Switching to a Mac doesn't mean having to leave behind Windows or your software. That's because your new Mac is perfectly at home running Windows and Windows software. In fact, you have several options open to you if you want to keep using your favorite Windows software.
OS X has built-in support for Windows using a utility called Boot Camp. Using this you can turn your Mac into a dual-boot system with both OS X and Windows installed on it.
- Free (all you need is a Windows installation media -- disc or .ISO file -- and a valid license, which is not free).
- Runs Windows using the full system potential of your Mac.
- Easy to use.
- Having to switch between Windows and Mac.
- Fragmenting files between the two operating systems.
- Great if you only use Windows occasionally, but for regular use switching between the two operating systems becomes tedious.
- If you're a Boot Camp user then I recommend you check out TrackPad++, a utility that allows you to make full use of your Mac's trackpad when you're in Windows.
Free virtualization software
Virtualization software doesn't have to cost money. There are plenty of free utilities, such as VirtualBox.
- Free download.
- It works.
- Performance is poor.
- While VirtualBox is open-source, some features require a closed-source add-on pack.
- Software is not particularly user-friendly.
- Great for getting you out of a bind, but performance is poor, particularly graphics performance.
Commercial virtualization software
- Excellent performance.
- Access to specific MacOS features (such as Touch Bar support in Parallels Desktop for Mac 13).
- Allows flexibility in the way Windows and Windows applications are being run (you can access Windows as a whole or run Windows applications so they look and feel like native Mac apps).
- Lots of high-end features (such as the ability to take snapshots of the operating system as backup).
- Configures system settings based on how you plan on using Windows.
- Can access a Windows installation initially installed using Apple's Boot Camp software.
- Full support in the event of problems.
- Costs money.
- Quite a bit of a learning curve to get the best out of the software.
- The best way to run Windows on a Mac, by far.
Leveraging the Linux-based Wine compatibility layer
You might be lucky and be able to run your Windows apps on OS X without needing Windows at all using a utility such as WineBottler. This utility uses the Linux-based Wine compatibility layer to support a selected number of Windows applications.
- No hassle -- no need to install Windows and no need for a Windows license.
- When it works, it works very well.
- Far from perfect. Expect lots of bugs and issues.
- Patchy support for Windows applications.
- Fully unsupported -- if things go wrong, you're on your own.
- If the application you want to run is supported then taking this route can save you money, hassle, as well as precious disk space on your Mac.
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PREVIOUS AND RELATED COVERAGE
Parallels Desktop isn't the only virtualization software that allows Mac users to run Windows apps within a virtual machine (VM), but its cycle of regular annual updates has allowed it to take a lead over rival tools, such as VMware's Fusion.
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