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Booting Windows XP on MacBook

windows-xp-in-virtualboxAfter procrastinating for too long, I’ve finally gotten around to installing Windows XP into my MacBook. I’m impressed, Windows XP boots up in 20 seconds. It has never been that fast on my other previous computers. It’s not even running natively on my MacBook (i.e. via Boot Camp). I never really like dual-booting to choose and switch between two operating systems. I want to have both OS environments at the same time. Virtualization is the solution to what I need.

I’m now using VirtualBox on my MacBook. It’s a really great virtualization software similar to VMware and Parallels (both of which can run on a Mac OS X host computer). What’s even greater about VirtualBox is that it’s free, and opensource. VMware’s free editions, VMware Player and VMware Server, do not support Mac OS X hosts. At any rate, VMware Player is “crippled”, and VMware Server isn’t quite so suitable to run on a desktop/notebook environment. That makes VirtualBox about the only decent free virtualization software available on Mac OS X.

In fact, VirtualBox is a lot more than merely “decent”. It has all the features of Parallels and VMware, including Guest OS additions which provide enhancements such as mouse pointer integration, accelerated graphics performance and arbitrary screen resolutions. This is a lot better than other opensource virtualization software.

VirtualBox is not new. In fact, I first heard about it last year, but was not impressed when at that time hardware virtualization support was not available on Mac OS X hosts. Since then, the Mac OS X version has been brought up on par with the other host OSes supported (which include Windows, Linux and Solaris). VirtualBox is backed by Sun Microsystems, which could explain the high quality and usability and polished interfaces.

Back to my Windows XP installation. It’s been something I’ve been wanting to get done for a long time. Most of the time I can survive entirely on Mac OS X, since just about everything I need can be done natively in Mac OS X. But our world is so entrenched with Microsoft Windows that there are still a bunch of things that are unavoidable. Like our dear IRAS tax portal, which absolutely requires Internet Explorer (I tried unsuccessfully with Safari and Firefox). Or the Nokia Software Update application used to upgrade firmware on Nokia phones. So just for these few rare occasions, I would need Windows XP around.

As mentioned, my Windows XP booted in 20 seconds. That was with SP2. After upgrading to SP3, and installing all the security updates, my Windows XP now boots in 26 seconds. This is from the time the VM has been initialized and just about the begin loading the OS, to the time that the Windows XP desktop is ready to be used. It’s fast, but that could be because the host OS has cached lots of the disk reads.

I’m delighted that now I have easy access to a Windows XP desktop at any time.

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