Win7 on a new 2011 13" MBA: BootCamp vs. Fusion/Parallels

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by Pedro Julio, Oct 31, 2011.

  1. Pedro Julio macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2011
    Location:
    Sometimes NC, Sometimes PA
    #1
    I have been doing some research on this subject, but it seems a rather...ahem...heated topic.

    I am interested in running Win7 for the purposes of MS Office 2010.*

    I will not be running anything intensive or processor hungry. Windows will be JUST for Office. Everything else is Mac-based. It would be ideal if one could bop back and forth between the Win&Mac, rather than having to reboot every time. For this reason I was thinking about virtualizing it with Fusion or Parallels. BUT...because the MBA is rather a different beast than a MBP I want to be sure it is feasible. I'm working with the latest rev, top-of-the-line 1.8 GHz i7 MBA with 4 GB of RAM. Not the previous, slightly anemic version.

    Can anyone tell me, honestly, and without getting into a heated, trollish, pissing contest: have you used BootCamp or one of the virtualizers to successfully and stably run Win7 and MS Office 2010 on an MBA of similar spec?

    Your feedback would be very much appreciated.

    Thanks

    *(Office for Mac has some obscure limitations to it that prevent my wife from seamlessly sharing documents with Windows-based peers. Random things like right-to-left fonts and ancient Greek characters.)
     
  2. Stetrain macrumors 68040

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2009
    #2
    I don't have any experience with the MBA specifically, I have an older 13" aluminum macbook.

    Going the VM route is probably best just for running Office. I think both Parallels and VMWare let you just have a normal OSX app icon for each Windows program you want to run, and the Windows apps will open and run in their own windows on your Mac desktop once everything is set up.

    The biggest issue will probably be RAM, since running OSX, your Mac apps, Windows, and Office will probably use quite a bit of it.
     
  3. jamesr19 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2009
    #3
    Definitely VM as you're not using much processing power. I prefer Parallels but install both as demos and buy the one you prefer. I find Parallels is faster and less resource intensive.

    Running as VM will give you better battery life than through Bootcamp (because Mac does the power management and the OS is optimised for the hardware). Disk space is also important on the MBA and VM allows you to have an adjustable HD so you can change its size whenever (as long as you don't shrink it too much)
     
  4. Pedro Julio, Oct 31, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2011

    Pedro Julio thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2011
    Location:
    Sometimes NC, Sometimes PA
    #4
    I appreciate the feedback, but I really am interested in first-hand experience with the newest MBA specifically.

    I am a VMWare guy myself. I use Fusion on a 2008 MBP 2.6 GHz with 4 GB RAM. I run Win7 Pro and use programs like Rhinoceros and SolidWorks on it without issue. No BootCamp...just a virtual machine.

    I wouldn't be asking anything like that of the Air, but it's a unique kind of machine with it's own quirks, so I'm trying to find out if it has any special quirks in this department.

    ----------

    Yeah, that's kinda what I suspected about BootCamp. I noticed that issue with my MBP, so I switched to VMWare. And it's the flexible HD size that sells me on Fusion over Parallels.

    Good feedback. Thanks!
     
  5. NutsNGum macrumors 68030

    NutsNGum

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2010
    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    #5
    It's absolutely feasible.

    I have a 13" i5 Air, I use Parallels and MS Office, and everything works perfectly.

    Don't fret if you're getting the i7. It'll run perfectly.
     
  6. Pedro Julio thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2011
    Location:
    Sometimes NC, Sometimes PA
  7. kjlake macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2010
    #7
    I currently run Win 7 as a VM on the 2011 Air using Fusion without any problems at all. If all you are interested in is running office 2010, it will handle that without difficulty. At least that has been my experience.
     
  8. 1BadMac macrumors 6502

    1BadMac

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2010
    #8
    I'm running bootcamp + VM Fusion on a 2011 13" Macbook Air. Only thing I've changed is adding a OWC 3rd Party higher capacity SSD. It works great and I would highly recommend looking into this option if you have the space to devote to it and also think you may go beyond just Office '10 to something more processor / resource intensive in the future.
     
