Windows: Just Another Program To Run On A Mac
For years, the idea of running Windows on a Mac was a bit of a cruel joke. Emulation programs like SoftWindows and Virtual PC could simulate an Intel processor and all of the other hardware in a conventional PC, but that effort left precious little processing power to run Windows itself. At best, these solutions were "tolerable for occasional use," as a Post review concluded in 2004.
But a year later, Apple announced that it would switch from its PowerPC processors to Intel chips. And as I noted at the time, that meant that you wouldn't need to simulate an entire processor to run Windows on a Mac -- that entire performance conundrum would vanish.
Today's column looks at three programs for Intel-based Macs that run Windows at about the same speed as a regular PC (graphically-intensive applications excluded): Parallels' Parallels Desktop 4, $79.99; VMware's Fusion 2, $79.99; and Sun Microsystems' VirtualBox 2, free for personal use.
I'd tried Parallels and Fusion before, so these versions didn't offer any huge surprises -- even the fact that they still can't handle Windows Vista's Aero graphics didn't shock me. (I had a good chat with a VMware developer at January's Macworld Expo about this; Aero support is a more complicated task than you'd think, and even today, neither Parallels and VMware would estimate when they would accomplish it.)
Fusion 2 did, however, seem to represent a bit more of an advance over the previous version. Parallels 4 may be a case of going too far to mesh the Windows and Mac environments -- my guess is that most people running Windows programs on a Mac won't be doing so all the time, and so they don't need to have the two operating systems stitched so tightly together. It doesn't help this version's cause that the Parallels application itself has a particularly ugly icon.
VirtualBox, however, was new to me. I can see why this application is free for home use; its performance, compatibility and user interface all need work. Consider the gyrations necessary to turn on audio support: Click the "Settings" button for your virtual Windows system, then click the "Audio" icon; in the Audio window, click the "Enable Audio" checkbox, change the "Host Audio Driver" menu to "CoreAudio" and make sure the "Audio Controller" is "ICH AC97." (Activating USB support is simpler: click that Settings button, click "USB," then click the checkboxes "Enable USB" and "Enable USB 2.0" checkboxes) And yet... I suspect that many Windows switchers don't need to run more than a handful of Windows programs on a new Mac, and they'd gladly accept a limited, slower form of Windows emulation that saves them $80.
Or, of course, you could stick with the Boot Camp software built into Mac OS X, which provides total hardware compatibility -- including Vista Aero graphics -- but only accepts Windows XP or Vista and requires you to reboot the Mac to switch operating systems.
There's yet another option for running Windows programs on a Mac, CodeWeavers' CrossOver. This application doesn't even require a copy of Windows -- but it can only run a subset of Windows titles, sometimes with only some of their functions intact.
So which of these five options do you use to run Windows programs on a Mac? Or have you stuck with a sixth option: Find Mac equivalents to the Windows applications you once used? Let me know in the comments. Got any questions about this whole concept? Ask away in my Web chat, starting at 2 p.m. today.
December 11, 2008; 11:55 AM ET
Categories: Mac , Windows
Save & Share: Previous: Google Checks Off "Add To-Do List to Gmail"
Next: A Complex Answer To A Simple Question: What Laptop To Buy?
Posted by: senseinai | December 11, 2008 1:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: wiredog | December 11, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: petjam | December 12, 2008 4:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dkjazz3 | December 12, 2008 8:18 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jparshall | December 12, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: ddrachsler1 | December 12, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: clifton3 | December 12, 2008 12:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MMRudy | December 12, 2008 2:09 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: filmjoy | December 12, 2008 2:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: kmccorma | December 12, 2008 3:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mpainesyd | December 12, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JoseJGrimaldos | December 12, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ric971 | December 12, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: BillF110 | December 12, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: icyone | December 12, 2008 8:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: altruisticone | December 12, 2008 8:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: claritygraph | December 15, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: tomswift96 | December 16, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mlandsjr | December 17, 2008 7:59 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mlandsjr | December 17, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: HikerSD | December 18, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.