back to article Windows on Mac: BootCamp vs Parallels Desktop

Almost as soon as Intel-based Macs were available to buy, clever coders were trying to figure out how to run Windows XP on them. Mac OS X not good enough for you, guys? Well, in some cases no, it's not. Mac OS X may be the better product - discuss... - but Windows has access to far more software applications and hardware toys …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cheap PC instead?

    I'm a Mac user and I wanted to run a couple of Winders things last year. So I bought a 350 quid Dell laptop. Not the most powerful machine around, but good enough for me, and I don't need to buy more memory, repartition harddrives, pollute my Mac OS X set-up or anything. Thing goes in a cupboard when not in use, and I can share data over my WLAN at other times.


  2. tom hall

    Don't forget Wine

    works pretty well in linux, may be worth a look.

  3. Craig Buchanan

    You Can Switch Fullscreen.

    "There's no way, it seems, to flip seamlessly from full-screen Windows to full-screen Mac OS X as if you were sharing a monitor between two machines."

    This is partly right and wrong. You cannot do it with just Parallels, but download something called Virtue Desktop, this is a desktop manager (multiple desktops, have Parallels fullscreen in its own desktop). You can even do the 'Smackbook' thing, where you tape the screen and it changes the desktop. Check out this Youtube video of Virtue/Parallels in action:

    Thanks, Craig

  4. Andrew

    Parallels - not 3D but not slimline either

    Thanks for an interesting and useful article on the subject. I think that it is important that it is understood that these are different answers to different problems; intended use defines the solution not a head-to-head.

    I wanted to say though that Parallels is a lot more capable than providing access to legacy apps or one or two from the current mainstream. I am using a full corporate standard build in Parallels (Office 2003, OneNote, BlackIce, Sophos, Cisco VPN, Java blah blah blah). It runs better than maybe 75% of our estate because the rolling refresh program means that most PCs are dated and nothing is dual core yet for that sudden performance hike in Windows natively. I know that I wont get the Aero interface in Vista in due course but I have OS X for my technosexual thrills (which I prefer at home to the office anyway). Am I worried though that anything corporate will become unusable? Hell no.

    PS VirtueDesktops makes this work brilliantly.

  5. Matt Piechota

    Go for the other computer

    I agree with the other computer plan. Most people have a pc lying about they can use.

    As for the graphical glitches, I've found running VMs (using VMware on PCs, not Parallels on Mac) are sketchy. If you have a copy of Windows that allows remote desktop (Xp Pro, etc), you might want to try using the remote desktop client to attach to the machine rather than the virtual console. Microsoft supplies a client for MacOS at:

    It seems like the future will be easier. Xen appears to be getting places with VT (google xen mac), and I'd be surprised if VMware isn't cooking up a copy of VMware Server (the free version) for Mac OS X.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "but now Mac users have the chance to sample some of the more modern alternatives running on x86 CPUs, like Ubuntu"

    Ubuntu could be run on PPC machines. Or did you just mean the latest version?

  7. David


    I've used Virtual PC for Mac and found it to be "slick" but hopelessly slow... regardless of the amount of memory or how fast my machine was it still behaved like a 500mhz clunker. Parallels, on the other hand, works very well and is quicker by far. If you have those Windoze apps where there isn't an OSX equivalent then it nicely fills the bill. It doesn't have to have XP with service pack 2 to load up as BootCamp does, and on my MacBook Pro I can give it 512mb or less and it runs very well. Startup from a saved state is on the order of 7 to 10 seconds! Thats pretty good in my book. What I'd like to see is better VM management and a "drag and drop" capability. These are minor issues so I'm looking forward to its development.

  8. Reg. Charney

    Delighted with Parallels on MacBook

    I have been using Parallels on my MacBook 13" and am truly delighted with it. Currently, I have 4 VMs running - Windows XP, Fedora Core 5, SuSE 10.1, and Kubuntu. Each runs flawlessly.

    To start a suspended session of any of the operating systems takes me about 10 secs.

    While my machine has 2GB of memory, I have only allocated 256MB to each VM and the performance is entirely acceptable for things like word processing, spreadsheets, most games, compiles, graphics design, etc.

    I do not try to do hardcore gaming on a VM - that is an inappropriate use of VMs because the maximum hardware resources are needed.

    Installation was easy and fast. I have used VMWare versions 1, 2, and 3 and have always had trouble with the installation. Also, using Parallels, it took under one hour to load Windows XP and a small set of applications, including Office 2000. Under VMware, it took over 3 hours to do the same. I did not need tech support with Parallels. I did need it a number of times with VMware. Also, Parallels cost $80 while VMware Workstation costs about $300.

    Parallels is one of the best pieces of software that I have encountered in a long time. I can't recommend it enough. If I were still developing under Windows, I would buy a copy of Parallels Windows version for it.

    P.S. I have no association with Parallels, other than as a user.

