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9/2/04 Thursday's News: Story DetailReturn to News Page


Mac VirtualPC user reports on Windows XP Service Pack2
Posted: 9/2/2004
Last Updated: 9/8/2004

This page had reader feedback from users of Virtual PC (for Mac) running Windows XP service pack 2. Since some (native) PC XP users had reported problems with SP2, a VPC user asked that I get feedback from users of VirtualPC for the Mac. (See below for a link to an MS kbase doc on programs that are affected by SP2.)

Virtual PC/XP SP2 Reports: (most recent first)

"I have a Pismo with 900MHz G3 upgrade. I upgraded WinXP to SP2 (network shared via Airport), and overall the GUI feels much snappier. I do not have any performance statistics to back this up, but this was a welcome surprise.

Microsoft mentions that 'virtual machine' performance is lower with SP2 than SP1 (see comments below).

I missed the note on MS's SP2 page I linked to last week regarding performance of SP2 running on a virtual machine:

"The link to the list of programs having problems with SP2 (this MS kbase doc mentioned Monday) contains this note re VPC 6.1.1... (Note - the MS doc mentions Virtual PC 2004 (for PCs) but may also apply to VPC for Macs which is also a "virtual machine". However I can't find a reference there to Virtual PC 6.1.1 that Bob mentioned.)

    "When you run a Windows XP SP2-based virtual machine, it will perform slowly compared to a Windows XP SP1-based virtual machine."

Heh. Considering that the latter is slow as molasses, I'm going to ignore the update on my Mac's VPC installation.

The list is long even includes basic Norton software most Windoze users believe they can't live without.

These Upgrade Follies (as I refer to them) are as weird as ever. You'd think in the last ten years some progress would have occurred to prevent such massive confusion every time one of these companies updates their operating system.

One thing about VPC security--in the usual setup where the virtual XP machine is sharing the host Mac's internet connection, I don't see any need for additional firewall software in there. Just being in a firewalled Mac ought to block most threats, no?
Rgds, Bob F. "

It will help for some things (some ports being blocked) - but not all. (Some vulnerabilities are not fixed by just blocking aux. TCP ports, etc.)

" I am currently using Windows XP Home with Service Pack 2 with MS Virtual PC 6.1.1 on a 4 week old new 1.33 GHz Aluminum12 inch Powerbook G4 (This latest Rev is much more powerful than the two previous releases) with 1.25 GB RAM. I have Virtual PC configured for 384 MB PC RAM.

Before I installed Service Pack 2, I found that most Windows applications ran acceptably fast. They certainly didn't on my 4 year old 500 MHz Powerbook (firewire) with 1 GB RAM! Following installation of Service Pack 2, Windows XP Home actually speeded up!!! Some applications seemed to actually perform in a "snappy" manner, consistent with a software emulator as opposed to native Intel hardware.

However, I noted that an HP Deskjet 1200, connected to a Gateway desktop PC via USB on my office network stopped working upon installation of Service Pack 2. I haven't diagnosed this yet, or tried to reinstall the printer driver. My old Epson Stylus Color 900, directly connected at home via USB with a Windows XP installed driver (NOT via VPC MacPrinter), continues to work.

So far, so good with Service Pack 2. I'm not running a lot of applications, but nothing has broken, yet!
Len W., GRI, e-PRO, Broker
Director, California Association of REALTORS "

"Mike, Last night I updated the VirtualPC 6.1.1 application on my iBook 1ghz with the recently released Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). The previous day I updated my wife's PC laptop Centrino 1.5ghz (claims equal to a 2.5ghz P4) to get the feel of the update and I have the following few observations:

Both the PC and the VPC systems had all recent updates, fixes and patches in place and running very well, given that we are working with a PC.

The PC SP2 was 96MB and the VPC was 72MB. (size may vary depending on how many past updates had been installed)

The time to download, archive, install and clean-up was about 2 hours and 15 minutes via a DSL on both machines. The download was quick compared to the install. However, no snags on either one. No warnings, no crashes.

