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Updated Sept. 5, 2006
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Microsoft's Virtual PC 7 is the top x86 emulator for Mac OS X, with the best performance and most features. Recently a number of
Lismor's Guest PC seems to be the favorite of our readers. iEmulator follows, with Wintel in third place. All of three emulators are still new, and in their early versions, however.
This page covers all three, any another alternatives to Virtual PC. We start with version histories of the emulators, which contains some information about each product. The most recent versions are list first.
This is followed by reader reports.
To send us your report on an emulator
Version 1.9.6 improves networking, USB. August 17, 2006 -- Today, Lismore Software released a maintenance upgrade for Guest PC. The company said the update offers the following:
Guest PC 1.9.5 emulator improves video. June 28, 2006 Yesterday, Lismore Software Systems released Guest PC 1.9.5 (US $70, free upgrade), a new version of the X86 emulator for running Windows on PowerPC G3, G4, and G5 Macs in Mac OS X.
The new version Guest PC adds a native Windows video driver that supports native Mac screen resolutions, higher resolutions than in previous versions. The new driver also supports wide screen displays.
Guest PC 1.9.5 also fixes a bug with incorrect detection of network adapters if a Mac had several active network interfaces, and fixes some FPU emulation errors.
Loren Olson has tried version Guest PC 1.9.5 and is pleased with it:
The new release of Guest PC now contains the Mac native video driver. And it performs as it is supposed to.
Like Microsoft Virtual PC, Guest PC lets you switch between Windows and Mac OS X desktops at will.
Lismore has said that it is working on a universal binary version for Intel Macs, but has not announced a schedule for release.
Guest PC 1.9.3 emulator adds performance, compatibility improvements. June 8, 2006 -- Lismore Software Systems has released Guest PC 1.9.3 (US $70, free upgrade), and update to the x86 emulator for running Windows on PowerPC G3, G4 and G5 Macs.
The company said that the update adds a 15 percent increased performance over the previous version, due to the addition of an MMX instruction set. Version 1.9.3 also improves printing to Mac printers and better stability and compatibility with Windows applications. The new version also fixes a number of bugs.
Significant speed boost for Guest PC 1.9 emulator; Intel version in the works. May 11, 2006 Yesterday, Lismore Software Systems released Guest PC 1.9 (US $70, free upgrade), and update to the x86 emulator/virtual machine for PowerPC Macs.
The new version increases the performance of Windows by up to 40 percent, according to the company. Guest PC 1.9 also improves USB functionality in Linux, provides better stability and compatibility when running Windows, and fixes some bugs.
Lismore also said that a universal binary version Intel Macs is underdevelopment. The company has not announced a release date.
Guest PC 1.8 gets USB support, bug fixes. March 29, 2006 -- Lismore Systems has released Guest PC 1.8 (US$70, free upgrade), an update to the x86 PC emulator for running Windows in Mac OS X on G3, G4, and G5 Macs. (Guest PC can also run other operating systems.) MacWindows readers have rated Guest PC as the best emulator after Microsoft Virtual PC.
The new version of Guest PC adds support for USB devices in Windows, including USB printers, scanners, GPS devices, PDAs and Smartphones, and storage devices. Guest PC 1.8 also adds support for .fs floppy images.
The new version fixes bugs and improvements usage, including:
Guest PC 1.7 adds shared networking. December 2, 2005 -- Lismore Software Systems yesterday released Guest PC 1.7 (US$ 70, free update) a new version of the x86 emulator for Mac OS X. New features include:
Guest PC 1.6 adds copy/paste, drag/drop. September 14, 2005 -- Lismore Software Systems is shipping Guest PC 1.6 (US $70, free upgrade), a new version of the PC emulator for Mac OS X. The new version adds the ability to copy and paste information between Mac and Windows files and the ability to use drag and drop to copy files and folders between the Windows and Mac environments. There are also some bug fixes increased stability, according to Lismore, and localization in the Spanish and Dutch languages.
The company said that a future version of Guest PC will include features found in Microsoft Virtual PC, including support of USB devices and fast save and restore PC state functionality.
