Why I keep Windows on my Mac

For work, I use both Mac and Windows systems. But when away from my office, I take my MacBook Pro (along with my iPad and iPhone) . Unfortunately, there are some tasks that simply can’t be done in OS X — primarily because a software vendor has opted not to support Apple products.

Two of my addictions are digital technology and back-country travel. It’s especially bad where the two intersect. At last count, I have nine devices with GPS, and I often transfer my collected GPS data to my home computers. One of the best sets of computer-based, consumer-level topo maps comes from Topozone — but only for Windows systems. (Equally problematic for me is a Windows-only app for my RTI programmable remote control.)

Recently, I once again ran into a problem with poor Mac support. I purchased a Suunto digital watch with built-in GPS. It collects all sorts of interesting stats (distance, location, speed, altitude, etc.) and lets me display it on a fancy Suunto website. However, the helper app that connects the watch to the website failed on my MacBook Pro. Once again, the answer was to download a Windows version of the app. (Perhaps Suunto will soon upgrade its software for El Cap support.)

So I keep Windows on my MacBook Pro, despite the space it take on the notebook’s hard drive. I use VirtualBox because it’s free, frequently upgraded, and cross-platform. It works well on Linux, Mac, and Windows.

Looking for a good VPN: I occasionally use a virtual private network on my Windows systems, both for security and privacy. Betternet is a free VPN service I use from time to time; it supports Windows, iOS, Android, Firefox, and Chrome, but not OS X. If you have a favorite VPN you use on your Mac, send its name along.

15 thoughts on “Why I keep Windows on my Mac

  1. For VPN (at least OpenVPN based) clients on Mac and Windows I’ve always used Viscosity by SparkLab; it’s reasonably priced and well updated by the author.

  2. I just sign on to PureVPN after lots of research (a few days). So far it seems to work so smoothly that I am not sure it is actually running. I can connect through just about any country on the globe and I haven’t had any software problems yet.

  3. I’ve been using a Mac since May 1986 and I’ve still to find an even vaguely good reason to want Windows. I do have Crossover, but I have it only because it came with a bundle that was on special.

  4. I use Quicken on another computer with Windows. My son separated my Mac with BootCamp so that it can use Quicken in Windows, but I have not been able to start it the Quicken in the windows program. (Actually, I just kept my old computer and did not pay for help to figure out this last part). (The Quicken for Macs did not have item by item detail that my accounting requires). Knowing what you wrote encourages me to go back and try.

  5. As an outdoor freak (bikepacking), I too have fought with the Window/Suunto issue. Also, as a former surveyor, I’d used Suunto equipment and loved it. Unfortunately, Suunto chose to give the Mac users the middle finger for many years. So, coming from Garmin-town, I gladly switched to Garmin GPS’s. Granted, their software isn’t great but it at least works.

    For me, I have yet to really investigate how to install or be willing to pay for Windows. Especially, for something I’ve pretty much gotten along without till now, it’s just not worth it to me.

    I find it equally as mind-boggling that companies (hardware & software) choose to keep their heads in the sand when it comes to not selling Windows & Mac compatible products. Oh well…

    1. I agree on Garmin for most GPS applications. I have several Garmin handheld devices, and I just bought a Garmin Astro dog tracking unit. My step-daughter’s two dog will disappear for hours into the local forests. That can be really annoying when you need to go somewhere. And I want to be sure that my dog is not wandering over to neighboring farms at night when I let him out. Seemed like an extravagance, but the GPS receiver works as a standard handheld, too.

  6. I have a similar problem my ip cameras will only work fully in Internet Explorer and of course not a browser supported on my mac, I too have downloaded windows onto my mac.

  7. The above article states that VirtualBox is a free app? When I searched for it it tells me it is £32 in the UK – am I missing something?

  8. I use Express VPN and people who know me on this forum will know I am not a big user of mainstream popular products, preferring to support new or fringe products with innovative appeal (like the Vivaldi web browser). However the 24Hr live chatline support and the cutting edge updates and improvements allow me to continue to access Australian content which is of particular importance to an expat living in Indonesia. It is not cheap but it does provide a free subscription to the iOS version which I also use continuously.
    As for the developers who do not support the Mac platform I have never needed to resort to running windows although being a “gamer” you can imagine I have been tempted from time to time. There has always been a compatible alternative and the searches I have had to undertake to find them have been both stimulating and mostly rewarding in the end. I guess If I had specific or work related requirements like you Tracey I may have had to resort to Boot Camp or Parallels but like Larraine I too have been using the Mac platform since 1986 and so far have avoided that need. With some relief I might add given the number of problems many OP’s on this forum have encountered running dual boot systems.

  9. This is somewhat related to both of your articles. I wanted to put windows on my new to me but old mac pro 3,1. This is supposed to be easy using boot camp. My problem is the windows 7 disk I had would only recognize NTFS file system.

    Then the fun begins. I went out to my garage where the stripped hulk of my PC laid and carried it into the house. I took my archived hard drive attached to the pile(it was NTFS), installed some memory and removed one of the DVD drives from the mac pro and installed windows on the arcived hard drive. Formated a hard drive in the mac with MSDOS and used the archived hard drive to format it to NTFS.
    Removed the archived hard drive and loaded W7 on the mac hard drive. I put the usb flash with the drivers in the usb port of the mac, reinstalled the hard drive and turned it on. Nothing more to say but it worked.

  10. I have a new MacBook Pro and also a PC laptop primarily for Quicken Home and Business and for Quickbooks.on occasion. Would Virtualbox be an app I could use to run these on my MAC. I hate taking both computers with me when I travel. and Intuit is another one of those companies that does not have a good enough MAC version for my needs. thanks

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