Introduction to Virtual PC 5 using Mac OS

Many PC-based applications such as Microsoft Office now have Mac OS X-native equivalents, which has greatly alleviated previously common compatibility issues when working with both PCs and Macs. So, why do you need Virtual PC environment? From time to time you may find yourself in a situation where you need to use proprietary or Windows-centric software that will only work on a PC running Windows. Perhaps there's a scanner, printer or some other type of peripheral that you'd like to use but you don't have the Mac drivers, or you need to access a PC-based network and networked printers.

Virtual PC 5 overcomes such situations by using virtual machine technology to mimic a PC environment so the Windows software runs as it does on a real PC, even though the Windows operating system is actually running as a guest on your Mac. Connectix's Virtual PC (VPC) 5 is distributed locally by Firmware Design ( and ships in four flavours: DOS - $241.76, Windows 98 - $540.60, Windows XP Home - $540.60 and Windows 2000 - $664.84. And yes, tech-heads, Linux and even OS/2 should also be able to run just fine. Moreover, with OS X you are able to load up to 11 guest operating systems at the same time, through the use of optional Connectix OS packs. This month we are going to look at setting up Virtual PC on your Mac.

Installing Virtual PC

Load the CD into your drive, double-click its icon on your Mac's desktop and run the Virtual PC 5 installer. Follow the installation wizard and eventually you'll be asked to enter your Mac's administrator user name and password. This done, enter your serial number for Virtual PC, which you'll also need in order to register with Connectix for access to the Connectix Care technical support pages, advice forums and knowledge database. Then hit the right arrow (where you can choose to register) and make your way through the wizard until you are presented with the Virtual PC List window. Select Start Up. This will start the PC Setup Assistant, which will help you set up VPC for optimal performance. Make your way through the Assistant, selecting the guest version of Windows that came with your copy of VPC. Try to allocate as much memory as you can to the guest Windows OS and continue through the Assistant before clicking the blue Start Up button.

For this demonstration, using a 400MHz G4 with 128MB of RAM, I allocated 80MB RAM to the guest Windows 98 OS and it was still extremely slow. The more RAM that you can allocate to the guest Windows OS, the better the results. In particular, keep this in mind if you're planning to use Virtual PC for PC gaming purposes.


When VPC starts for the first time, it will ask you to enter a user name, location and the Windows serial VPC shipped with. Before long you'll be greeted with the Windows desktop. You can resize the VPC window from the lower right corner, or enter full screen mode by pressing -Return. You can access VPC preferences covering details such as sound and screen resolution by pressing -K. To change the settings for VPC, press -T or select Settings from the Edit menu. From Settings you can change RAM allocation as well as drive, mouse, networking and USB options, and even map keys from your Mac keyboard to act as standard PC keys - for instance, you could instruct the Option key to behave as a Windows key, as found on PC keyboards.

If you have a file on a CD that you want to open within VPC, simply place the CD in your Mac and then return to the VPC window. When in Windows mode, you can see the VPC control icons at the lower left of the VPC window. If you click on the small CD icon and select Capture Disc, you can then access the information from the disc within VPC, just as though you were using a PC running Windows. FIGURE 1 shows a CD playing from within the VPC environment.

This introduction is designed to provide you with an understanding of VPC and some of its potential uses, and also assist you with installation. If you're a Mac user with limited Windows experience, visit the PC World Web site ( to view countless tutorials on using Windows and even Linux.

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