Get Leopard and Windows to play nice

Mac OS X and Windows machines don't get along, right? Wrong. Try our tips for cross-platform happiness on your network.

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Both Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion also let you drag and drop files to copy them between the Windows hard drive image and locations on the Mac's hard drive.

The most recent versions of Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion include a couple of helpful features beyond shared folders. Both tools offer the ability to use a Boot Camp partition instead of a hard drive image file, which can then be accessed as described above. This means you can easily make use of virtualization with an existing Windows installation that was made using Boot Camp.

In the latest version of Parallels, you can launch a file browser from Leopard that lets you navigate and manage the contents of a virtual machine's hard drive image even if the virtual machine is shut down.

Parallels Desktop file browser

The Parallels Desktop file browser.

Click to view larger image.

Finally, both tools support a windowless mode (known as Coherence in Parallels and Unity in VMware) in which Windows applications are displayed in the Dock alongside Mac applications. This mode also allows access to files from Mac or Windows applications regardless of whether those files reside within the virtual machine's disk image file or within the Mac's file system.

Cloning an existing PC

If you're moving from a PC to a Mac and planning to use either virtualization or Boot Camp to run Windows, you can skip most of the Windows setup process by cloning your PC's existing files and configuration.

Both Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion include tools for migrating or cloning an existing PC to an image. If you're opting for Boot Camp, check out Laplink's PCMover utility, which allows very granular choices about how the file system and individual files and applications are migrated.

Keeping things secure in a dual-platform world

A Mac that runs Windows is as susceptible to viruses, Trojans and spyware as any Windows PC. And it's not just Windows and files created using Windows that are in danger; malware can affect any files and folders that are accessible to Windows and its applications. That means that if you use MacDrive or shared folders with a virtualization tool, your Mac files may by vulnerable too.

There are a couple of ways to help secure files on a Mac's hard drive against damage. The first and most obvious choice is to ensure that you are running solid and up-to-date antivirus and antispyware tools for Windows. Also, you should ensure that the built-in firewalls included in both Windows and Mac OS X are properly configured to secure access to your machine.

You should also consider antivirus and anti-malware tools for Mac OS X. Commercial offerings are available from Symantec, Sophos, Intego and McAfee. At the very least, you should consider the open-source ClamXav. These programs can provide protection against Windows viruses propagating into files on your Mac partition or hard drive, as well as against potential Mac virus threats.

You can also limit the access that Windows has to your Mac's hard drive. Virtualization tools let you designate shared folders as read-only from Windows, thus preventing viruses from being able to alter or contaminate them.

Another approach is to create just one shared folder that contains only files that you need to transfer between operating systems, rather than allowing full-scale access to the hard drive or your home directory. While this will enhance security, the flip side is that it will also limit usability.

Once your Mac is set up and secured for optimal use with Windows, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.

Ryan Faas is a frequent Computerworld contributor specializing in Mac and multiplatform network issues. You can find more information about him at RyanFaas.com.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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