When I switched to the Mac five years ago, I brought Windows along for the ride. VMware Fusion is one of a few pieces of software that allow your Mac to ‘host’ a large number of ‘guest’ operating systems. This virtualization software presents an environment to the guest operating system that seems like a real computer, but it’s entirely constructed of software. After starting VMware fusion for the first time, you need to either download a virtual machine or create your own. In my case, I wanted Windows, so I had to install Windows into its own virtual machine. Once I had done that, I had a great big file on my hard drive called WindowsXP. To run Windows, all I have to do is start VMware Fusion, select WindowsXP, choose ‘Start,’ and watch Windows boot in a window on my Mac. It’s really surreal the first few times.

Getting files in and out of the virtual machine might seem problematic. The computer doesn’t really exist, after all! Happily, it’s not at all difficult. The virtual machine exists on your local network, alongside all of your other hardware so you can connect to any shared resources, including the host computer. When you install the guest operating system, VMware Fusion suggests that you creates a network share to your home folder on the Mac. Do that and you’re golden.

When I started using the Mac, my Windows virtual machine had most of the applications installed that I used on my old Windows system. Over time, I found suitable replacements on the Mac, and I used Windows less and less. Then at work, we moved to Macs even though the core application we used, Adobe FrameMaker, runs only on Windows. We used VMware Fusion for FrameMaker so I created a virtual machine specifically for my use when I worked at home. I used it often and it worked without issue.

I was laid off and no longer use VMware Fusion for work. In fact, the only use I’ve had to the software is to install and play with Windows 8. Not being crazy about Windows 8, to put it politely, VMware Fusion hasn’t seen a lot of use. I’ve downloaded some Linux virtual machines intending on refamiliarizing myself with the operating system, but it’s not a big priority and there’s always something else I want to do more.

Then earlier this week I read that VMware has announced Fusion 6, and the main feature is compatibility with OS X 10.9 Mavericks, the next version of the Mac operating system. So if I want to use Fusion after I upgrade the operating system, I have to upgrade Fusion. Fusion costs $60, or if you have one of the previous two version, the upgrade cost is $50. My first thought was, “$50? I’m not paying that!” It’s funny because that’s often my reaction when new versions of software are announced. Then it quickly occurred to me that my knee-jerk reaction was absolute fact this time. I don’t need Fusion any more. If I want to have a Windows virtual machine ready in case I need one, or if I want to fool around with Linux, I can use VirtualBox, a free open-source virtualization software package. I wouldn’t depend on it for my livelihood, but just for experimenting, it will serve.

Fusion was a must-have piece of software the whole time I had a Mac…until now.

Graphic © 2013 VMware, Inc.