Disk Fragmentation was quite minimal when run on both machines after.

Lots of new warnings about firewalls, security and need to be virus protected on restart.

No notice of a performance hit or negative application performance on the Mac. Needless to say, wonky behavior with various apps and virus software on the PC, but performance was the same.

A painless experience by Microsoft on both counts.
Matthew C. "

"I applied SP 2 to a newly created VM on Virtual PC 6.1. It seemed to apply OK but when it rebooted after applying the service pack the reboot hung. I left it for ten minutes then forced a restart (via VPC itself). This time it booted cleanly to a security management dialog. After that it seems fine.

This was actually my second attempt. Half way thru my first attempt I put the PowerBook to sleep. This completely trashed the XP installation - lucky I hadn't got round to actually installing any software yet.
Regards, Jules "

"Installed Windows XP SP2 on my Virtual PC v6.1.1 running Windows XP Home. Install took a long time, not just to download over my cable modem but the actual install seemed like it was stalling at times. I'm running a PowerBook 15" 1.25GHz machine with 2GB of RAM.

After the SP2 install I wasn't able to use my AIM in Windows. I went to the Firewall security settings to allow it to use it's port to go through the firewall. Often when 3rd party apps need to go through the Firewall an alert will come up saying if it should continue to block or unblock this app from access through the firewall.
Overall I guess it's an okay upgrade.
--Baron S. "

"Mike, I installed SP2 on XP under VPC last weekend. We don't really stress it - my wife uses it for Quicken to keep the PTA's books but haven't had any problems. Installation went very smoothly and the performance on a dual 1GHz MDD is respectable.
Can't speak to heavy duty applications but so far, so good.
Regards, Mark G. "

"Mike, Saw the request for VPC/SP2 reports. I've installed it and initially everything was working fine however when I came to maintenance it went to pot...
The WindowsXP VirtualPC file had bloated to 4.1GB so i thought it would be a good time to use the inbuilt utility that removes the wasted free space and trims up the file. Firstly, I de-fragmented the drive within Windows and then shut down, saving changes. The drive saves after the de-fragment but won't save the changes made after that properly, so I can't save the changes to disk. Therefore I can't remove the wasted space because I'm told to save changes to disk, turn of undo-drives and try again.

Hopefully some of your readers will also have run into this and found a solution, I'm banging my head against the wall.

"After hearing comments that installing SP2 on XP speeds it up in VPC6, (I had not heard that and in fact the Microsoft doc linked below on SP2 mentioned slower "Virtual Machine" performance with Virtual PC 2004 than when running SP1. That may affect VPC for macs also.) I decided to try it out on a backup copy drive image of XP Home SP1 with no updates and security patches installed and a minimal application install. I know XP on VPC well, having used it extensively before wisely switching over to Win2000.

I had done everything possible before trying to extract more speed from XP, including the usual classic modes, simple windows, anti-animations, etc, but also including digging into the Services, editing some registry files and even buying XP-Lite (not worth it, trust me).

Anyway, getting SP2 requires first installing a new update version, enabling auto update, and all security patches and critical updates before getting allowed access to downloading SP2. Those was 15 items at 18MB and a restart.

Then SP2 became available via auto update (I tried to avoid it, but its locked down well) and proceeded to download a 90MB update file (without cable/dsl it would be probably best to wait for MS to make CD versions to be widely available free, shortly).

After verifying, archiving, installing, cleaning up, etc, the install took over two hours running VPC with a G3 900mz 1GB RAM, nothing else open. Wizards tried to keep one aware that something was always happening, but there are several very long pauses appearing hung, even showing the VPC HD icon and OSX menu bar CPU and drive activity indicators idle (must be using RAM). One might be tempted to abort, but it always picked up soon enough and pegged the CPU back at the usual 100% use indication.

