Even though I use my Mac as my primary work machine for my day-to-day use, I still need Windows from time to time for certain programs or certain websites that only work in Internet Explorer. Instead of using a second computer, it’s much easier to run Windows on my Mac.
In this article, I will introduce the different ways to install Windows on Mac and the advantages / disadvantages of each. Most people assume that this is only about installing a complete copy of Windows on OS X, but this is not necessarily the only option.
For example, by using dedicated software, you can run certain Windows applications on a Mac without actually installing a complete copy of Windows. Plus, if you already have a Windows computer on your network, you can simply connect your desktop to your Windows computer and don’t need to install anything! Let’s talk about the different options.
The most common solution you’ll read about on the internet is Boot Camp. It is a free tool included with all versions of OS X, and it allows you to install one copy of Windows alongside OS X on your Mac. I already wrote an article on how to install Windows using Boot Camp
The process of installing Windows using Boot Camp is simple, but I think most consumers won’t be able to do this if they don’t have technical background. If you have a Windows CD / DVD, this will make things much easier. If not, you need to download the ISO version of Windows and install it on a USB stick.
There are two benefits to using Boot Camp: You get a complete copy of Windows that runs directly on your Mac hardware. This means it will be faster than any other method mentioned below. With a complete copy of Windows, you can install any programs without restrictions.
You will also need 50 to 100 GB of free space on your Mac to install Windows. Overall, if you want a complete copy of Windows and want to take full advantage of your Mac’s features, I suggest using Boot Camp.
Virtual machine programs
The second best choice, in my opinion, if you need Windows to be installed locally on a machine, is to use a virtual machine. I have already written several articles on virtual machines because they are a great way to protect you from viruses and increase your privacy.
Plus, you can try out other operating systems on your current computer without having to create dual or triple boot systems. Virtual machines run inside software, so they are slightly slower, but they have huge advantages.
First, everything inside the virtual machine remains inside the virtual machine. In terms of privacy, that’s great. Second, if a virtual machine gets infected with a virus, crashes, or something else happens, you simply reboot it and go back to the original copy of your operating system.
There are several virtual machine vendors for Mac that you can use:
VMware Fusion Parallels VirtualBox
These are really the only three good options. The first two, Fusion and Parallels, are paid, while VirtualBox is free. If you’re doing this just as a test, I suggest giving VirtualBox a try as it’s free. If you really want Windows to run well on your Mac with full 3D graphics support, you should spend your money on VMware Fusion or Parallels
I personally use VMware Workstation and VMWare Fusion on my Windows and Mac machines to run virtual copies of Windows and OS X. It’s fast and still allows you to have a complete copy of Windows installed on your system. The only downside is that you won’t be able to do anything too resource-intensive, even with paid software.
Check out my articles on how to install OS X using VMware Fusion and how to install Windows on a virtual machine. Another great advantage of virtual machines is that they are much easier to configure than, for example, Boot Camp.
You can also store the virtual machine file anywhere, so an external hard drive or even a NAS (Network Attached Storage) will do.
Another good option is to use Remote Desktop from your Mac on another Windows PC. Obviously, this method means that you will not have a locally installed Windows and will need a network connection to connect to another computer.
It is also more difficult because you need to properly configure Windows to accept Remote Desktop connections. On top of that, if you want to connect to a Windows computer outside of your local network, you need to forward ports on your router and set up dynamic DNS, which is much more complicated.
However, if you only need to connect to Windows on your local network, this is not too difficult. Once Windows is set up, you just download the Microsoft Remote Desktop client from the Mac App Store and you’re done.
The big advantage of this method is that you literally don’t need to install anything on any computer. If you already have a Windows PC, just enable Remote Desktop Connections and connect from your Mac! It only requires one small application on your Mac and that’s it.
Also, Windows will run smoothly as it depends on the PC hardware. If you have a slow network connection, you may have problems, so if possible, it is best to use an Ethernet cable for both Mac and PC. If you are trying to connect over Wi-Fi, just make sure you are using at least an N or AC wireless network.
CrossOver / Wine for Mac
The last option you have is to use the CrossOver program. This program will allow you to run certain Windows applications on your Mac computer without the need to install Windows or even without a Windows license.
The main limitation is that this program only works with a subset of all Windows programs. The subset is quite large: according to their website, there are about 13,000 programs. These are programs tested with CrossOver You can still install unknown programs, but you may run into problems.
The program also supports many large software applications that you can use such as Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, etc. They also support a range of games such as Star Wars, Fallout, Grand Theft Auto, The Elder Scrolls, etc. So, if you want to play Windows games on your Mac, this is a good choice.
Again, this program only launches certain Windows applications. There is no Start Menu, Windows Explorer or anything else related to Windows.
There is another program called Wine that was originally developed for Linux, but can now be used on Mac as well. Unfortunately, this requires a lot of technical skills, command line usage, etc. I only recommend this option for very tech-savvy people.
As you can there, you have several options for running Windows or Windows applications on your Mac. Each solution has its own pros and cons, as well as different difficulty levels and prices.
The best options will require you to purchase an additional Windows license and virtual machine software, so it’s not cheap at all. However, if you are actively using both operating systems, it will be worth it. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!