Windows 7 on Mac with VMware Fusion: A Practical Guide


There’s been a lot of buzz flying around about Microsoft’s next big operating system, Windows 7, which just entered public beta.

As our readers know, a great way to start testing out a new operating system is in a virtual machine, where you can see how it works without having to dedicate a whole physical machine. 

Well guess what: this is certainly the case with Windows 7 and VMware Fusion, too.  So we wanted to take the time to share best practices on how to make this happen, with screenshots and video of the process to make it nice and easy for you.

Git yer free trial Windows!  Six months to see what you think of Windows on Mac!

Another cool thing about the Windows 7 Beta, is that it’s free to use for anyone.  That’s right.  Anyone can go and download the Windows 7 bits, and get a beta serial key that’s good through July 1st, 2009.

One of the costs associated with running Windows on the Mac is the cost of Windows.  And unlike VMware Fusion, which has a fully-functional 30-day trial for anyone to play with, Microsoft doesn’t typically provide trial access to operating systems in a way conducive to playing around in a VMware virtual machine—like an OS disk image, for example.

As such, a lot of Mac users who aren’t recent switchers, haven’t taken the opportunity to play around with the idea of Windows on the Mac, and as a result haven’t seen how fast, stable, and easy it can be.  Instead, you get people sitting back and saying “Windows on Mac? Ew!” because they haven’t really had the opportunity to learn any better.  They don’t know what they’re missing.  Well this is the chance to fix that.

It’s All About the Apps, Baby.

This kind of old-school thinking is a bit of a bummer, as there are tens of thousands of great Windows-only applications that Mac users can’t access without virtualized Windows apps, like Microsoft’s Photosynth on Mac, Worldwide Telescope on Mac, or Microsoft’s new Songsmith on the Mac, not to mention things like Google Chrome on Mac.  The list goes on and on, but you get the point.  It’s nice to have a balanced Dock!


Not just that, but Windows on the Mac nowadays isn’t your father’s Windows on Mac.  This isn’t Virtual PC for Mac, which emulated the Intel chip in software.  This is virtualization, with direct CPU access, and all the speed that entails.  Also, this isn’t Mac virtualization of the sort you may have seen in early 2007.  The Macs are twice as fast, and the software’s much more mature.

So, we wanted to take the opportunity to show you that Windows 7, like Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 98, and pretty much any other Intel-based OS (Linux too!) will run in a VM with VMware Fusion, and give some guidance on how to set things up for best success.

First, The Caveats

Windows 7 beta, both 32-bit and 64-bit, is not supported with VMware Fusion, but many VMware product features appear to work well today including Drag and Drop, Unity, and more.  Based on commentary in our VMware Fusion forums, the best experience with Windows 7 beta with Fusion results from the following VMware settings:

– Use the Windows Server 2008 option to create your VM
– Disable 3D Acceleration
– Disabled Shared Folders

We plan to support Windows 7 after it is released.

Next, What You Care About

Because VMware Fusion does not yet support Windows 7, there are some tweaks you’ll have to do.

First, go ahead and download the Windows 7 ISO from Microsoft’s Windows 7 Beta site and get yourself a beta product key. You can use 32-bit or 64-bit, but we’ve heard that lots of folks are getting better performance out of 64-bit, so this example will assume that.  Just download the ISO to your desktop.

Then, you’ll go to create a new virtual machine, the same as you’ve done before via “File>New”:

Picture 1

Next, we’re going to point the New Virtual Machine Assistant at the Windows 7 ISO you just downloaded.  Typically, if you just insert a Windows install disk, VMware Fusion automagically recognizes what OS is in it, but in this case, we have to point it at the ISO.

Click “Continue without disk.”

Picture 2

Then, click “Use operating system installation disk image file”:

Picture 4

Just select the ISO in the dialog that pops up:

Picture 3

Next, based on what we’ve seen in our VMware Fusion forums, you have to do
a little bit of tweaking. 

