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Running Windows (or anything else) on your Mac Discussion of Classic or running Windows, Linux and other OSes on the Mac.

Windows - Running Windows on a Mac: A Switcher's Guide


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cwa107

 
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Running Windows on a Mac: A Switcher's Guide


Here at Mac-Forums, we get a lot of questions in regard to how best to run Windows software on your Mac. As there are a growing number of solutions to this particular problem, I thought it would be helpful to put together a summary of the options available to Mac users, as well as the pros and cons of each solution.

Note that all of the following solutions work only with Intel-based Macs, these include any Mac Pro, MacBook or MacBook Pro model. They also include newer Mac Mini and iMac models, but they must be powered by an Intel CPU. If you are unsure as to whether you have an Intel or PPC Mac, click on the Apple menu, choose “About this Mac” and look under Processor. If you have a PPC Mac and wish to run Windows on it, your best bet is to look into either iEmulator or Microsoft Virtual PC (no longer actively developed).

Now, if indeed you have an Intel Mac, you have a number of different choices in running Windows applications...

CrossOver for Mac & DarWINE

Perhaps the least expensive and fastest way to run a Windows application is through “WINE”. In plain English, WINE acts as a translator to allow some Windows software to run in UNIX-like environments (like Mac OS X and Linux). With WINE, there is no need to install Windows, your Windows applications will simply install within a set of directories in your home folder. Two variations of WINE exist on the Mac; DarWine is an open source port to Mac OS X and Crossover for Mac, which is a commercial product that is developed by CodeWeavers. In either case, be aware that applications support is fairly limited as there is simply no way to tune WINE to work with every piece of Windows software out there - but in general, many popular applications like MS Office will run on it.

Boot Camp

Another option for running Windows on your Mac is Boot Camp. Boot Camp was initially released as a public beta for OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and has since matured into the full version available in OS X 10.5 (Leopard). If you still use Tiger, you’ll need to upgrade to Leopard to get this functionality.

It’s important to understand that Boot Camp is not actually a program that runs Windows, in fact, it’s a set of utilities to ease the process of installing Windows directly on your Mac on a separate partition. Boot Camp splits your hard disk into two volumes, one for your existing installation of OS X and one for Windows. After you’ve installed Boot Camp and Windows, you’ll be able to choose which Operating system you prefer to start your Mac in.

The primary advantage to Boot Camp over other solutions is that when you run Windows under it, Windows has full access to the resources of your system. So, Boot Camp is the ideal solution to playing games or running 3D intensive software like CAD, where your hardware will be taxed.

The primary disadvantage to Boot Camp is that you can only run Windows software when you start your computer in Windows. With other solutions, you can actually run Windows software simultaneously within Mac OS X. Another potential pitfall is that within Windows, you can not access your Mac OS X partition without a 3rd party program like MacDrive. Additionally, if you choose to format your Windows partition in NTFS (the default for Windows XP and Vista), your Windows partition will be read only under Mac OS X. Again, you can get around this limitation by either choosing to use FAT32 as the filesystem for your Windows partition or by using a program like Paragon NTFS for Mac or MacFUSE & NTFS 3G(which can be cumbersome to configure).

Important note: Boot Camp is only compatible with specific editions of Windows. Those include:

* Windows XP Home or Professional with SP2/3 integrated.
* Windows Vista (any non-upgrade version).
* Windows discs that came with another computer may not be used with Boot Camp for both technical and legal reasons, although you may use a non-branded OEM disc (also known as "OEM for System Builders").


Virtualization products (Parallels Desktop, VMWare Fusion and VirtualBox)


The most flexible solution for running Windows on a Mac is probably a Virtualization product. Virtualization tools work by creating what is known as a “Virtual Machine” (or VM for short). In the past, virtualization techniques were used to emulate other types of hardware on the Mac, but since Apple switched over to Intel processors, this CPU emulation is no longer necessary. Virtualization products now run Windows and other OSes as quickly as they would run in the real world.

While all three of these products bring their own unique features to the table, each of them use the same underlying technology to run Windows. While this FAQ won’t focus on the relative merits of any one of the three products, it will attempt to explain the fundamental differences between the VM approach and the others.

As mentioned previously, running Windows is a VM allows for quite a bit of flexibility. Not only will you be able to run Windows within a window on your Mac desktop, but you can also have it run in “full screen” mode. In addition, most of the VM products have support for the following features:

* “Coherence” or “Unity” modes - Windows applications appear to run on your Mac desktop, and you have the ability to pick and choose whether to use Windows or Mac applications to open your data files.
* Seamless file transfers between your VM and your Mac desktops. Drag and drop files between the two environments.
* Shared Internet/network access. Access your VM as though it were a physical machine on your network.
* Dynamic virtual hard disk - your hard drive in Windows is really just a file sitting on your Mac’s hard drive. As such, it can be dynamically resized to suite your needs.
* Access your Boot Camp partition in a VM. If you already have Windows installed via Boot Camp, you can make use of that partition within a VM.
* Linux and alternative OS support - easily put most of the popular Linux distros in a VM. Also, older versions of Windows (prior to XP) will run just fine in a VM, whereas they are unsupported on Boot Camp.

