Of pigs, Vista, and emulation

Australian reader, Chris, takes issue with a statement I made on a recent Macworld podcast. He writes:

In the latest podcast it says that Vista runs like a pig under Parallels or VMWare. This is true under the default Vista look and feel, but if you switch to the traditional old-style Windows 2000 look and feel it seems to come to life and run just as fast as XP. Vista is unusably slow on VMWare on the default look, but on the traditional look and feel it’s speedy.

My comment comes from my experience with Vista Home Premium edition and Parallels. I regret to say that I’ve not had the time to explore VMWare Fusion (though I certainly will in the future). So, allow me to relate my experience with Parallels.

I tested how adjusting the look and feel of Vista affects Vista’s most obvious “piggish” behavior—launching applications—on my Dual Core 2.66GHz Mac Pro (2GB RAM) and, under Parallels, it’s still not as fast as XP coupled with Parallels.

The Windows version of iTunes is among the slowest to launch applications I’ve come across when running Windows in emulation. The very first time I launch it in Vista with Parallels, it routinely takes 12 - 15 seconds to finally appear. Subsequent launches take about half that time.

When I launched iTunes under XP with Parallels it took just three seconds to launch. I switched to Vista’s default settings and it took around six seconds to launch. I then traveled to Control Panel -> Personalization -> Theme and chose the Windows Classic theme from the Theme pop-up menu. (This theme dispenses with most of Vista’s eye-candy.) iTunes still launched in about six seconds.

However, I was able to shave a second off that launch time—down to five seconds—by going to Control Panel -> Performance Information and Tools -> Advanced Tools, choosing Adjust the Appearance and Performance of Windows option and enabling the Adjust for Best Performance option in the Visual Effects tab of the resulting Performance Options window.

I compared boot times for each version of Windows as well. With 512MB devoted to each operating system in Parallels, XP took around 50 seconds to boot while Vista took around one minute and 15 seconds.

Putting boot and launch times aside for the moment I’ll also mention that part of the basis of my “Vista as Pig” remark has to do with how Vista plays some media under emulation, which, to put not too fine a point on it, can be summed up in one word:

Poorly.

Windows Media Player can’t play music files without stuttering. iTunes is a bit better, but it too offers up the occasional stutter. XP, on the other hand, plays music files smoothly.

So, while I’ll grant there may be some benefit to mucking with Vista’s visual and performance settings, I largely stand by my original statement in regard to Parallels and Microsoft’s latest operating system:

Oink Oink.

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