MacMost Now 371: Running Windows On Your Mac

You can run Windows on your Mac using either Boot Camp, a virtualization solution like Parallels, VMWare Fusion or VirtualBox, or a Win32 API solution like Wine to run individual applications. See the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Video Transcript
Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode, let's look at ways to run Windows on your Mac. So, since both Mac and Windows computers use the same processor architecture, it's been very easy to run Windows on your Mac. You can reboot into Windows, you can use virtualization software to run windows along Mac OS X, or you can use specific Windows applications without even having Windows installed. Let's take a look at all the options.
Now, the primary option is to use Boot Camp. Boot Camp is built in to Mac OS X, and you run Boot Camp Assistant, and it will create a new partition on your hard drive, and the purpose of that partition is to run Windows. Now, in order to do this, you have to have a Windows DVD installation disk- can be XP, Vista, or Windows 7, so you have to have purchased that, so, while Boot Camp comes with your Mac, you have to spend the money to get Windows. Just like you would if you bought a Windows computer, except that the cost of Windows itself is rolled into the price of the computer. If you were to build your own PC, you would have to purchase Windows, just like you do here.
Once you actually create this partition, and then have a Windows partition, you can reboot your Mac- hold down the Option key- and then choose between Mac and Windows, and reboot in Windows. When you do that, your Mac acts just like a Windows machine; it actually is a Windows machine at that point; it's booted completely into Windows. The only extras are some drivers that make Windows work better with the Mac keyboard and Mac mice, and other hardware like the eyesight camera. The advantage to using Boot Camp is that you're running real Windows on a PC. So, you can do everything: you can play games, you can use all sorts of pieces of software; it works just like if you were to buy a PC. But, the disadvantage is, of course, you have to do a reboot, and that can take awhile. If you want to quickly check how your website works, say, in Internet Explorer 8, you have to shut down your Mac, reboot it into Windows, check it out, and then reboot again into Mac.
Another solution are virtualization programs. There are three main ones; the one I happen to use is called Parallels. There's also one called VMWare Fusion, and a third one called VirtualBox. So, all three of these do basically the same thing. They allow you to boot Windows into a window, and have it running as an application on your Mac. Now, you can even go further than that; you can actually break out the Windows' windows, onto your Mac, so for instance, you can actually have a Microsoft Word document window open, and it looks like it's a window on your Mac. And the Windows' windows are spread all around, and even the toolbar is seen at the bottom of your screen. So, it kind of intertwines running Mac OS X and Windows at the same time. Now, you still have to purchase a copy of Windows to run any of these, so basically it'll walk you through setting up a partition- but it's really a disk image of Windows- installing Windows on it, and then running it at the same time you're running your Mac.
So here's a look at what this may look like. Of course, if you're running Boot Camp, it just takes over your entire screen; it looks like a regular Windows machine. But here I'm running Parallels, and you can see that I've got a Windows here running inside of a Window on my Mac screen, and my Mac applications are available as well. I can also switch to a different mode in Parallels, and be able to then have the Windows intertwine between the two operating systems. And you can see it here; just take a look around.
The advantage of these is you don't have to reboot. You can be running Mac, running your Mac applications, and you can run Parallels, or VMWare, or VirtualBox, have it boot Windows while you're still working on other applications on your Mac, and then interact with both your Mac applications and your Windows applications, even copying and pasting, between them. The disadvantage is, for Parallels and VMWare, they do cost some; for VirtualBox it's free, but it's a little bit more of a basic program.
Another disadvantage is compatibility. None of these are as compatible as running some high intensity software, like games, as Boot Camp is. So for instance, running some advanced 3D graphics games- it's not going to work, or it's not going to look the same in Parallels, VMWare, or VirtualBox, as it would in Boot Camp, or running a dedicated PC with Windows.
So another way to go is, install something on your Mac that will allow you to run some Windows applications without requiring Windows at all. These basically take some of the elements of Windows, put them on your Mac so these programs can access them; things like Windows buttons, screens, general things the program expects to be there, it puts them on your Mac so they can run. Now, there's a couple of options. One is Crossover Mac, another is Darwine, and Wine is the name of the project that's the root for all of this. And, these are great applications, to be able to do it, except that they can only run a very limited set of applications. And, a lot of these applications are older versions of the Windows applications, and a lot of them are applications that really are already available on the Mac as native Mac applications. So, it's kind of limited as to what it can do.
Now, the advantage to using one of these is that you don't even have to purchase a copy of Windows, so it's big cost savings if the application that you want is already represented there in what can be run. But, in general they're not a really great solution for running Windows and running just about any Windows application as the virtualization and Boot Camp options are.
Now of course, I should mention that a fourth option is not to run Windows at all, but instead look for Mac versions of the same programs. For instance, if you need to use Microsoft Word, then get Word for Mac instead of Word for Windows. Even some other programs out there actually have equivalents on the Mac that can open those types of files, and allow you to work with them in the same way. So maybe you want to consider that, and stay completely Mac native if you can.
I did a poll awhile back to see what people were using, and the article there has links to all these different programs, and a little bit more about each one. Hope you found this useful, till next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 16 Responses to “MacMost Now 371: Running Windows On Your Mac”

