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VMWare WorkStation 7 review

VMWare WorkStation 7
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £144
inc VAT

Lovely software, but it’s expensive. Professionals should buy it; hobbyists should download a free alternative.

VMWare Workstation is one of the oldest consumer virtualisation programs, but these days it has some stiff competition. Microsoft, Sun and VMWare itself all offer free software that allows you to run guest operating systems on your PC, each in its own virtual machine.

Fortunately, Workstation 7 has lots of stuff that its free competitors lack. For a start, you can run several virtual machines at once in the program’s tabbed interface; so you can flick between operating systems as easily as you would between tabs in a web browser. If you find that you’re running too many machines, you can simply pause a running machine, instantly releasing its resources for use by your host PC or by other virtual machines.

Another boon for anyone who does a lot of testing is the clone function. Using this you can quickly create a new virtual machine by cloning an existing one. This way you can keep one pristine template for each OS you run, and just make clones of it each time you need a new test machine. You can also create snapshots of a machine’s state. If something goes wrong, for instance you install some faulty software, you can then revert to an older snapshot. You’re not limited to a single snapshot for each system (as is the case, for example, in Microsoft Virtual PC), you can take as many as you like. The program’s snapshot manager makes it easy and quick to see all the snapshots taken of a machine.

Another useful feature is the ability to group virtual machines in teams. Grouping machines in a team, means you can start them all with a single click – useful if you’re testing both server and client applications. You can also do things such as specify a staggered startup for the machines in a team, so the server starts before the client, for instance. Using the program’s network functions, you can also isolate a team on their own virtual network, giving them limited access to your host PC and your real network – or no access at all.

As you’d expect, this version of Workstation supports Windows 7. It’s also the first virtualisation program to support the transparent Aero theme on both Windows Vista and Windows 7. If you have a virtual machine that needs a bit more oomph, you can now assign it up to four processor cores and 32GB of memory.

Possibly our favourite features, though, are the ability to capture a movie of your interaction with a machine and even to record and replay the exact activity of a machine, down to instructions sent to the processor; perfect for developers and software testers.

We love this program. It’s easily the best virtualisation software we’ve seen and if we awarded stars solely based on our enthusiasm it would get five out of five. However, its hefty price tag means it’s certainly not for everyone.

Professional software testers, developers and tech support operatives will definitely benefit from its advanced features, for instance snapshot management and the ability to group virtual machines into teams. Everyone else, who just wants to try out the latest version of Ubuntu without reconfiguring their PC to dual-boot, should simply download the free VMWare Player.


Price £144
Rating ****

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