First, Windows Easy Install will parse the disk image as Windows Vista (either 32 or 64 bit, depending on which ISO you downloaded).  Go ahead and change that to Windows Server 2008 (again 32 or 64-bit, depending on which one you downloaded).  We’ve heard that it works fine defined as “Vista” too, but this appears to be the best way.

Picture 5

Next, go ahead and take that serial key that was provided to you by Microsoft, and paste it into the Windows Product Key form in Windows Easy Install.

Also, untick “Make your home folder accessible to the virtual machine", as based on reports in our VMware Fusion forums, shared folders aren’t working in Windows 7.

Picture 6


At this point, you should see your final configuration setup, with 1 GB of RAM assigned, and a virtual hard disk that will expand up to 40GB (but will start much smaller).  Click “Finish.” 

Picture 7

Once you hit “Finish,” Windows Easy Install will be off and running, installing Windows 7.  You’ll see some reboots, and VMware Tools will install automatically.

After that’s all finished, you should be able to play around with Windows 7 as you would expect, with the noted exceptions up top.  Again, this is not a supported configuration, and there will likely be bugs, as we repeat above from reports in our VMware Fusion forums.

Running Windowed - 13

And for those who like movies more, we threw together the one below to help you through the process.

Enjoy, and remember, for those of you who haven’t played around with Windows on your Mac yet because you didn’t quite see the light, this is your opportunity to join the ranks of the truly enlightened who realize that one OS per machine is so 20th century…

Download the free trial of VMware Fusion 2 or buy yourself a copy, and then get yourself the Windows 7 Beta.


55 comments have been added so far

  1. I have to run a few Windows apps on my Mac all the time, and Fusion lets me do it seamlessly. I’m looking forward to playing around with the Windows 7 beta too.
    But I can’t believe you used Songsmith as a reason to try Windows on a Mac. Bleh. 😛

  2. I followed your instructions (except the 64 bit part, I’m only Core Duo). I downloaded Windows 7 beta today, build 7000.
    The VM starts up, installs Windows, I get the underwater desktop background image and the following alert: “The unattend answer file contains an invalid product key. Either remove the invalid key or provide a valid product key in the unattend answer file to proceed with Windows installation”. If I press OK, the install process restarts and eventually repeats this alert.
    Not sure if it matters, but the product key MS provided me happens to be the same one in your screenshot.

  3. Update on my previous post. I was running the .iso image off a read only DVD. When I copied it to my local hard drive, the Windows 7 install worked better.

  4. I installed WIN7 under Boot Camp, but I can’t get it to startup in Fusion- unlike XP or Vista Boot Camp installations. Any tips on that? (An error messages comes up reading: Cannot open the disk (blah-blah-blah/Boot Camp partition.vmdk or one of the snapsho’Remove the physical disk from the virtual machine then add it again’, which is not especially helpful!

  5. Regarding the duplicate keys, Microsoft only handed out a very limited number of keys, allowing that it be used multiple times. Since this isn’t a pay version of the software, they’re not exactly concerned about you sharing it with your friends the way you’ve been doing with XP. =)

  6. Just followed these instructions and find the installation stuck on ‘expanding files 5%”. Wondering if I should scrap the whole thing and start fresh and just how to do that.

  7. i got windows 7 running through boot camp no problem. i’ve also imported the boot camp partition using vmware and everything works perfectly… except networking. i can’t get on the internet. i’ve re-imported calling it XP, Vista and as this guide suggested server 2008. and every time it’s the same: no internet.
    and yes, i can connect to the internet just fine from the mac OS. and i can also connect just fine when starting up in the windows partition using boot camp. only the vmware partition won’t connect.

  8. UPDATE: i resolved the network issue by doing a new install of windows 7 (thru vmware) rather than importing the boot camp partition.

  9. I also have Win7 running flawlessly from an imported bootcamp partition with the HUGE exception of networking. I guess I’ll have to bite the bullet and install a second copy of Win7 for use in vmware. *sigh*

  10. I’ve had Win 7(64bit) up and running thru Fusion on a new Macbook Pro 2.4 for a couple of days. Installation was totally painless and everything seems to work fine. However the big problem for me is that it works painfully slow (2 second delay between executing any commands). Also if I have Fusion open in the background my Mac applications are also running much slower than normal. I only have 2GB RAM but I was hoping for better performance. Anybody got any tips to get better performance?