Guest PC 1.5 speeds file transfer, improves networking. July 1, 2005 -- Lismore Systems has released Guest PC 1.5 (US$70, free upgrade) aimed at improving networking, fixing bugs, improving overall stability, as well as enhancing other features. According to the company, the new version includes these and other improvements:
Lismore releases Tiger update for Guest PC. May 26, 2005 -- Guest PC 1.4 (US $70, free upgrade) adds compatibility with Apple's Tiger operating system. In addition to the ability to run Windows, the new version enhances the Setup Assistant with help in installing Linux and Unix. Guest PC 1.4 also includes localizations for German, French and Italian.
Lismore said that version 1.4 also includes some bug fixes, including networking and printing in Tiger, handing of DVD images, and Ethernet card and video output problem in Linux.
Guest PC 1.2 Update claims speed boost for G5's. April 6, 2005 -- Lismore Software Systems has released Guest PC 1.2 (US $70, free upgrade) an update to its x86 PC emulator for Mac OS X 10.3. Lismore claims that the new version doubles the performance on Macs with G5 processors and increases stability and compatibility for all Macs. Other improvements include:
Version 1.0.1 fixes networking problems. February 16, 2005 &endash;- On Feb. 15, Lismore Software Systems released Guest PC 1.0.1 (US $70, free update from 1.0), the first update to the new x86 emulator for Mac OS X 10.3 and later. New features:
The new version fixes bugs in networking and in other areas, including:
MacWindows reader Loren Olson reported that the Guest PC 1.0.1 update fixed the previously reported problem with DSL.
Guest PC 1.0. February 2, 2005 -- Lismore Software Systems released Guest PC (US $70) Mac OS X 10.3 and later.
Lismore says that Guest PC supports every version of Windows from Windows 3.1 to Windows XP Professional. Guest PC comes with DOS preinstalled. Users need to install their own copy of Windows. The system comes with a Windows Setup Assistant to help users install Windows and setup modem, printer, and network connection.
For a number of years Lismore sold BlueLabel Power Emulator (BLPE), an x86 emulator for Mac OS 9. BLPE never ran on Mac OS X or in the Classic environment. Lismore is offering a $35 upgrade to Guest PC for BLPE owners.
iEmulator update adds audio playback. November 21, 2005 -- Today, iEmulator.com released iEmulator 1.7.8 (US $24, free update), an update to the Windows-PC emulator for Mac OS X 10.3 and 10.4.
The update adds the ability to play audio from within Windows on the emulated PC. The update also improves iEmulator's ability to import PC profiles from Virtual PC 7, and improves the way the emulator handles CD-ROMs.
iEmulator adds CD access, import VPC machines. October 11, 2005 --iEmulator 1.7.7 (US $24, free update) includes several important improvements:
iEmulator 1.7.6. May 26, 2005 --Version 1.7.6 (US $24, free upgrade) allows users to access Mac OS X volumes, folders, and files from Windows.
iEmulator 1.7.5 adds performance increases, features. March 18, 2005 -- Yesterday, iEmulator release iEmulator 1.7.5, a free update to the PC emulator for Mac OS X Panther. Improvements include:
iEmulator 1.7 January 28, 2005 -- iEmulator 1.7 (US $24) is the second version of this PC emulator for Mac OS X. The first version was called 1.6, released November of 2004.
The product comes with a DOS operating system on a DOS boot floppy image and a DOS formatted hard disk image. iEmulator can run Windows 98, Windows 2000, and Windows XP; the developers recommend Windows 2000 as the fastest version of Windows. (Windows 2000 is also the fastest version of Windows to run in Microsoft's Virtual PC.) Like Virtual PC, iEmulator can have multiple virtual machines booted at the same time.
The developers say that iEmulator is not based on the open-source BOCHS emulation engine, but is based on the QEMU engine. iEmulator.com claims that it's emulator runs faster than BOCHS.
iEmulator.com says that the product comes with email support and "all future iEmulator updates at no charge."
