VMware Workstation 12 Pro is your gateway to Windows 10 adoption

If you're not quite convinced about how Windows 10 fits into your organization, why not take it for a trial spin with VMware's new Workstation 12 product.
Written by Ken Hess, Contributor

Although Windows 10 will install and work in VMware Workstation 11, VMware Workstation 12 Pro contains many enhancements to make your Windows 10 experience even closer to a bare metal installation of Microsoft's newest desktop operating system. You can try out all of Windows 10's new features including Cortana. And if you install Workstation 12 Pro onto Windows 10, you can ask Cortana to launch it for you.

Windows 10 and VMware's Workstation 12 Pro are a perfect pair for those of you Windows 10 skeptics who want to try before you buy. You'll get to try out all of Windows 10's new features in a safe sandbox environment to see how it goes before taking the full plunge.

  • Powerful 3D Graphics - DirectX 10* and OpenGL 3.3 support
  • High Resolution Displays - 4K UHD and QHD+ support
  • Enterprise Quality Virtual Machines - 16 vCPUs, 8TB virtual disks, and 64GB memory
  • Virtual Machine Video Memory - Up to 2GB
  • Latest Hardware Support - Broadwell and Haswell CPU support
  • Enhanced Connectivity - USB 3.0, Bluetooth, HD audio, headsets, printers, and Skype support
  • Enhanced IPv6 Support - IPv6-to-IPv4 NAT (6to4 and 4to6)
  • vSphere and vCloud Air Support - Drag and drop VMs between environments
  • Restricted and Encrypted VMs - Protection and performance enhancements
  • Expiring Virtual Machines - Time-limited virtual machines
  • VMware Compatibility - Create one; Run anywhere on VMware software

For all Workstation 12 Pro's improvements, there are still a few glitches. For example, virtual machine access at the console, that is to say at the virtual machine's console in VMware Workstation, performance is a little sluggish. You also sometimes get keyboard "ghosting", which means that when you type, you'll see two or more repetitions of what you typed. This makes entering passwords a little frustrating. However, using a remote protocol such as RDP or SSH to contact a virtual machine has no such keyboard anomalies.

Workstation 12 Pro's performance is snappier and virtual machine boot times are very short. Response at the virtual machine console is much improved, especially on newer hardware. Expect the same performance levels on older hardware that you had in previous versions of Workstation. On my now approaching four years old laptop, the CPU fans spin up when I power on a virtual machine or when I'm using any program in the virtual machine, such as a browser.

VMware has solved the video memory problem of previous versions and now you can run the most graphic-intensive programs in a virtual machine, such as AutoCAD or Photoshop without the hesitation observed on older versions of Workstation. Again, newer hardware is recommended because Workstation 12 takes advantage of new CPUs and their advanced virtualization "hooks".

You have to run Workstation 12 Pro on a 64-bit operating system (Windows 7, 8.x, or 10) and on a CPU that has virtualization capability.

You can run multiple virtual machines simultaneously on Workstation 12 Pro, depending on your computer's resources. Remember to reserve at least four gigabytes of RAM for the host operating system and at least one gigabyte for each virtual machine. Also get ready to burn a significant amount of disk space for your Windows 10 virtual machines, because a basic installation of Windows 10 requires approximately eight gigabytes of space and the recommended size for the virtual disk is 60GB. Prepare for patches, applications, and the ever-growing C:\Windows\WinSxS folder that seems to plague us all. My one-week old Windows 10 virtual machine installation's WinSxS folder contains just under 35,000 files at a size of 3.32GB and I have seen these folders grow to more than 20GB, so plan accordingly.

Yes, Microsoft knows the WinSxS folder is a problem and offers some cleanup tasks that you can try. Fortunately in a virtual machine, you can expand the C: drive where the WinSxS folder must reside. The reason I mention this here is that it can become a problem quickly for a laptop hard drive.

VMware has stepped up virtual machine capability to handle graphics, audio, and conference calling. Workstation 12 is impressive from its list of new features to its significantly enhanced performance over previous versions of the product. While this is not a formal review of Workstation 12 Pro, I do recommend the upgrade, especially if your computer is relatively new. Its performance upgrades alone are well worth the price.

For testing Windows 10 on your current desktop computer, Workstation 12 Pro is the perfect answer without the commitment of a bare metal install over your trusty Windows 7 system.

Don't think that Workstation 12 Pro is a one-trick pony; it isn't. It also fully supports the latest and greatest that the Linux communities have to offer, from Ubuntu, Red Hat, Fedora, and dozens of other distributions. Further, Workstation 12 Pro has the capability of allowing you to nest virtualization technologies for your own research. Install VMware ESXi, VMware Photon, and Hyper-V for evaluation, training, or testing into a Workstation 12 Pro virtual machine.

The full version costs $249.99, but you can upgrade for as little as $99.99 or $149.99, depending on your current registered version.

Have you tried VMware Workstation 12 Pro yet? If so, what do you think of it? And if you've tried it, have you installed Windows 10 as a VM? Use the Comments section to tell others about your experiences with Workstation 12 Pro and Windows 10 VMs on it.

*My Windows 10 virtual machine uses DirectX 11.2.

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