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My Favorite Utility: Virtual PC

Okay, let’s get this out up front. I’m a Mac user. Yes, that’s right, one of those lefty-pinko, sprout-munching, non-conformist Mac users. I am, after all, the 'Graphics Guy.' Everyone knows that people who do graphics professionally prefer Apple’s Macintosh computers. Observant readers of my column may have noticed that the screen captures show Mac windows. The program concepts between platforms are the same, and I try to write in a platform-independent style.

Occasionally a Mac user will need to run custom PC programs, access PC networks and use Internet services only available to PCs. This is where my current favorite utility comes in to play, Virtual PC from Connectix ( Virtual PC is a super cool program that emulates an Intel-standard PC and will run most operating systems that will run on a real PC. The program comes in several varieties depending on what operating system you want included.

The emulator works well. The virtual machine is stable and permits the user to run software that is not available in a Mac version. Plus, Virtual PC will let you run multiple virtual machines at one time, allowing you to run more than one PC operating system. On my PowerMac G4, I have virtual PC running Windows 98, Windows 95, DOS and Linux. All more than I need, but it is just so cool that I couldn’t stop with just one.

Virtual PC version 4 will work on any G3 or G4 based Mac (including iMacs) with at least 80 megabytes of physical RAM (more is definitely a good idea) and at least 1.5 gigabytes free hard disk space. Virtual PC’s Windows can share your Mac’s Internet connection and supports Drag-and-Drop from the Mac OS to Windows and back. Virtual PC supports Mac OS versions 8.5 or higher; a beta version for OS X is available for registered users. The final OS X version should be out early next year.

VPC is also available for Windows! Yes, you read that correctly, Virtual PC for Windows. This is great for people who need to run legacy programs, but want to have the most recent operating system. Connectix recommends at least a 266 MHz processor and 32 to 196 MB of physical RAM depending on which operating system you will be running.
While VPC is a great solution for running many programs, it is definitely slower than an actual PC, but speeds are generally acceptable on a G4. Older games will work, but the program does not have 3D acceleration support even if you have a 3D graphics card in your Mac. Sorry you can’t use it to play EverQuest, but most other software I’ve tried has worked like a charm.
Virtual PC for MacOS with PC-DOS preinstalled lists for $99, the Windows 98 or ME version lists for $199, and the Windows 2000 version is $249. VPC for Windows lists for $199 and comes with PC-DOS. OS Packs are available from Connectix or you can use your own disks to install your operating system of choice.
Paul Vaughn is a freelance graphic artist, writer and web designer. A Virtual PC is often better than a real PC. Visit the Graphics Guy on the web at Email Paul Vaughn at

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