade macrumors 68020

    Mar 31, 2011
    Tallahassee, Florida
    Seeing as you aren't doing any CPU intensive tasks, I would say Parallels would be your best option. You get to choose the size of the hard drive, it's compressed when you aren't using it, AND you don't have to restart the machine to access it.

    When doing CPU intensive tasks, bootcamp would be the best option, however if you're doing simple things like retrieving and sending files or whatever, loading up Parallels and Windows XP/7 only takes a few minutes and can easily be closed or suspended whenever you aren't using it. Personally I just suspend the OS (sleep mode basically) so it only takes around 2 minutes to get back into it from any point in time.

    You're just going to have to pay for Parallels... and you should also see if it works with Lion; the last time I checked (there's this extensive list somewhere), VMWare did NOT work with Lion and Parallels did with some complications. Don't quote me on this though as I don't know how extensive that was nor do I know if that changed with the final version of Lion.

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