2007/03/20

Running Windows on a Mac

At NEW NET tonight, the group discussed and messed around a bit with running Windows on a Mac using Parallels Desktop for Mac.

Neil M gave his educated opinion on why, after only two years of using a Mac, he'd never want to go back to using a Windows machine. After a bit of discussion about why some of us use Windows programs, he started up Parallels Desktop for Mac and showed the group various aspects of using 'Parallels' on a Mac.

In addition to being able to run just about any Windows program (he only has had one program not run well under Parallels), Neil said the Parallels environment runs in a 'sandbox.' This means you can't adversely affect your Mac hardware and software with Windows malware that may sneak in whilst you run Windows programs.

After playing with Neil's laptop for a bit, Lindsay was convinced Parallels is a Good Thing (tm), and it will likely be put on her 'we need this' list. It would be nice to use on the myDigitechnician Mac Mini, but the Parallels system requirements suggest at least 1 GB RAM for reasonable performance, and the Mini has only 512 MB. For pleasantly fast response time, one is probably best off running Parallels with 2 GB RAM.

In the plus column for Parallels Desktop for Mac, it only costs $79. For converting your well-equipped Mac into a Windows-capable machine, that's a price we can live with.

Two articles from 2006, here and here, discuss Parallels and Boot Camp.

Three of the other options for running Windows on a Mac are:
  1. Boot Camp - an Apple product, currently at a 1.1.2 beta version. It's free and provides a dual boot system, with the option at start-up to choose between Mac OS X and Windows. It's not as clean a solution as Parallels, but it's free and might fit your needs.
  2. CrossOver Mac - a CodeWeavers product, currently at version 6.0. This product costs $60 for the general public ($42 for students). "CrossOver Mac will allow Mac users to run their favorite Windows applications and games seamlessly on their Mac. Windows files can be opened directly within your file browser, or from email attachments. No rebooting, no switching to a virtual machine, and no Windows Operating System license required..."
  3. Virtual PC for Mac - a free Microsoft product, but unfortunately it is considered quite slow and a version has not yet been released for the Intel Macs.
The only Windows-on-a-Mac product discussed extensively tonight was Parallels. If anyone wants to bring Boot Camp, CrossOver Mac or other solutions to NEW NET, it would be interesting to compare those to Parallels. I'm also going to contact Jeremy White from CodeWeavers to see if someone from his company will participate in MinneBar on 21 April 2007 and talk about some of the cool aspects of CrossOver Mac or other CodeWeaver products.

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