  9. gglockner macrumors 6502

    gglockner

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Location:
    Bellevue, WA
    #9
    Have you discussed this with your wife? Is she going to be comfortable with two OSes, particularly with different idiosyncrasies? No matter how well you try to hide Windows, it still works differently than OS X, and vice versa. Simple and subtle things like menus, control keys, etc. are different. Not to mention the file system. Here is a simple use case: you write a Word document in Windows, then you want to use your Mac mail program to email the file. Now you have to go through the extra steps to pass the file from the Windows guest machine to the Mac host machine. It's not difficult, but it's an extra set of steps to remember, and it's definitely not seamless.

    It might just be easier to set her up with a pure Windows machine, rather than going through the extra steps of virtualization. You could do this via Boot Camp or simply by getting an inexpensive Windows box.

    I've got one of the 2010 MacBook Airs as well as a Mac Pro. I don't think the MBA has enough RAM to virtualize Windows effectively. When I need to use Windows on my MacBook Air, I prefer to open a VM on my Mac Pro and connect via Windows Remote Desktop. Of course, that only works when I have a pretty good network connection. The latest MBA should be better than mine in terms of CPU, but RAM is still a limiting factor. I wouldn't want to virtualize Windows 7 on a Mac that had less than 8GB of RAM.
     
  10. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2007
    Location:
    Sunny Florida
    #10
    I run Office 2010 in Parallels on my MBA, and it runs sweet. I did both Bootcamp and Parallels. Did Bootcamp so i could boot Windows native if i needed to, and Parallels to run Office and Quicken inside OSX. My wife and I both run the same setup. Running Office inside OSX with Parallels is a seamless experience. Their interface called Cohesión? does a pretty good job in hiding Windows.

    My MBA runs Windows better than any other laptop i've ever used. The SSD hides a lot of sins. My biggest problem is that I have not found a good disc imaging solution for my Bootcamp partition.

    ----------

    This is not your grandfather's MacBook. :D I run the entire Office 2010 suite including Vision and Project in a Windows 7 VM running Parallels, and my MBA doesn't skip a beat. I do have to admit it surprised the heck out of me...
     
  11. gglockner, Oct 31, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2011

    gglockner macrumors 6502

    gglockner

    Joined:
    Nov 25, 2007
    Location:
    Bellevue, WA
    #11
    Sure, you can run a Windows 7 VM on an MBA, but how much RAM are you going to assign to your Windows 7 VM? Windows 7 won't run well at all with less than 2GB of RAM. Do that on an MBA with 4GB of RAM, and you pretty much can't run anything simultaneously on the Mac without serious thrashing. Thrashing on an SSD isn't as ugly as thrashing on a hard drive, but it's still bad.

    But even with enough RAM, the OP's idea will lead to an experience that is far from seamless.
     
  12. johnhurley macrumors 6502a

    johnhurley

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2011
    #12
    My machine is new mba 2011 13 i5 256 gb ssd. Currently setup with a 80 gb win 7 bootcamp partition.

    Theoretically win 7 in bootcamp can also run as vm under parallels or fusion or virtual box. I ran into some very strange bricking behavior on 3 successive macbook pro's though so now converted over to the air and have ( so far ) avoided that combination of vm's running off a bootcamp partition. If you are really going to run win 7 under a vm I would not use bootcamp as the source ( just my opinion ).

    I do have office 2011 on the mac os x side and it works well usually causing me to not have to bring up the win 7 bootcamp side. When using bootcamp though the mba runs win 7 natively just flawlessly and fast and some people just keep their mba's as dedicated win 7 machines.

    The other major complication in running bootcamp ( or any windows vm ) is you probably need 2 backup strategies. One strategy for the os x side ( typically time machine based ) and the other for the win 7 side. I for one do not quite understand why there is not some vendor making a little cash with a nice integrated comprehensive solution for backup that gets both sides but talking about that area also gets people excited sometimes ( sigh ).