Wintel 2.0. January 17, 2006 -- The 2.0 version now includes binaries for both Intel Macs and PowerPC.
Wintel 1.2.2. February 24, 2005 -- WinTel (starting at US $25) from OpenOSX is commercial package based on the open-source Bochs emulator. It runs Windows 95/98/NT/2000/XP and Linux/Unix operating systems. OpenOSX offers it with DOS or with one of 10 Linux/Unix OS's preinstalled.
February 7, 2005
Robert Newman reports of a positive experience
I just upgraded my Blue Label Emulator to Guest PC, and I think the new emulator is great. I am not a power user, just a person that occasionally needs to run a couple of Windows programs. My fastest Mac is a iBook 600 with 256 megs of ram. Guest PC runs Windows 95 and 98 very well, at least as fast as the original P133 that I ran it on originally. Printing to whatever Mac printer is seamless, as well as cable connection to the Internet.
February 9, 2005
Mark Bellon reported a long installation time for Windows XP and problems with networking,but has good things to say about other aspects:
I have been a Blue Label PowerEmulator (BLPE) user for quite some time and mourned it's death when moving to Mac OS X. I was excited about the possibility of an upgrade and ordered the Guest PC upgrade immediately. My configuration is MacOS X 10.3.7 running a dual 2 GHz G5 with 2 GB of RAM and 160 GB of disk (tons of free space). I have VPC 7.0.1 and it runs flawlessly.
I started a Windows XP PRO installation using a 4 GB disk image and 512 MB of RAM. The installation was slow but this was not unexpected. After 4+ hours the installation rebooted and switched to the emulated disk and here is where things went astray. Several times the installation popped-up asking for files that I've never seen it ask for before but eventually the installation finished. Everything runs well except networking - everything hangs and eventually times out.
I contacted Lismore describing the situation; they responded in a timely fashion and asked me to send my System Profiler output and haven't heard back from them for ~5 business days. In speaking with them they acknowledged that Guest PC is build around an updated version of the BLPE code but that many of the tunables in BLPE have been removed - made unnecessary by their automatic tuning.
From what testing I've done I can report that it is noticeably slower than VPC but under I get the networking running I really can't qualify this in detail. The program itself, Guest PC, runs well and has proven to be stable.
In the past the Lismore crew has been responsive and has come through with fixes so I'm hoping to hear from them "real soon now".
NOTE: This problem was fixed with version 1.0.1.
February 7, 2005
Loren Olson was not happy running Windows 98:
I bought a copy of Windows 98 SE to use with Guest PC. The install and all went fairly easy. However, that's where things came to a grinding halt. First there is not possibility of drag and drop from the Mac desktop or any Mac drive for that matter. Secondly, it does require that I download the HP G55 printer driver which under Windows 98 SE will probably take good long time. The only other method is download it from the Mac and copy it to CD, and then transfer to Windows 98 SE. The big reason for communications problems is I am running DSL, which apparently though it works, will never work at full speed under Guest PC and Windows 98 SE.
I might add it will not share any Mac devices unless I have a corresponding Windows 98 SE driver.
February 14, 2005
Patrick Ellis offered a general report of his experiences:
My experience with Guest PC has been a mixed bag of good and bad on an eMac 1.25 GHz with 1 GB of RAM. Installation and setup of Windows 2000 Professional took just over 2 hours to complete, 2 GB "partition" and 256 MB RAM assigned.
Overall speed is decent and more useable than I previously imagined - of course, I have yet to try anything more than basic "playing around" with the OS and Internet. One of the problems that I've encountered so far is with Microsoft's Windows update. Each time I try to update 2000 via their website, Guest PC freezes up about 1/3 of the way through. It is a hard freeze that locks out the entire machine with an endless spinning beach ball, forcing a powering off of the Mac - not a pleasant experience.
Another bug is the inability to change any parameters after installation. It seems that you are suppose to capable of changing a minimal number of settings such as memory but following the instructions doesn't work for me - I'm expected to create a "new PC". It is also an incredible memory hog. Using Activity Viewer, the amount of memory used by Guest PC continually grows even when it is sitting idle.