  11. Am running 32-bit Windows 7 under Fusion, booting from a USB hard drive, on a non-Pro Macbook. 4 GB total memory, gave Windows 1 GB. No problems so far. Fast as all get out. Only problem is I can’t turn on Folder mirroring. Configured sharing off when I created the VM, now can share but not mirror folders.

  12. I have been running WIn7 on my MBP C2D 2Gigs and Fusion 2, so far everything seems to work OK except a very specific and annoying problem with multi monitor support
    Every time I connect an external monitor to the MBP Fusion/Win7 detect the second monitor as well and enables it as second monitor in Windows (if in unity). This works beautifully and I can drag windows to either monitor no problem
    But if I exit Unity or disconnect the external monitor Win7 freezes every time. I have tried this in several ways (going to full screen, disabling second monitor in win7, disconnecting monitor) but no matter what Win7 always ends up showing a black screen and freezes

  13. To make the internet connection works i Just create other network device in the VMWare fusion.
    Now I can use internet in the Windows Seven in my VM or when i boot in bootcamp.

  14. I’ve got Windows 7 build 7077 installed under Fusion 2 on the first gen MBP – the one with Core Duo instead of Core2Duo and a max of 2GB RAM.
    Is anyone running a similar setup letting VMware have access to both processors or just one? Any other recommended tweaks?

  15. Will Windows 7 Virtual XP Mode work under VMWare fusion? I imagine it will be incredibly slow. It would be nice to have an up to date OS that is capable of running legacy apps.

  16. Windows 7 RC is now available for download. Does anybody have any experience with this using the instructions on this blog entry yet?

  17. I have a 2.5GHz Core 2 Duo MBP 2GB RAM, running 10.5.6. I wasn’t sure if this configuration could support x64 O/S’s, so installed the x32 version of Win 7. I chose Windows Server 2008 as the guest O/S.
    Installation was incredibly slow (4 hours!), and VMWare tools did not install automatically. I had to explore the Virtual D drive and look for setup.exe to install.
    So I decided to have another go with the x64 version, using Windows Server 2008 x64 as the guest O/S.
    Installation again was very slow. I started it off before I went to bed, and it was just finalising stage 2 when I got up! However, VMware tools did install automatically on this occasion. So I would endorse using the x64 version for this reason even on a laptop.
    The real reason I decided to post however is to endorse AirGig’s comments of Feb 06. I just rebooted after installation of VMware Tools, and had to wait 30 minutes for the login screen to re-appear and another 5 minutes from login to desktop appearing.
    Also everything other running app (Camino, Finder) slowed down to a complete crawl. Does anyone have any tips for better performance?

  18. I think I can answer my own question: buy more memory!
    I kind of suspected that that was the answer. Anyway, I’ve doubled the RAM to 4GB and now both the x32 and x64 versions work like a charm. x64 now takes 3 minutes from start-up to login screen
    “Shared folders” is also working now. I turned it off during installation, but it does work once installed.

  19. My MacBook Pro 17 should finally be arriving this coming week, though my eSata ExpressCard34 and VMware Fusion have already arrived.
    I’m moving off Windows XP on a Dell E521 and after getting things to where I was only using the PC for World of Warcraft, am not sure I want to commit more resources back to Windows by dedicating a partition for Boot Camp to use. But I feel like I may need to boot into Windows for when I access VMware Server 2 which is not yet supported on Mac. This will be a great way to let Windows hang around a bit longer with an expiration date being enforced. And in the meantime I’ll play WoW natively on the Mac.

  20. if I try to use your Trackback link, I get this:
    1 Trackback pings must use HTTP POST
    Do I need to do something special other than include the link address you’ve specified?

  21. I have used fusion and windows 7 beta (on the bootcamp partition) without any problems. After installing the Windos 7 RC I can’t connect to the network no matter which option (NAT, bridged or host) I choose. Any advice?