  9. nick richards

    Ubuntu exisits for PPC too

    quote: "And not just Windows XP. Running Linux has always been an option, thanks to the sterling work of LinuxPPC coders stretching back more than ten years, but now Mac users have the chance to sample some of the more modern alternatives running on x86 CPUs, like Ubuntu."

    Note: there's always been a powerpc version of Ubuntu although it's only recently been easy to install and work in all Apple machines. .

  10. Sean Healey

    Linux on MacOS

    Maybe I'm missing something, but can anyone suggest a decent reason why anyone would want to run Linux on top of MacOS, which is itself based on a BSD back end??

  11. Graham Lee

    Repair disk permissions

    Quote from the article: "Reports from folk who've tried it already suggest that it's a good idea to verify your hard drive and repair file-access permissions before running BootCamp."

    Of course they did. It's part of the Mac Voodoo, that. Anyone who wants to appear knowledgeable but has no clear idea of what they're talking about will recommend one or more of: repair permissions; clearing PRAM; installing software updaters via the combo rather than incremental package. It certainly wouldn't help in this situation and almost never does at any other time, but it's part and parcel of The Mac Experience ;-)

  12. Tommo_UK

    Parallels rocks

    Parallels is an amazing piece of software, and unlike the reviewer I can recomment it wholeheartedly. It sounds, from the problems he had swtiching between full-screen Windows and OSX, that either he had an old, pre-release copy of Paralells, or he didn't bother to read the instructions properly, because full-screen switching is built-in.

    In addition, in the months I have been using Parallels on my intel iMac, I have never had any problems with lagging mouse cursors, or disappearing GUI elements, and it sounds to me like - again - the reviewer failed to follow the instructions to install "Parallels Tools" once he had finished the Windows installation process.

    Parallels has worked for me flawlessly. I have never, ever, had it crash, and I use it daily to run my stock trading software. Performance is excellent, and much faster (providing 3D graphics aren't required) than any Pentium-based PC. The machine takes full advantage of the Core Duo VT-mode (which again mistakenly the reviewer says might be something for future versions).

    Unless you want to play hard core 3D games (in which case use Boot Camp), Parallels is the best of both worlds: instant switching between OSX and Windows, on the same machine, with virtually no loss of performance. On my iMac, Parallels running Windows 2000 and my stock trading software uses up just 21% of total CPU capacity, according to the Activity Monitor. That's pretty amazing.

    In short, Boot Camp is a complete waste of time, unless you simply have to have access to 3D graphics. For the 90% of the rest of the world who don't Parallels is the absolute best solution - especially as you can cut and paste between the two OS environments and set-up shared folders. For $80 (and assuming you already have a copy of Windows from an old PC lying around) you can run Windows on your Mac, with virtually no sacrifices. The reviewer grossly underplayed the usefulness of Parallels, and overplayed its very few shortcomings IMO. Parallels beats the pants of VMware in terms of usability, stability, and resource requirements. Macs running OSX, hosting other OSs via Parallels, really are the most broadly compatible and versatile computers on the planet now.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing the Point

    I really don't think the author of this article really understands the power of Parallels. As an IT specialist I routinely run multiple virtual machines simultaneously on my MacBook Pro. I've simulated/built LANs, compiled applications and tested on indiviual virtual machines or in groups of up to 4 simultaneously.

    Yes host only networking is the default, but multiple host only machines can talk to each other when hosted on the same physical hardware. This is incredibly useful. I run a workstation dedicated to windows for things at work that OSX can't yet do, like run old crappy dos and win32 applications from the network (Darwine and Crossover are up and coming, but not there yet for me), and that one is set to "bridged". With bridged networking, the virtual machine appears to the outside as its own unique computer. And, yes, mulitple bridged machines can be run on the same physical hardware, visible to each other and the world.

    As for boot camp, give me a UNIX kernel like OSX and parallels on top of it instead, for everything, anyday, always. The ONLY time I can foresee a need for bootcamp is for games, when 3D matters, and when a port isn't available yet for OSX natively. Given time, I see 3D added to Parallels as well. For now, the few games I care to play have been ported to OSX already. Ditto on high end graphics and video products.

    As far as performance goes, think snappy. It is "near native", nothing at all like the Virtual PC days. The fact that the author discounts due to the fact 3D video isn't available has missed the boat entirely in my opinion. These macintel machines offer the best of everything when configured with Parallels desktop and sufficient RAM, and they are reasonably priced as well for the flexibility, performance, and security you get. I've stopped using my other PCs, Linux, BSD, and XP. I have access to as many as I want for free. The experience is that good.

  14. Greg Berlin

    Sharing of Files?

    Something I've been wondering for a while.. is it possible to share files (eg: Outlook mailbox, my documents, favourites, etc) across both operating systems?

    What are the issues around such sharing of content? compatibility problems?

    Being new to Mac, I dont know how shareable content is with Windows machines, and this is definitely somethign that is important to me should i make the switch to Mac (somethign i'm seriously considering now that i can still use Windows for development work.. i dont think you can get MS Visual Studio for Mac... or can u?)

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