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Parallels, VMware, VirtualBox or Boot Camp: Best virtualisation tool for Mac

Cliff Joseph | Oct. 13, 2015
Apple's Boot Camp allows you to install Windows on your Mac so that you can switch between the Mac's own OS X operating system and Windows whenever you want.

There is another virtualization program that's worth mentioning. VirtualBox is an open-source program that is available free of charge for personal use. However, VirtualBox is primarily aimed at IT managers in larger organisations, and isn't really the best choice for ordinary home users or individual business users who just need a simple way to run a few key Windows apps on their Mac.

System Requirements for Parallels Desktop, VMWare Fusion and VirtualBox

Virtualisation gives you the best of both worlds, as it allows you to have Windows and Mac apps running side-by-side. But running a virtual machine on your Mac means that you are effectively running two operating systems at the same time, so you will need a fairly fast Mac with plenty of memory and storage in order to get decent performance from your virtual machines. One useful feature of both Parallels and Fusion is that they allow you to configure your virtual machines with different amounts of memory, and you can even assign a specific number of processors to each virtual machine. That's very useful for people who own high-end Macs with quad-core or even 8-core or 12-core processors, as you can assign two or more processors to your virtual machines in order to provide really good performance.

Windows, Wine or CrossOver?

Parallels Desktop, VMWare Fusion and VirtualBox also require a paid-for Windows license in order to create a virtual machine. However, there is one other option that gets around that requirement. Wine is another open-source program that can be used to run Windows apps on your Mac. But instead of creating a virtual machine that runs the full version of Windows, Wine inserts a kind of 'compatibility layer' between individual Windows apps and the Mac operating system. The advantage of this approach is that it doesn't require a copy of Windows, nor all the extra memory and processor power that you need to run a virtual machine. The downside is that Wine isn't compatible with all Windows apps, so you'll need to check the Wine web site (www.winehq.org) to see if it will work with the Windows apps that you need to use.

Wine is also pretty complicated to set up and use, although there is a paid-for version called CrossOver that gives the program a more Mac-like graphical interface (www.codeweavers.com). Even so, we'd still only recommend CrossOver to people who don't mind a bit of tinkering in order to get it up and running properly. Fortunately, CrossOver, Parallels and Fusion all offer trial versions that you can check out before buying in order to see which one suits you best.

Getting Started: Setting up Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion

 

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