Run CS3 for Windows on the iMac or MacBook Pro?…Maybe

October 7, 2011DavidOS X0

I’ve always been a die-hard PC guy, but since I purchased my first iMac I’m beginning to like the OS X platform.  One of my biggest potential problems in moving my web development firm from Windows to the Mac, is the need for me to re-purchase a bunch  of my existing software (read: Creative Suite).  So I did a little experiment with my iMac and Fusion 4 and here’s what I found (BTW: to see a list of the software I use on my PC and the potential Mac equivalents, see this post — and please add to the list if you have more options to share)

The Setup

For this “Windows CS3 on the iMac” experiment I used an 3.06 GHz iMac with 12GB of RAM, running Snow Leopard.  I installed the Vmware Fusion 4 trial and I assigned 4GB of RAM to the virtual OS.  In the VM I’m running Windows XP SP3, with Avira and Zone Alarm.  The only other installed software is the MS security updates, IE8, and Firefox 6.

Performance on the iMac with 12GB Ram

Windows XP ran pretty well under the VM.  It loaded quickly and the start menu and control panel, for example, ran smoothly.  I then proceeded to install CS3.   Dreamweaver loaded well, and Photoshop also loaded well (with both open at the same time).  With Dreamweaver CS3 and Photoshop Cs3 open at the same time, I opened a few JPGs and used camera raw to play with a RAW file.  I tried running the programs in Unity mode (where the Windows programs are integrated into the OS X desktop) as well as in Single Window mode (where Windows runs in…well…a window).  Performance was similar in both modes, and I will say that it was acceptable.  Clearly these programs were slower than my similarly powered desktop PC and laptop PC, but the programs WERE useable and weren’t that much slower.

So depending upon how intensely you use the CS3 programs, you may be able to get away with running them in a VM on an iMac with a good amount of RAM. While I was running PS and DW (along with a few browser windows and Thunderbird running on OS X itself), I found that performance analyzer had me practically maxing out on RAM.  So if I were going to use this setup every day, it may be worth it to bump the iMac up to 16GB (if your iMac takes that much RAM).

What about the MacBook Pro?

The limitation of performance in my experiment appears to be RAM.  Nothing stuttered or stumbled when I was editing pictures in CS3, so it doesn’t appear that the system was too overburdened.  Which brings me to the MacBook Pro.  As of the time of this writing, the maximum RAM that mid-2011 MacBook Pro can take is 16GB.  However, adding 16GB of RAM to a MacBook Pro is extremely expensive (e.g. good luck finding reasonable priced 8GB modules).  Because the MacBook Pro only has 2 slots, you’d need two 8GB modules to get to 16GB.  Currently 12GB of RAM for the MacBook Pro, from OWC (a good company) is close to $500 (4GB module + 8GB module for $479).

So Can I Run Adobe Cs3 on the iMac or MacBook Pro in a Virtual XP Machine?

The answer is kind of.  For basic CS3 I think you’ll be fine on any modern iMac with at least 12GB of RAM.  But if you are going to start working with extremely large files in Photoshop, or with files with tons of layers, you may want to consider purchasing CS5.5. (which is expensive) to run natively on the Mac.

As for running CS3 on the MacBook Pro — unless you have a ton of funds to purchase 16GB of RAM (or even 12GB), you may want to consider going with CS software that’s native for the Mac.   I did ok with 12GB on the iMac, but I’m not too sure I would have done as well with only 8GB of RAM.

Please let me know if you have other experiences, or if you’ve tried running CS3 on an XP virtual machine in OS X on a MacBook Pro with 8GB RAM.


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