How to Use Parallels and Fusion to Virtually Run Windows on Your Mac

By Edward C. Baig

Need to run Windows on your Mac? You have a few options. One popular solution is Boot Camp. Boot Camp’s biggest drawback is its requirement that you reboot your computer every time you want to leave one operating system for a parallel universe. Can anyone spell hassle?

Remedies are readily available. Try Parallels Desktop (about $80 from Parallels, Inc., based in Virginia) or VMware Fusion (about $60 from VMware of Palo Alto, California).

Each software program takes the form of a virtual machine, simulating a Windows computer inside its own screen within OS X. Or, if you feel like it, go full-screen with Windows. The faux machine behaves just like the real deal. You can add software, surf the web, listen to music, and play Windows games on a Mac.

You can even apply this virtualization stuff in versions of Windows dating back to Windows 3.1, as well as Linux, Solaris, OS/2, MS-DOS, and other operating systems. Be aware though that your computer may be noticeably be slower when running two operating systems.

Parallels and Fusion differ from Boot Camp because they let you run any operating system while you run OS X, without having to restart. What’s more, you can share files and folders between OS X and Windows, and cut and paste between the two. The Coherence feature of Parallels lets you run Windows programs as though they were Mac apps.

Check out Parallels and VMware Fusion for more information. The latest versions support Windows 8.

Virtually or not, you’re running Windows on or inside your Mac. So take all the usual precautions by loading antivirus and other security software.

It’s also worth noting that although most consumers will do just fine with the virtualized versions of Windows through these programs, you may see some degradation in performance, particularly in 3D-type gaming environments, compared with running Windows on a Windows PC or even in Boot Camp.

Comforting, isn’t it, to know that Macs do well in a Windows world?