But Boot Camp has some disadvantages too - not least of which is the fact that some iMac models won't actually allow you to upgrade your copy of macOS if you already have Boot Camp set up on that machine see this support page for more details.
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- Dual Boot vs. Virtualization.
Apple is also reluctant to support older versions of Windows - in fact, its support pages for Boot Camp now seem to focus just on Windows 10, so if you want to install Windows 7 or Windows 8 then you may need to stick with macOS High Sierra, and then hunt around on Apple's website to find the graphics drivers and other software that you need to run those versions of Windows. If you do decide to install Windows using Boot Camp then the important thing to remember is that you lose access to the Mac side of things while Windows is running.
So if you use Apple Mail for your emails, and your collection of selfies is stored in Photos, then you'll have to shut down Windows and reboot the Mac into macOS again in order to use those programs once more. But, of course, switching back to macOS means you lose your Windows apps again, and constantly switching between macOS and Windows can quickly become a real chore if you have to do it several times a day. There's another option available, called 'virtualisation', that allows you to run Windows, and Windows apps, from right within macOS itself.
In effect, this means that you're running both operating systems at the same time, and can run your Windows apps on the Mac desktop right alongside all your normal Mac apps. The virtual machine uses software to mimic the workings of a conventional PC, and this allows you to install Windows on your virtual machine and then install any Windows apps that you want to use on the virtual machine too.
The virtual machine runs in its own window on the Mac desktop, and can then run your Windows apps on screen at the same time as conventional 'native' Mac apps, such as Apple Mail and Safari. The ability to run native Mac apps and virtualised Windows apps at the same time is a lot more convenient than dual-booting with Boot Camp, as you no longer have to switch back and forth between macOS and Windows. However, virtualisation does have some drawbacks. Your virtual machine is running a full version of the Windows operating system on top of the main macOS on your Mac, so your Mac is going to need plenty of memory and processor power in order to provide decent performance for the virtual machine.
Multi-processor Macs with at least two cores are better for running virtual machines - and quad-cores or more are best, as you can devote one or more processor cores to give all their power to running Windows. It will also help if you can devote 4GB of memory or more to each virtual machine some people like to run multiple virtual machines with different versions of Windows, which really needs stacks of memory and processor power.
Even then, your virtual machine won't be as fast as an actual physical PC that has its own built-in processor and memory, which means that Boot Camp is still the best option for running high-end graphics software on Windows, or the latest 3D games. However, most Macs released in the last few years can still use virtualisation to run many business and productivity apps that don't need high-end graphics horsepower, such as Microsoft Office, and the specialised apps and databases that many companies develop for their own internal use.
With the launch in autumn of macOS Catalina , the latest version of Apple's Mac operating system, Parallels Desktop is also due for its own annual update.
Run Windows or Windows programs on your Mac
It's this regular cycle of updates that has kept Parallels at the forefront of the Mac virtualisation market in recent years, and version 15 is another welcome update. Parallels Desktop 15 is quite a major update too. Many of its improvements are under-the-bonnet technology changes that may not seem immediately obvious, admittedly, but they will be important for Parallels users as macOS itself continues to develop over the next few years.
There have been some important behind-the-scenes changes as well, as Parallels is now owned by Corel - a company whose support for the Mac has sometimes seemed less than wholehearted. However, Corel recently made a big comeback on the Mac with the edition of CorelDraw , so let's be optimistic.
How to install Windows apps on your Mac using CrossOver
As you'd expect, Parallels Desktop 15 is designed to support Catalina's important new features and help them to work with Windows apps running in your virtual machines. Parallels states that version 15 will support Sidecar, which allows your Mac to use an iPad as a second screen, so you'll be able to move Windows apps on to the iPad screen while you use your main monitor for Mac apps.
You'll be able to use the Apple Pencil in Windows apps as well. Parallels Desktop 15 also improves some of its file-sharing features, making it easier to drag and drop images from web pages in Safari, or from other Mac apps, and then drop them straight into your Windows virtual machine.
You can also Control-Click or right-click on a file on your Mac, and you'll see a new option in the Share menu that allows you to quickly launch your Windows email program and send the file as an attachment. One of macOS's biggest architectural changes in recent years has been Apple's introduction of its new Metal graphics system. If your Mac has a decent graphics card GPU then you should get better performance when running Windows games, as well as professional-level graphics tools such as Autodesk 3DS Max.
However, you'll need to be running either Mojave or Catalina on your Mac in order to get the full benefits. Parallels Desktop Pro provides additional features and technical support for developers, while Parallels Desktop Business Edition includes centralised admin and deployment tools for large businesses. Read more in our Parallels Desktop 15 for Mac review.
You can sign up for Parallels 15 here. Fusion takes the same basic approach to virtualisation technology as Parallels Desktop, allowing you to create a 'virtual machine' VM that uses software to simulate the hardware of a conventional Windows PC. The virtual machine runs on your Mac, just like any other Mac app, and allows you to install your copy of Windows - that you do have to provide yourself - and any other Windows programs and apps that you want to use.
The virtual machine can then run alongside your normal Mac apps, such as Apple Mail and Safari, allowing you to run Windows and Mac apps on the Mac desktop at the same time. You can run your virtual machine in a window on the desktop, or expand Windows to full-screen mode if you prefer while still leaving your Mac apps open and running in the background. You can also use Fusion's 'unity' mode to hide the Windows desktop so that individual Windows apps, such as the Windows File Browser, can run right on the Mac desktop as though they were ordinary Mac apps.