    9 years ago

    Gary is there a particular reason why you choose Parallels vs Fusion etc…? I don’t have any good reason why I am running fusion except our work has server farms on VMWare ESX.

      9 years ago

      I think that the competition between the two has been great, which makes them both excellent products. I bought Parallels way back when it first came out, and I think it beat Fusion to market slightly, perhaps. I can’t remember. But if I had to purchase again, it would be tough to choose.

    9 years ago

    I chose to run Windows 7 (Professional x64) via Boot Camp. I don’t mind rebooting (at all). I’d rather go for performance than anything else. Both Parallels and VMware Fusion are great, but slow (the whole virtualization thing). I remember using both of them to run my actual Boot Camp partition inside of OS X, and it somehow made Windows EXTREMELY slow when booting into it natively. While it was convenient, I don’t want anything running slow. So, I’m never going to use virtualization products again.

      9 years ago

      Maybe this is because you are trying to run 64-bit Windows? I use 32-bit Windows and don’t notice much of a speed difference between Parallels and rebooting. Of course I’ve got 8 cores in my Mac Pro, and can dedicate 2 to Windows on Parallels, so…

    S. Jobber
    9 years ago

    Is there an advantage to running 32 bit Windows 7, even though my Mac will support 64 bit windows.

      9 years ago

      I don’t know. You’d need to ask a Windows expert. I check things on iE8, mostly. But I also play some games with it. I get perfect performance from new games with 32bit Windows Vista, so I don’t see the need to play around with 64bit.

    9 years ago

    I have tried 64 bit Windows 7 and it was super slow. However 32 bit Windows 7 was blazing. I have a Mid June 09 Macbook Pro. 3.06

    8 years ago

    I realize this is an old episode at this point, but I have been watching them all. I thought you could have added that another option (which I have used) is to get a very inexpensive PC (or maybe a net-book) and run Windows on it, and use Remote Desktop to access that system, which would then be anywhere on the network (like in the basement with my server).


    7 years ago

    Hi Gary, my computer knowledge is I’d say above average. I am a recent convert to the Mac and what I am trying to figure out is what sort of careers I can do using the Mac. What type of software I should learn, classes I should take, etc. I know I am being a bit vague but I kind of don’t know where to start. So any tips would be helpful. Also, would you ever consider making a video about “Careers using the Mac”? I really would appreciate your a dice. Thanks!

      7 years ago

      That is a tough one to answer. I don’t think there is an answer — what type of computer you own really shouldn’t affect which career you have.

    Naomi B.
    7 years ago

    Parallel Desktop

    I have used this for 2 years (not on Lion yet) but on 1-.6.8. I’m still having problems printing under my Windows 7 emulator. It will not send to my HP950. Only if I unplug my HP and restart Parallels will it recognize it. At this point, I send the file over my LAN to another HP printer under Parallels Devices to remote print. If I try to go between Parallels and some Mac program, the local printer gets messed up. Any answers?

    Eric G
    7 years ago

    Hi Gary – I have a Macbook Pro from my employer running Snow Leopard and it has Windows XP running on Fusion3. I want to upgrade to Lion but I’m worried that I’ll lose the Windows information. The ITS staff at work doesn’t know the answer so I figured I would check with the expert (you). Any thoughts? Thank you in advance!

      7 years ago

      I dont see why upgrading to Lion will cause you to lose your Windows partition created by VMWare Fusion. Check the VMWare Fusion site, but of course I’m sure their app is completely compatible with Lion and an update from SL to Lion will not do anything to its documents (the Windows XP partition). I know Windows XP does not work with Boot Camp in Lion (requires Windows 7) but that is a completely different thing from Fusion.

    Geoff Raymond
    7 years ago

    Hi Gary, love your series thanks for great tutorials. I have MB pro with Lion 10.7 and would like to bootcamp with Windows XP, is that possible or do I have to use windows 7? Thanks again.

    Sayed Ali Khan
    6 years ago

    Hi Gary,
    You’r tutorials is very nice ,

    Thanks a lot

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