This is a major upgrade, more like going10.2 to 10.3. Many hundreds of DLL, exe and other files are replaced and it takes a long time to archive, verify, install and run them as the wizards usually shows.

At restart, the XP splashscreen hung with no activity and I reluctantly had to force a hard turn-off to exit. I had recalled hearing an OSX restart after SP2 (?!) was a good idea, did so, and when XP was launched it started normally (without "improper shutdown" and fs check). It stayed at pre-desktop for a very long time, then revealed the new Security firewall options screen.

Nothing else has appeared changed, even WMPlayer stayed at version 10 beta.

Unfortunately, my experience is that any speed benefits seem minimal, if at all. I use little Heart Beat task timing application in Windows, and it showed virtually the same exact scores pre and post SP2. But the drive image which was around 2.5GB ballooned almost a whole GB in size, so there's a lot more under the hood, certainly.
Bruce M. "

"Yes i felt reckless last week so i applied SP2 to my virtual PC XP pro and it works! it even seems to run a little smoother.
I don't use any of the programmes listed , the only thing that came up was asking me if i would allow filemaker to get through the firewall, very polite and non- confrontational for a windows message. It even updates my antivirus from an external server no problem (NOD32)
I mainly use VPc nowadays to get data into Filemaker from Access via ODBC, wish i could do it on OSX ;-(
Regards, David J.
Brisbane QLD Australia "

"I applied the SP2 service pack to two computers running Virtual PC 6.1.1 (an 867 MHz Quicksilver G4 and a 1 GHz G4 iMac).

Installation took a LONG time, but I have experienced no problems since. If anything, Windows XP feels a little faster (though that could just be wishful thinking on my part!).
-James K. "

"Hey Mike, I installed it on my ALBook 1.25 15. Took about an hour, everything seems to be running fine have not really used it much.
Eytan "

"Yes, I installed SP2 on Virtual PC very shortly after SP2 became available via MSDN. I've had absolutely no trouble - although the only thing I use in VPC is Microsoft Money.
Will "

"I upgraded Windows XP Pro to SP2 on our 1.5 Ghz PowerBook, running the latest release of Virtual PC. We only use VPC to view web pages in IE/Windows, plus an occasional Visio file conversion. No problems at all so far. The SP2 upgrade went quickly, using Windows' auto-update feature.
Blue Sky iSolutions, LLC "

"Yep, I installed SP2 last week. No problems. I configured NAV 8 to run independently instead of part of the OS security system (recommended).

I don't have that many applications running under VPC, but I do use a database interface to our University alumni database server (called Advance from BSR/Sungard) and it works just fine after the update (includes Oracle functionality, which is what I feared might be broken).
-- John G. "

"A couple of days ago I upgraded my Virtual PC / WinXPpro installation with Service Pack 2. INstallation throigh Windows Update took one hour or two. Windows XP got a bit more responsive after the upgrade. Maybe not VPC/Win2000 responsiveness, but definitively an improvement. I'm just running some fairly basic Windows stuff here (the Office 2003 suite, National Instrument's LabWindows CVI, Symantec Anti-Virus 9.0) and they all appear to run flawless.

Note: At first I had sever problems in Windows XPpro after the upgrade when using Virtual PC 6.01 (pre-Microsoft version). I couldn't run the Windows built-in defrag utility, start System Information, or run Symantec Live Update. All crashed with a message something like "error in accessing memory at 0x1d0000...". Upgrading to Virtual PC 6.1.1 solved everything.

Hardware: PowerMac G4/1.26GHz (OWC upgraded), 896 MB RAM, Radeon 8500.
Many thanks from a devoted reader.
Hakan T. "

Related MS Docs:
Just in case it may be of use to others - here's a page I linked to Monday -
Microsoft has a kbase doc titled "Programs that are known to experience a loss of functionality when they run on a Windows XP Service Pack 2-based computer" which has lists of affected programs, tips and notes.

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