VMWare! It’s a miracle!

This post is a geeky one, but when you find a piece of software that is truly amazing and useful, you’ve just got to write it down.

I bought a new (cheap) computer about a year and a half ago.  It came with Vista.  Some of my favorite software, and my scanner, did not work very well (if at all) with Vista.  I tried to install XP on the box, but that was even worse (there were no XP drivers for most of the hardware inside the box).  So I’ve been keeping an XP machine sitting next to my Vista, firing it up whenever I needed to access the scanner, photo software, etc, going through the whole Vista network on/off thing everytime.

Then last week, Justin calls up and says that he has an old Win9x software program that he really wants to run, but it won’t install on his Vista machine.  What can he do?  I said, “Well you should be able to install a virtual machine, but let me actually try it and I’ll get back to you.”  So I downloaded MS Virtual PC – waste of time, doesn’t run on Vista Home.  Went to VMWare’s site.  I had heard that once MS released their VM software for free, VMWare had to match the price, at least on their basic edition.  As you might expect, it’s not real easy to find the free edition of VMWare on their website, although it’s very easy to find the editions that you have to pay for.

Anyway, I eventually found which version I wanted – VMWare Player, which as you might suppose by its name, originally did not allow you to create new virtual machines, just run ones that were already created by – you guessed it – the paid edition, but has since been enhanced/unlocked to also create new machines.

computer.surgeryThe next trick was to figure out how to install Windows 2000 on my new virtual machine.  The VMWare documentation wasn’t much help at all: it only said “Install the OS per the manufacturer’s instructions”, but in this case the manufacturer’s instructions called for first creating four 3 1/2 inch floppy disks.  The various instructions that I found on the internet were ridiculously complicated (downloading MBR creators, building iso images from scratch, etc) and I just couldn’t believe that it could be that involved.  In the end, like most things in life, it was really very simple once I stumbled across the secret.

To make a long story short, I was able to install my old software and it runs great!  The virtual machine shares a folder on the Vista’s hard drive; just gotta be careful that I don’t try writing to it from both Vista & Win2000 at the same time.  I ran like this for a week, and then got a wild hare and plugged my scanner into the Vista box.  Immediately a window opened in the virtual machine saying that it recognized the scanner!  Downloaded the old Win 2000 drivers (thank you HP, for keeping them out on the web) and now I can run my scanner on my Vista machine (in a manner of speaking).

By this time I was feeling like a mad scientist and went looking for my network printer from the virtual machine.  Took a few moments (it couldn’t find it on its own; I had to copy the parameters from the properties dialog on the Vista machine), and now I can even print across the network from the Win 2000.  This is so cool!

I emailed the news of my success to one of my buddies, and he responded that he discovered VMWare about five months ago and now it is the only app that he runs on his Windows 7 laptop – everything else is XP under VMWare.  Looks like maybe between VMWare and the internet we may never need to buy software again…

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