Overall, it is not bad, I suppose, for a first incarnation but there is plenty of room for improvement. My experience to date has been a mixed bag of "pleasure and pain".
Note: there are educational prices offered not only to institutions but to employees of educational institutions as well. This is what prompted me to purchase and try out in my work environment (post secondary college in Quebec).
February 16, 2005
Loren Olson reported that the Guest PC 1.0.1 update fixed the previously reported problem with DSL.
February 28, 2004
Dave Barnhart notes some quirks and a workaround:
I have been experimenting with Guest PC on both my 1.8 GHz (single processor) G5 Power Mac and my 1.5 GHz 15-inch G4 PowerBook. The guest OS is Windows 98 SE. Other than speed (which was to be expected), I have noticed only three inconveniences:
1. When restarting Win 98, the reboot often hangs. Clicking Guest PC's Action->Restart command always seems to recover. The Win 98 'Safe Mode' menu appears, and selecting Normal Mode always gets things going again.
2. Win 98 can see files on the Mac via networking only when the Mac is connected to my network. When I unplug the Ethernet cable from the Mac, Win 98's Network Neighborhood is either empty or displays Win 98 only. Lismore Systems says:Unfortunately Guest PC networking will not work with Ethernet cable unplugged. If you unplug the cable Mac OS X set Ethernet interface to inactive state and it is no way to make it work.
3. "Dual Session" CDs (installer CDs that contain installers for both Mac and Windows versions of an application) are invisible to Guest PC.
So far, Lismore support has been very responsive, even during the weekend.
March 23, 2005
Dave Barnhart sent us a report comparing the latest versions of Guest PC to iEmulator, to alternative x86 emulators for Mac OS X. Generally, he found that the more expensive Guest PC had more features:
I have been using Guest PC 1.0.1 for a couple of weeks. I also recently installed iEmulator 1.7.5. Both are running on a 15", 1.5 GHz PowerBook with 1G RAM. Some observations:
1. iEmulator seems a little faster, but I've made no attempt to quantify that observation.
2. Guest PC can read from the CDROM drive. iEmulator requires that you make an image of the CD and then 'mount' the image. This is a pain when a half dozen CD-based applications must be installed.
3. iEmulator requires you to run the 'Add Printer' routine to install a printer to the Windows installation. With Guest PC, the printer is preinstalled and maps to whatever printer you have as the default in OS-X.
4. I like the fact that Guest PC puts 'Toggle Full Screen Mode' in its menu. Switching to/from full screen mode in iEmulator requires a multi-keypress combination. It's in the iEmulator documentation, but it's one more thing I have to remember.
5. I like Guest PC's status indicators at the bottom of the window that represent the HD activity light and processor light. Adjacent to that is a little menu allowing you to invoke obscure but occasionally necessary keystrokes (Alt-Ctl-Del, PrintScreen, etc).
6. iEmulator's process for installing Windows 98 assumes that the Win 98 CD is bootable. Some Win 98 CDs, such as mine, are not bootable. The iEmulator Support people have a workaround however.
I have the following applications running (but not all at once) under Windows 98SE in Guest PC:
- Personal Web Server 4.0
- SQL Server 7.0 Desktop Edition
- ColdFusion Server 4.5
- ColdFusion Studio 4.5
- MS-Word 97
- MS-Excel 97
- MS-Access 97
- MS-Project 98
- MSIE 5.5
ColdFusion Studio and MS-Word run too slow to be useful. I use MS-Project quite a bit and its performance seems quite acceptable. I use MSIE on a daily basis, and it is slow but livable.
I run my PowerBook 'dual-head' simultaneously using the built-in LCD and a second external monitor. I typically run Guest PC on the external monitor and all the OS X apps on the built-in LCD screen.
Guest PC 1.2 improves performance
April 8, 2005
I was one of the early adopters of Guest PC. In my original report I documented its problems with networking and that it was quite slow. Version 1.0.1 dramatically improved stability and fixed all of the networking problems but did little performance wise.
