My Fun with VMWare Fusion 3 on MacBook Pro

When I first got my Mac Mini, one of the first thing I did was to install VMWare Fusion 3 on it. I then installed Windows XP on it. I was really lucky and never had any troubles I read a lot in the internet. It worked really well and was really very smooth. I don’t play any games but only run MT4 (Metatrader 4) for FX trading and web pages for stock trading. My Mac Mini was a 4GB Ram machine. Things were really quick and fast and very snappy in that virtual machine in VMWare Fusion 3.

So when I got my MacBook Pro with 2GB Ram recently, I also thought it would just as smooth. Perhaps due to the success of the VM Fusion 3 on my Mac Mini, I got a bit carried away and I installed Windows 7 Professional on it. Unfortunately it was not smooth for me at all.

When I launched Winows 7 on MacBook Pro, it was very sluggish. When I click on an icon, nothing happens for a very long time and so I keep clicking. Finally it reacted (after 5 mins ?) and then multiple windows open etc. All my trading applications and Microsoft Money were very sluggish on the machine.

I had to do a couple of things one at a time to improve. I got these from the internet forums as I got more and more desperate over the New Year period :)

(1) Switch off Aero in Windows 7 and run a basic theme.

A very basic change that everyone suggested. I choose Windows Classic. Actually on a side note, I realized I miss it so much as we moved to Windows XP, Windows Vista and now Windows 7. It is a very simple theme and all the icons look so basic and nice
Windows Classic in Windows 7

(2) Switch off 3D Acceleration in Fusion 3.

As per Aero, this is one of the most common advice. This is in the settings of the virtual machine in VMWare Fusion.
Switch off 3D Acceleration

At this point, things improve slightly but still as bad. It still take a long while for the control of the mouse to be returned to me when I switched to VMWare Fusion. One click and I have to wait 2-3 mins and even then, it might not work. It was never as smooth and quick like the Mac Mini. But then the Mac Mini was 4GB Ram and running Mr Reliable Windows 7 while the MacBook Pro was 2GB Ram and running Mr New Windows 7.

I still went on further to find improvements

(3) Remove AVG and install Microsoft Security Essentials.

On surfing the website of VMWare, I found a blog that talked about the issue with AVG. AVG 9.0 was the first software I installed on Windows 7 and apparently that’s an issue. I removed it and installed the free Microsoft Security Suite. Having said that, my Mac Mini was (and still is) running AVG 9.0 and not have an issue.
Switch off 3D Acceleration

(4) Reduce RAM to 580MB instead of 1GB.

In desperation, I checked the amount of RAM that was allocated to Windows XP in my Mac Mini and found that despite having 4GB in my Mac Mini, Fusion only asked for 500MB for its Windows XP virtual machine. When I checked MacBook Pro, despite only having 2GB RAM, it asked for 1 whole GB for Windows 7 virtual machine. So I decided to follow and give 580MB RAM to the Windows 7 in MacBook Pro.
Reduce RAM to 580MB

It worked much better after this. Despite having a smaller RAM, things look and feel much faster. It still is a bit sluggish to my mouse clicks but was much much better.

(5) Check to make sure no resource hogger.

One advice I read was to constantly check what CPU and RAM usage are in your virtual machine. Windows 7 come with Resource Monitor and when checking it once, I found a weird “helppane.exe” that is hogging up lots of CPU in the Windows 7 virtual machine. I removed it and immediately things improved a lot. Windows 7 become much better to use and while it is still slow, it is very usable and I can get my things done.

(6) Buy more RAM and install it !

At this point, Windows 7 is quite all right to me. But I was at Funan Centre and asked around to see how much it will take to upgrade to 4GB DDR3-1066 (2GB x 2 pieces) RAM for the MacBook Pro. I was quoted a wide range of prices from $300 to $180. Finally I upgraded it to 2 Kingston RAM (2 GB x 2) for SGD 180. It could be cheaper to buy from overseas and install myself but I am okay with SGD180 and so finally I upgraded the RAM to 4GB. After this, the Windows 7 virtual machine was very smooth and very fast in VMWare Fusion 3 ! Looks like the sweet point is still a need to have at least 4GB RAM ?
4GB in MacBook Pro

That ends my adventure with the VMWare Fusion 3 in my MacBook Pro. Now I have a snappy, very quick and very good Windows 7 running on my MacBook Pro. I am enjoying using Windows again :)

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