    ----------

    I think it will do pretty good with 1 gb ( or a tad over ) depending on what combination of things you are trying to run on it simultaneously.
     
  13. Abazigal macrumors 604

    Abazigal

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2011
    Location:
    Singapore
    #13
    Pardon me for being dense, but is there a reason why so many people here apparently prefer to run Office on Windows bootcamped from OSX, rather than install Office for Mac? I am using the latter, and to be honest, the only thing stopping me from jumping ship to Iworks is the fact my entire workplace use office, and I don't wish to risk compatibility issues. Something is very wrong with the software when Word can hang on an Imac with 8gb ram. :mad:

    To me, part of the beauty of OSX is well, using it, not to install windows to run off it. If that is the case, then I may as well just buy a normal laptop at half the price. :confused:
     
  14. NutsNGum macrumors 68030

    NutsNGum

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2010
    Location:
    Glasgow, Scotland
    #14
    You're pardoned.

    Licensing is an issue. Some people may already own MS Office for PC and do not with to purchase it again just to use it on OSX.

    Some people play games and use other software packages which aren't available on OSX, but don't like Dell/Acer/Whatever. So they have the option of buying a Mac and putting Windows on it.

    Bootcamp may not be important to you, but it was one of the main selling points that helped convince me to switch to Mac in the first place. Knowing that all my old software could still be used without having to re-learn new packages or purchase Mac versions of them. It's brilliant.
     
  15. Abazigal macrumors 604

    Abazigal

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2011
    Location:
    Singapore
    #15
    Well, to be honest, I am tempted to install windows so I can run some of my older games like neverwinter nights, prototype and baldur's gate, but was turned off by the thought of having to pay for a copy of windows. :(

    I can see the allure when it comes to running certain windows-only software, but when an OSX equivalent already exists...I guess for me, springing for the mac office version seems well worth the convenience. :)

    For me, I guess it was convenient that my old PC was using office 2003, and my retail store was offering Office for Mac at a 30% discount, so it was a foregone conclusion. :p
     
  16. Pedro Julio, Nov 1, 2011
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2011

    Pedro Julio thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2011
    Location:
    Sometimes NC, Sometimes PA
    #16
    You answered for me right there. Compatibility with peers. I use Office for Windows in Fusion on my MBP just in case. Most documents are fine in Office for Mac, but there are occasional issues. I also use Keynote over Powerpoint whenever I can bother to reformat things. (I wish iWork were the standard :( )

    For those that asked: Yes, my wife is fine with Windows already. She wants to make the leap to Mac because she much prefers it, but she still needs MS Office for Windows because she needs to finish writing her dissertation. She has had two PCs die on her during this project and is just fed up with them. Trouble is that she needs Office for Windows because that is what all of her files have been written with. Opening them in Office for Mac causes all kinds of formatting issues, doesn't let her sort tables by more than 2 data points, and only Windows allows the use of all kinds of obscure and esoteric type faces that are not supported in the Mac version. (Akkadian, Ancient Hebrew, Ancient Greek, Cuneiform, etc.)

    Also, saving a Word document in Windows and emailing it in Mac is no issue at all: you just drag the file from the Windows desktop to the Mac desktop, and email it as normal. Done and done. Then you can chuck the copy on the Mac side to prevent unwanted duplication. Everything is stored on Dropbox anyway, so she could get it that way too. If she wants to migrate that Virtual Machine to a desktop later on, then she can do that. And if it gets corrupted we can just dump it and start fresh without losing data.

    Another point: I've tried installing Win7 using BootCamp and then using VMWare Fusion to access that BootCamp partition, but I ran into all kinds of licensing issues with Win7 that made it show up as valid in BootCamp and as a pirated copy in Fusion. It was a royal pain that Microsoft, Apple, and VMWare were either unwilling or unable to help me with. So the hell with that....

    So, bottom line....it sounds like this will be a feasible solution for me. I know it sounds strange to some, and it may not be ideal for others, but this sounds like it will work for my purposes.

    I sincerely appreciate all of your input. It has been extremely helpful.
     