The latest version, 1.2, running on my dual 2 GHz G5 is VERY noticeably faster.
I did a Windows XP Pro install from scratch and timed it. It ran more than twice as fast as did the earlier version. I so no problems in version 1.2 in my testing.
April 19, 2005
GuestPC 1.2 is noticeably faster now on my Power Mac G5 SP 1.8 w/1GB RAM!
Installation of Windows 2000 previously took 4 hours but now was down to only 1 hour. OS loads faster and seems to be quite stable. With earlier versions,processor usage in the earlier version was 95-100 percent while Win 2000 was sitting idle, but now with version 1.2 there is minimal processing during idle.
Support is outstanding and company listens to and fixes problems as they are discovered. Interface is clean and simple to use.
I fully recommend this product as a stable and economical alternative to VPC!
If you've used GPC 1.2
September 14, 2005
Beautiful--that is the only way to describe drag and drop and copy and paste in version 1.6. They work like a champ. Now if they can install USB support and maybe one or two other things this thing will really take off.
September 5, 2006
Paul Ronney reports doing something that has not been possible with Virtual PC: run Garmin GPS software in Windows on a PowerPC Mac. Instead of Virtual PC, Ronney is using a beta of the upcoming Guest PC 1.9.7 version from Lismore Systems. The current version is Guest PC 1.9.6. Ronney reports:
I'm happy to report that there is FINALLY a solution to the problems of PPC Macs + Garmin + USB. Guest PC version 1.9.7 beta works PERFECTLY with MapSource for downloading map files, tracks, waypoints, routes and unit software updates on an eTrex Vista C (which has a USB connection, so the serial-to-USB methods are not applicable.) No previous versions of Virtual PC or Guest PC would work. (I'm using OS 10.4 and Windows 2000.)
Reinhard Plaut is using Virtual PC, and reports the inability to do this that we’ve reported in the past.
VPC 7.02 running Window XP. When I connect my Gamin to the USB port the device manger sees the hardware but the application to update the software called Webdater can not find the Garmin GPS.
If I install the Garmin software on a PC instead of a Mac it works as advertised. It seems that there are some things that VPC will not emulate.
We also point out that Virtual PC running in Mac OS 9 was able to communicated with Garmin via USB.
January 31, 2005
Orville Robertson was able to download to download it, but could not install Windows:
Windows would not install because the QEMU app always crashed at some point during Windows installation on My G4 500 Dual and my PowerBook G4 12" Rev A.
This was with both Windows XP and Win 2000.
January 31, 2005
Ed Law likes the support
After providing payment information, no link was provided to download the software. A follow-up e-mail confirmed the purchase but also gave no information on how to download the product.
I emailed iEmulator support and received a response within minutes that solved the download problem. Good support so far!
February 7, 2005
David Verne is happy with it:
I wanted to let you know about my experience with iEmulator. I purchased it on Monday, and installed it on my iMac (1.8 GHz G5, 1 GB of RAM). I then installed Windows 98 SE on it. Installation took a little over an hour, but it went smoothly. I've been using it since. It runs slower than my old PC (a Celeron 500 MHz), but it's very usable. So far I've used it to preview web pages using Internet Explorer, and that's worked great. At the price they're asking, it's worth every penny, especially since I can now sell my PC!
February 7, 2005
Ryan Peterson is not
I am using iEmulator on a dual 2.5 GHz G5 and the program is really just unusable. The fact that they even sell it just doesn't seem right to me. It is just a GUI for the open-source QEMU emulator. I am attempting run Windows 2000 and have not been at all satisfied.
The developer recommends running Windows 98 or Windows 2000, but readers are reporting that iEmulator runs slowly in those operating systems.
February 2, 2005
Randy Kahle compared iEmulator to Virtual PC 6. He said that overall performance was slower than VPC 6, but the graphics were faster:
I purchased a copy of iEmulator and installed it on a 17" PowerBook with 1 GHz processor and 1 GB RAM. Purchase, download, and installation were accomplished without a problem. The directions regarding Windows 2000 installation are clear and easy to follow. This requires making a master CD image instead of directly using the CD-ROM drive.
