Price: £169 plus VAT
Virtual PC for Windows is a bit of a weird one. Mac users will be familiar with the original Virtual PC (now called Virtual PC for Mac), which allowed you to run Windows 98 slowly on your Mac. Virtual PC lets you run Windows on your Windows machine. This may sound like something involving ice and Eskimos, but it’s actually very useful. Rather like Mac OS X’s Classic OS, Virtual PC for Windows lets you run other versions of Windows (plus DOS or Linux) alongside your current copy of Windows 2000 or Me without the hassle of partitioning your drives. The other OSs run in separate windows, allowing you to pop back and forth as you please. Virtual PC allows all of your modern devices to work, even in older OS, such as Windows 95 that don’t support them. The most immediate use for this is that it allows you to check if your Web sites or Director-built multimedia run on older OSs. You can limit the RAM as well to try to match your workstation to your end user’s home PC, but there’s no way to hamstring your processor, which would have been very useful in seeing just how usable your work is on home machines. The emulated OS is slowed anyway by running on top of 2000 or Me, so this will give you some indication unless you are running a truly top spec machine. What you get for your £169 is merely the ability to run older platforms, plus a copy of PC-DOS. To use other versions of Windows, you need to have them already, plus the associated free hard disk space, but it’s likely you’ve already got copies from unused machines hanging around. The only problem may be in locating those old installation floppies and keys. Installation of these other platforms is as easy as it is normally. One word of warning, though: don’t assume that you can carry on working in your host OS while your extra platform is installing. This led to crashes in our tests – though once installed, you can hop backwards and forwards without any worry.