REVIEW: Windows 7 Support Boosts VMware Workstation 7

Version 7 of VMware Workstation adeptly virtualizes Windows 7, Windows XP Mode and enterprise VMware platforms.

VMware Workstation 7, the latest version of VMware's desktop virtualization tool, carries on the tradition of providing premium technology for developers and power users.

Released in October with a list price of $189, VMware Workstation 7 fully supports Windows 7 and Windows XP Mode virtual machines. And, for the first time, VMware Workstation supports running VMware enterprise virtualization platforms as virtual machines.

In what was a veritable virtualization riot, I was able to run an entire VMware vSphere 4 infrastructure, Windows Virtual PC with an instance of Windows XP Mode and an instance of Windows XP Mode inside VMware Workstation 7-all at the same time on the same system, a Lenovo T400s.

VMware Workstation 7 also still runs on older hardware that lacks CPU virtualization extensions, robust Windows graphics virtualization and extensive support for VMware's own top-of-the-line server virtualization products.

Windows 7 Support

Chief among the new features in this version of VMware Workstation is support for Windows 7 and, in particular, the Windows 7 Aero interface.

I installed both the 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Enterprise edition as virtual machines running under VMware Workstation 7. My main test computer was the Lenovo T400s, equipped with an Intel P9600 Core2 Duo CPU with 4GB of RAM. The system was running Windows 7 Enterprise 64-bit as the base OS. The physical host was equipped with an integrated USB-based fingerprint scanner, a four-point touch-enabled trackpad and the usual assortment of USB and eSATA ports found on Lenovo's current line of business-class systems. The system was also equipped with an SSD hard drive.

I enabled the Intel Virtualization Technology hardware capabilities and the Intel VT-d feature for directed I/O on my main test system. On a second Lenovo T400s test system, I disabled the Intel Virtualization Technology and turned off the Intel VT-d feature.

On both of my test machines, VMware Workstation 7 was able to virtualize all of the Windows and Linux guests that I normally install during a virtualization test. While the Lenovo system with virtualization extensions enabled showed slightly better performance, the ability to run VMware Workstation 7 on older desktops and laptops without such extensions enhances its attractiveness.