  22. “Anyone can go and download the Windows 7 bits, and get a beta serial key that’s good through July 1st, 2009”
    what happens between now and october (when windows 7 proper is released)? do we revert to XP? i would like try it out if microsoft has extended the trial period.

  23. Install was fine, very smooth, and things seem to be working fine with the exception of video calling using Windows Live Messenger, which experiences a several second lag between video and voice at the other end. Has anybody else seen this, or have any idea how to fix it?

  24. Running fine on an 8GB Q9550 system. I’ve given it 3GB and a separate XP 2GB, and OS X still runs nicely with the 3GB left over.
    So the answer is RAM, and lots of it!

  25. Issues:
    1. I found that if you enter the product key as part of the install it will not work – giving an error ‘of invalid product key in unattended answer file’ or something like that. You should be able to complete the install then then enter the key to fully unlock the license.
    2. “Missing cd/dvd drivers” – I’ve been running Vista on Fusion for months with no problems (besides the fact that Vista is a slow dog but apparently that’s on purpose). The Vista, and XP install for that matter, went off without a hitch … I am unable to get Windows 7 to install correctly.
    Has anyone found a way to resolve this missing driver issue? I’m using an Intel MacBook Pro.
    thanks for any info.

  26. I also have windows 7 running. Mine is running from a physical disk. I encountered a few problems but I was able to fix all of them
    1) Windows 7 was crashing on boot with error 0xc000000f. I noticed Windows 7 likes to create a 200MB backup partition and this was causing the problem. I discovered that if the drive was partitioned NTFS *before* I ran the installer Windows 7 would not do this. Using Ubuntu and gparted I erased and partitioned as single NTFS. Then I installed Windows 7 normally and booted into Mac OS X. Fusion recognized it as boot camp partition and it booted normally.
    2) Once booted from VM the network interface wasn’t being recognized. After trying to transfer the driver from another windows7 install I did from within vmware Fusion I found the solution by Ernie Oproto and WoodyZ worked flawlessly. (http://communities.vmware.com/thread/209181;jsessionid=61AD75548E7C0CEE74D8850D75DF7960?tstart=0)
    Have a look in the Virtual Machine’s .vmx configuration file and make sure that the Network Adapter is showing as “e1000” as in the following example. If the line is missing add it to the end of the file.
    ethernet0.virtualDEV = “e1000”
    Note: You should make the edit while Windows is shutdown, not suspended and Fusion closed. I hope this helps someone =)

  27. Older MBP C2Duo with 2GB ram.
    Win 7 in bootcamp. Cn’t get network in Fusion as complains whether using Snow Leopard drivers or VMware Tools that the network adapter is not properly installed.
    Any advice?

  28. Planning to do this; a new MBP 17in on the way for the purpose. Have researched the best practice of running Win7 (64bit) w. Fusion. Seems that it is not the best idea to install it as Boot Camp?
    But how bad is it compared to just installing win for Fusion? Obviously it could be nice to have the possibility to boot directly into Win7 w/o MacOS, but if it is too much a disadvantage (loosing features, networkproblems and so on…)….?
    What does your experiences tell you? Out of the box my MBP has 4gb ram .. and I will go with that till the prices on 2x4gb blocks comes down some more 😉
    Appreciate your advice 🙂

  29. Hey,
    I installed w7 on vmware fusion but as the windows server 2008. I installed vmware tools but the network drivers didn’t get installed (the ethernet controller driver).
    Does anyone know how to install the correct driver?

  30. I can second what Leonardo B. Alves said. Just create a second network adapter in vmware’s settings, and Windows 7 via bootcamp will connect to the internet correctly.

  31. Hey guys, in my Mac Mini, I will install also Win 7 Pro with boot camp. I am wondering if I can use XP mode in order to install programs on Win 7 which will be in the Mac. Is that possible?

  32. Hello, I updated windows XP into windows 7 ultimate, but then I couldn’t connect to internet or any network, whether I use NAT, bridged or host. Anyone could advice?

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