More people are making the switch from PC to Mac these days. Nevertheless, some former PC users still find themselves longing for certain Windows-only programmes.
They need look no further. Thanks to functions like Bootcamp, Parallels Desktop and Fusion, there are ways to set up virtual PCs on a Mac, resurrecting, for example, your favourite computer games from your old machine.
Bootcamp is an Apple tool that allows users to open other operating systems, like Windows or Linux. Parallels Desktop and Fusion let users operate Windows or Linux simultaneously with the Mac operating system. Regardless, to useMicrosoft on a Mac, you’re going to need a valid Windows license.
People of a more experimental nature can get around this hurdle by using Developer Preview, an earlier test version of Windows 8. Parallels Desktop has a direct link to it in its seventh version.
‘Windows 8 is a very exciting topic for us,’ says Parallels manager Alexander Pantos. ‘After the one-click installation you quickly get comfortable in this new unfamiliar Windows 8.’
Competitor Fusion, from VMWare, also supports installation of Windows 8 on Macs.
‘We want to make it possible for Windows users to change platforms,’ says VMWare manager Holger Temme. That means constant work to improve the performance of the virtual machine. It still isn’t as good as Windows with Bootcamp, says Temme. ‘But we’re getting close.’
Office applications usually do fine with the virtual Windows machines. Things can get a little more problematic with Windows games.
Fusion 4, the newest version, supports the rush of 3D applications with OpenGL 2.1 and DirectX 9, says Temme. But the virtual machines usually handle most games adequately ‘so long as you don’t take the absolutely newest games, the ones that also push a Windows PC to its limits.’
Pantos, from Parallels, takes a similar tack. He recommends setting configurations to the maximum level and making sure the virtual PC has access to a quadcore processor and as much RAM as possible.
Users with a Mac that has 4 gigabytes (GB) of working memory can give the virtual machine a maximum of 3 GB, explains Pantos. That’s because the Mac still needs 1 GB and a processor core to operate. The graphics card for the virtual machine can also be tuned, by pushing the slide control from a standard value of 256 megabytes to 1 GB.
To the Mac, the virtual machine appears as one data file, which contains the various installed Windows programmes and stored personal data. To protect this data from outsiders, Fusion has integrated a possibility to encrypt it.
But virtualization does not, in and of itself, provide protection from malware. Once connected to the internet, the Windows system is vulnerable to the same dangers as any PC. Thus, an up-to-date virus protection system is recommended.
Both Parallels Desktop and Fusion offer a one-year license for virus protection. And data protection is somewhat better on a virtual machine than on a PC, since, technically, only one file needs protection.
Both services also offer a snapshot function, making it easier to revert to earlier versions of the system in a pinch.
Another bonus of virtualisation is that some services allow the use of older Windows versions. Bootcamp no longer offers drivers for XP or Windows Vista. That minus is partially made up for by the fact that Bootcamp comes free with Macs and is easy to install.
Fusion and Parallel Desktop require a fee – about 36 euros (47 dollars) for Fusion 4 online, while Parallels Desktop 7 goes for about 55 euros. Both offer test versions that can be used free for several weeks.
If you’re a Mac user considering spending longer periods of time with Windows software, you should consider creating a Bootcamp partition on your hard drive. Since Windows on Bootcamp doesn’t use the Mac platform, rather the whole computer, it works faster than virtual machines, explains Chris Wiles of the British technology portal V3.