Like Parallels, Fusion allows you to create virtual machines that run macOS and many versions of Linux, as well as Windows. The latest version Fusion 11, which came out in September ; the company has confirmed to us that there won't be an update for supports the use of multiple processor cores when running VMs on recent iMac Pro and MacBook Pro models, and Apple's Metal graphics system. Fusion's interface has never been quite as slick and streamlined as that of Parallels Desktop, but version 11 does include a new Application Menu that makes it quicker and easier to manage your virtual machines.
The Application Menu sits in the main menu bar at the top of your Mac screen and allows you to quickly launch, pause or shut down all your virtual machines. You can also select and launch individual Windows apps from this menu, rather than having to first launch the virtual machine and then locate the app that you want. There are two versions of Fusion currently available, and we're pleased to see that VMWare still allows you to buy a straightforward licence for the software as a one-time purchase, rather than pretty much requiring a subscription as Parallels Desktop now does.
The company also makes a Windows counterpart to Fusion, called Workstation Pro , that allows business users to share their virtual machines on both Macs and Windows PCs. That focus on corporate users might deter some people, but Fusion is still a worthy rival for Parallels Desktop, and there's a day trial available so that you can check it out before making your mind up. Sign up to VMWare Fusion 11 here. Using 'dual-boot' rather than virtualisation technology, Boot Camp provides the best performance for Macs that need to run Windows. Instead of creating a 'virtual machine' that allows you to run Mac and Windows apps together at the same time, Boot Camp is a 'dual-boot' system that simply allows you to 'boot' start your Mac using either the native macOS or Windows but not both at the same time.
When you run the Boot Camp Assistant on your Mac, it divides your Mac's hard disk or solid-state drive into two sections, called 'partitions'. These partitions can vary in size, as required, and you leave the existing macOS on one partition, and then install Windows on the new partition and you'll have to provide the copy of Windows yourself, of course.
In effect, your Mac can then act as a straightforward Windows PC, and devote all its processor power and memory to running Windows and your Windows apps. And, crucially, if your Mac has a decent graphics card, it can use the full power of the graphics card to help run your Windows software.
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That's definitely the best option for people who need to run high-end graphics software or 3D games, as you get much better performance than when running Windows in a virtual machine. Boot Camp is a free tool in macOS which allows you to install Windows on a partition on your Mac hard drive so you can choose whether to boot your Mac in either Windows or macOS.
Because Boot Camp only allows your Mac to boot in either Windows or macOS rather than running both at the same time as with a virtual environment your Mac can devote all of its resources to the high demands of games and other power hungry applications. You can find full instructions on how to install Windows 10 on Mac for free with Boot Camp here.
No not the alcoholic type, the Windows wrapper. This is hard to explain without getting very technical and boring but it basically allows your Mac to interpret what are called Windows API calls. Crossover is basically based on Wine but in a far easier to use interface. Again, we recommend checking the list of Crossover supported apps and games before buying it although you can also try a free trial.
Another option is to run Windows remotely on another PC and access it on your Mac. This involves using a remote desktop application of which there are many on the market. They all basically connect to a Windows machine and then display the desktop of the PC on your Mac desktop. For a look at some of the options available, check out our guide to the best remote desktop tools for Mac.
Frame uses the same principle as remote desktop software by hosting Windows and Windows applications in the Cloud and then giving you access to them via your browser. If you choose one of our top 2 choices — a Virtual Machine or Boot Camp, there are some essential things to prepare first to prevent serious problems or disappointments further down the line.
You can install as many virtual instances as you want useful for example if you want to install all of Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 but just one installation of Windows can take anything from 15GB upwards depending on how many programs you intend to install within it. Microsoft Office for example takes almost 50GB of hard drive space and things such as Adobe Creative Suite take even more.
Remember that apart from the space needed for both Windows and programs you want to install, you need to leave extra space on top to save files and folders.
If you need to clear some space on your hard drive, check out our guide about how to check storage on your Mac and find large files that are hogging valuable disk space. The technology of external hard drives is constantly changing however with new standards, speeds and capacities constantly being developed and we recommend reading our guide to the best external hard drive for Mac before choosing one.
MacBook Pros built within the last 3 or 4 years should have no problem while the MacBook Air may struggle a bit depending on the specs. You can share and move an entire Windows installation and all of the apps installed to another Mac or machine whenever you want. That way if your Windows installation crashes or your Mac dies, your work can be more easily recovered rather than having to recover then entire Windows installation.
Virtualization software allows you to access files and folders on your Mac. So if you double click on a Windows file on your Mac, it will automatically start Parallels or VMWare and open the file in the appropriate application. Windows installed in Virtual Environments on a Mac can still get viruses or malware.
After all, one of the main reasons for using a Mac is that macOS is so much better than Microsoft Windows. For most users, using a virtual environment such is the simplest and most convenient way to go because it allows you to use Windows and macOS at the same time. Parallels is easily the best at this making it easy enough for anyone to setup Windows in macOS.
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Very good article, thanks! I am new to MAC and your articles help a lot. Nikola, Glad it helped you when deciding how to run Windows on Mac!
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