However, the Windows 2000 Professional installation took four hours, most of the time spent with a pegged CPU.
iEmulator running Windows 2000 is so slow it is unusable. Much slower than VPC 6 on the same computer. Having said that I do note that the graphics of iEmulator is snappy, probably faster than VPC 6. The speed of general, CPU and disk I/O based tasks are beyond painfully slow.
February 2, 2005
Dave Zimbelman tried it with Windows 98:
I've downloaded and installed iEmulator. Following the directions I was able to install Windows 98. It works OK but is very slow on my Quicksilver G4 933. VPC has nothing to worry about yet, but it's a start.
February 2, 2005
Overall, I can report that it works, but is too slow to actually use. I installed it (and the Free DOS program that comes with the product), without any problems on a G5, 1.6 GHz Mac with 1.25 Gb RAM (running Mac OS X 10.3.5). Using DOS this way is reasonably fast, so if anyone has some old DOS programs they want to run on a Mac, they should have no problems, according to my experience.
I then installed Windows 2000, and while it took a long, long time, it did install without a hitch. But after that, it was just way too slow to use. It took forever just to open Windows Explorer, or any folder. Actually opening WordPad took about 2 minutes. I didn't attempt any other program, and have since uninstalled iEmulator.
If you've tried this approach with iEmulator
June 24, 2005 -- Kenneth Conrad D' Souzas sent in a report about iEmulator 1.7.6, an x86 emulator for Mac OS X.
I am absolutely baffled with what I saw on my iMacG5/1.8Ghz/2GB memory compared to what they say on their web site. It's as if they are exaggerating through the roof about it's performance...
Windows 2000 is so slow it's utterly unusable, and that's after allotting 1Gbyte of RAM to Windows 2000. I have written to them asking them to explain the disparity between their great comments/description on their site and what I see on my Mac.
December 6, 2005 -- Kiran Madabhushi is having problems with the recently released iEmulator 1.7.8:
I used iEmulator 1.7.8 on a PowerBook 15" 1.5 GHz 1GB RAM. Installed Windows 2000 on it and its almost unusable. This was with Panther.
NOTE: Version 1.7.9 was the first version to also run on Intel Macs. Reports show better results with the Intel version. Coverage of the Intel version is here.
July 7, 2007
I have a G5, 1.8 GHz with 1.5 GB of RAM. I have created a 4 GB compressed HD and installed Windows XP Home Edition. I have allotted 764 MB of memory to the virtual machine.
I am not impressed at all. Windows XP is almost unusable on my G5. So slow that the start menu redraws when clicked on. Boot time is around 7 to 8 minutes. Shut down without saving the PC state is almost instantaneous.
February 24, 2005
I decided to waste some money on Monday and got a copy of Wintel 1.2.2. I started the install of Windows 98 around 2 pm on Monday; it finally finished, 20 hours later, at around 10 am on Tuesday. Brings new meaning to the word "slow."
The rest of it was so pitiful I won't bore you with it but, I know a few of your readers mentioned how slow iEmulator was during and after the install. They don't know what slow really is.
Wintel is about the worst emulator I have seen yet, bar none. I learned my lesson, as you get what you pay for (or don't if it doesn't cost anything).
February 28, 2004
Wintel: Absolutely horrible. I never got it to work. I too wasted $20.
February 28, 2004
I advise you to read the comments about Wintel on VersionTracker.
Other than letting those comments speak for themselves, I can say that we were extremely unsatisfied with our Wintel purchase when it came out. The company is not reachable, and the product does not work.
Optimizing WinTel performance.
February 28, 2004
It's worth noting that WinTel emulation speed can be changed by changing a variable. I got caught out with that when I thought it was really slow. Try experimenting with the "VGA Update" and "Emulated IPS" numbers. Not very user friendly, though, as it doesn't automatically determine what the value should be.
OpenOSX has a web page that discusses G5 optimization.
--Steve Bass, PC World columnist
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