  17. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2007
    Location:
    Sunny Florida
    #17
    Windows 7 runs perfectly fine with 2GB of RAM inside a VM on an MBA. As a Windows user for umpteenth years, I have seen Windows in many configurations. Windows on the MBA has been the smoothest and best performing.

    I am also not sure what you mean by "seamless". Inside OS X I click on the icon for Word 2010, it launches like if was a native OS X app, and it runs inside a window. The Coherence UI in Parallels is at seamless as it gets. At least in my book.
     
  18. Chafka macrumors member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2007
    #18
    I currently run Win 7 inside VMWare Fusion on my MBA 13" (3 weeks old). I initially set aside 2 processors and 2 GB of ram. I have reduced this to 1.5 GB of ram due to a message I got one time when starting up the VM (something about not enough memory to start VM or something). I am currently running Microstation v8.1 (CAD program) and Primavera P6v8.1 (Project Management/Scheduling Program) with no problems.

    I have to say however, that there is one thing that I wish I could do. I wish I could utilize my Mac programs in the VM to do my work. The only way I can connect to my work VPN is through windows - my mac has my microsoft office programs. When I try to open the documents from windows (network shares) in Word, it will open, but only read-only. Ah well, thats for another discussion.

    Oh one more thing. Microstation is fairly graphics intensive and it feels like the mouse is moving through jello a lot when doing CAD. This appears to be a known bug so I cannot find a work around. But again, that is due to the high end graphics requirements.
     
  19. ZBoater macrumors G3

    ZBoater

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2007
    Location:
    Sunny Florida
    #19
    That's why I did Parallels AND Bootcamp, so I could boot native into Windows for maximum performance if I needed it.
     
  20. KPOM macrumors G5

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2010
    #20

    In order for that to work, you need to install VMWare Tools and then activate a 2nd time when running Windows within the virtual machine. After that it should work OK. Depending on how many times you have activated Windows, you might need to go through the phone activation system, but that takes only a few minutes. Since I purchased my Windows 7 license in October 2009, I have upgraded my Mac a few times (Rev B to Rev D 13" to Rev D 11" to Rev E 11"), on the VM and Boot Camp, and have always been able to get activation to work, though I did have to call the phone activation time a few times.
     
  21. Pedro Julio thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2011
    Location:
    Sometimes NC, Sometimes PA
    #21
    Yeah, that's the process I followed. Did it a couple of times actually, and worked from a proof-read checklist. Once with the Microsoft tech on the phone even. Still didn't take. Worked for 2 days before the issue came up again. Didn't know what to make of it, and it got to be a bigger hassle than it was worth, so I abandoned the idea.
     
  22. newConvert macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2006
    #22
    I installed windows 7 on an external drive w/ parallels. Saves space, and seems just as quick as if it was loaded on the ssd... that being said I don't really do anything too intensive on the windows side.

    edit: shoudl say the parallels itself is on my mba, but the windows vm is not.
     
  23. heyloo macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2006
    Location:
    NY
    #23
    I have Win7 running on Parallels on my MBA, working great so far. I set aside 2 cores and 1GB RAM for now and no issues~
     
  24. ZipZap macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2007
    #24
    I run win 7 on parallels with 512K Mem and 512K Graphics...works fine. Everyone always neglects to consider its on an SSD and windows creates virtual memory.

    I suppose for heavy hitting applications I may have an issue but for quicken, etc....nada

    ----------

    I dont use Office in my VM, but to be fair I only paid 9.95 for my Office 2011 Mac. If that were not the case, I would haved used Windows as I have a 2 PC install License.

    ----------

    Hmm...Interesting thought.
    What kind of drive and interface you using?

    Although my Windows 7 VM is only 14GB on my MBA.
     
  25. newConvert macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2006
    #25
    Its just USB, I think the drive was from an old macbook? I need windows from when I work from home, so I can log into the company network, works really well.

    That being said if you wanted to do something really intensive, I'd imagine it'd slow down.
     

Share This Page