Macs have a thriving ecosystem of software, but some programs still only support Windows. Whether you want to use business software or play Windows PC games, there are many ways to run Windows programs on your Mac.
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We recommend using a virtual machine program, ideally Parallels or VMWare Fusion, to run Windows applications on a Mac without rebooting. For maximum performance, which is particularly necessary for gaming, we recommend dual-booting Windows with Boot Camp instead.
A virtual machine is one of the best ways to run Windows desktop software. They allow you to install Windows and other operating systems in a window on your Mac desktop. Windows will think it’s running on a real computer, but it’s actually running inside a piece of software on your Mac.
You don’t have to use your Windows program in the virtual machine window, either—many virtual machine programs allow you to break Windows programs out of your virtual machine window so they can appear on your Mac desktop. However, they’re still running inside the virtual machine in the background.
You’ll need a Windows license to install Windows in a virtual machine. If you already have a product key, you can download Windows installation media for free and install it in a virtual machine program.
Popular virtual machine programs for Mac include Parallels and VMware Fusion. Each of these is a paid program, so you’ll have to buy both a Windows license and a copy of your virtual machine program of choice. You can also use the completely free and open-source VirtualBox for Mac, but its 3D graphics support and Mac operating system integration aren’t as good. Parallels and VMWare Fusion both offer free trials, so you can try all these programs and decide which is best for you.
Note:We don’t often recommend paid software, but in the case of Parallels Desktop, it’s something we use at How-To Geek every single day for testing software and running Windows. The integration with macOS is amazingly well done, and the speed blows away VirtualBox. In the long run, the price is well worth it.
There’s one big downside to virtual machines: 3D graphics performance isn’t amazing, so this isn’t the best way to run Windows games on your Mac. Yes, it can work—especially with older games—but you won’t get the best performance, even in an ideal situation….