The primary disadvantage to VMs is that they don’t allow Windows to access your hardware directly, meaning that although Fusion and Parallels have some limited 3D support, you’ll find that most intensive games either won’t run, or run too slowly to be playable. With that said, most any application that doesn’t require a heavy duty video card will run just fine.

Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!

Last edited by cwa107; 02-28-2009 at 10:55 AM.
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I would also like to add a few helpful links for Boot Camp.

Boot Camp 2.0, Mac OS X 10.5: Frequently asked questions

Boot_Camp_Install-Setup.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Apple - Support - Bootcamp

When all else fails, try everything!
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Excellent write-up, thanks!
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iMAC

 
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how do i switch between mac and windows.
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cwa107

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iMAC View Post
how do i switch between mac and windows.
It depends on how you've chosen to install Windows. Tell us a little more about your setup.

Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!
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neilf

 
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Very good summary - but with one piece of advice missing.
If you install XP in Bootcamp and virtualise via, in my case, Fusion, under which environment should you activate XP?
Using a retail version of XP, I guess it doesn't matter, because I believe you can activate a number of times??? But with a legal OEM version, only one activation is allowed.
I think I made the mistake of activating in Fusion. Now I can't run XP in Bootcamp. If I had activated in Bootcamp, I guess I wouldn't be able to run in Fusion?
Does anyone know of a workaround for this, or is the only solution to buy the retail version?
I have read a lot about contacting MS via phone to get a new activation code for my Bootcamp issue but then what? Will I still have problems using XP in Fusion?
All I wanted was the choice of running in either environment and now I am just plain confused.

N
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Quote:
Originally Posted by neilf View Post
Very good summary - but with one piece of advice missing.
If you install XP in Bootcamp and virtualise via, in my case, Fusion, under which environment should you activate XP?
As I understand it, there are measures built into Fusion that keep the activation issues in check - at least for XP.

Quote:
Using a retail version of XP, I guess it doesn't matter, because I believe you can activate a number of times??? But with a legal OEM version, only one activation is allowed.
I think I made the mistake of activating in Fusion. Now I can't run XP in Bootcamp. If I had activated in Bootcamp, I guess I wouldn't be able to run in Fusion?
Does anyone know of a workaround for this, or is the only solution to buy the retail version?
I have read a lot about contacting MS via phone to get a new activation code for my Bootcamp issue but then what? Will I still have problems using XP in Fusion?
All I wanted was the choice of running in either environment and now I am just plain confused.

N
Check the with VMWare's tech support on this one. I'm almost positive I read somewhere in their FAQs that VMWare Tools will handle the activation issues.

Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!
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Yes. I can recall reading something about Fusion taking care of the activation issue - but I haven't been able to find it. If anybody knows anything about this I would be eternally grateful.
I will look agin within Fusion.

Thanks
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Great topic, thank you very much. I've tried both Boot camp and Parallels. Of course Boot camp is much better since as you said, it has full access to your Mac's hardware, doesn't only use 512 MB of the RAM like Parallels does. The disadvantage is switching between both operating systems, have to restart and stuff. Plus, I think I can use the FAT32 to install Windows XP Service Pack 3, but I guess I can not do so on Vista, haven't tried though. That's why I used some software I downloaded from Apple the other day, which gives me the priviliges/permissions of not only reading the Windows volume while on Macintosh OSX, but also writing. So, I guess I just listed some of the pros and cons I came up with, too obvious already though.
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If you install VMWare Tools, you only have to activate once. Otherwise, you get ping-ponged a bit - that happened to me. VMWT solved the problem while I was running BC.
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Has anyone had problems installing with bootcamp? I can partition and then click begin install and the computer restarts and gives me the normal boot screen for OSX and then flashes an apple, a folder with a question mark, and a do not enter sign (the circle with the slash through it) anyone have any ideas?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hotimportknight View Post
Has anyone had problems installing with bootcamp? I can partition and then click begin install and the computer restarts and gives me the normal boot screen for OSX and then flashes an apple, a folder with a question mark, and a do not enter sign (the circle with the slash through it) anyone have any ideas?
Sounds like you have a bad or inappropriate Windows disc.

Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!
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regiomus

 
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Great info.. I was just about to ask the question on bootcamp.
thanks

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IlliniGuy

 
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Anyone know if I can boot Vista from and external HD using Parrallels desktop?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by IlliniGuy View Post
Anyone know if I can boot Vista from and external HD using Parrallels desktop?
Yes. Just make sure that you configure the virtual hard disk file on your external during the process of building the virtual machine, prior to installing the operating system. One caveat - unless you're using an ESATA port for the external drive, expect greatly diminished performance.

Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!
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