Review: VMware Workstation 4.5

VMware Workstation 4.5
VMware, Inc.
Palo Alto, California
(650) 475-5000

Attentive readers will know that I've been a long-time user of VMware. So it's no surprise that I was happy to see a new version come out (and even happier that it's a free upgrade from 4.0). VMware, of course, is virtualization software that lets you run a virtual computer in a window on your main computer. Provided you have plenty of RAM, you can, for example, have a Windows XP computer and a Windows 2000 computer both running as virtual machines on a Windows Server 2003 box (in fact, that's the situation on my development computer right now). VMware lets you flexibly network the real and virtual computers, and makes it easy to switch from one to the other. This is great for testing new software, debugging client problems with obscure operating system variants, or just testing client-server systems when you only have a single computer.

Workstation 4.5 doesn't add any revolutionary features, but it does ratchet things up a bit in the ongoing rivalry with Microsoft's VirtualPC software. Here are a few of the things to like about the new version:

  • Support for the current Longhorn betas and the 2.6 series of Linux kernels.
  • Performance counters that track some of the key numbers for the virtual machines, available to the host computer's copy of PerfMon.
  • Support for virtual machines with up to 3.6GB of RAM (if only I had that much physical RAM in this box!)
  • PXE support, making it easier to set up new VMs using network administration tools.
  • Easier installation of USB devices.
  • A revised VMware tools installation.

Installing the update was pretty painless. It did require me to uninstall the previous version, but a thoughtful dialog box let me keep my existing software licenses in the registry. I also found that snapshots saved under 4.0 didn't want to open in 4.5, leading me to reboot some virtual machines that I'd suspended. But other than that, everything is still going smoothly - which is a good thing, because VMware is one of the applications that I use most frequently. If you haven't started using virtual machine technology for development, you're missing out.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy has been developing software for a quarter-century now, and writing about it for nearly as long. He walked away from a .NET development career in 2006 and has been a happy Rails user ever since. Mike blogs at A Fresh Cup.


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