In this article, we will explore the best virtualization and virtual machines to run Windows and Windows apps on a MAC.
There are many options available for those who want to run Windows programs on a Mac or MacBook. This article collects the best virtual machines for MAC that will allow you to install the Microsoft operating system on your Apple computer.
Although Apple often insists that its users use software created by them, the truth is that the company seems to have finally recognized that Microsoft does something better in terms of programs and applications designed for the corporate world.
This is the case of the Microsoft Office Access database, which can only be enjoyed on macOS if Windows is installed first. Unfortunately, it also happens with some video games that are only available for PC.
Can I run Windows on a Mac?
This benefited Apple because it elucidated one of the significant concerns Windows users had when considering switching to the Mac: it meant they could take Windows and its software with them.
However, this is now going to change. In 2020, Apple announced that it would replace Intel with its processors. That transition began with the arrival of the M1 chip in November of that year and continued in April with the introduction of the first iPad with M1.
That has led some to predict that it is over to have Windows on Mac, although the truth is that this does not seem to be the case. Parallels have already announced a version to run the ARM version of Windows on an M1-based Mac.
But getting the ARM version of Windows isn’t that easy, and the apps you use may not work well with this version. That’s why we wouldn’t recommend using Windows on an M1-powered Mac for the time being.
So, we will focus on the possibilities of running Windows on a Mac with Intel. It is possible to use Windows on Intel-based Macs, and you have several options at your disposal.
What is the best way to run Windows on Mac?
Luckily, several options are available for running Windows and Windows apps on a Mac. Before listing them, we explain the three methods of running Windows on a Mac.
The solution offered by Apple for these compatibility problems with specific programs is Boot Camp, which you can use through the ‘Boot Camp Assistant‘ app, which you can access from the ‘Utilities’ folder within the ‘Applications’ folder.
This wizard reserves a portion of your Mac’s internal hard drive so you can install Windows within macOS. When you turn on your Mac, you’ll have it as easy as choosing which operating system you want it to start with.
It is the best solution to run video games or demanding Windows applications since Boot Camp allows you to use the operating system with all your Apple computer’s power and memory.
Of course, Boot Camp also has some drawbacks, and it seems that it could be finished now that Apple has announced that this tool will not work on Macs with Apple chips.
The programs in this list allow you to create a virtual machine on your Mac where you can first install Windows and then download those applications that you want compatible with this operating system.
Alternatively, another option is called “virtualization,” which allows you to run Windows and Windows apps from macOS directly. That means you can run both operating systems at once.
Therefore, with virtualization, you can use apps for macOS and apps for Windows simultaneously, something that can be more comfortable than Boot Camp since you will not have to change your operating system every time.
We recommend using this technique when you want to run productivity and business programs, that is, applications that do not need much power. This is the case with the Microsoft Office suite and other database and word processing apps.
The third option is the one offered by Wine, with which you can run Windows apps without using Windows.
Instead of using conventional virtualization technology to run Windows, you won’t have to run it. Instead, Wine translates the programming (APIs) of Windows apps so they can communicate with macOS without the need for Windows.
Wine is not the only option. CodeWeavers CrossOver for Mac is based precisely on Wine and can now run Windows apps on Macs with the M1 chip.
While both Boot Camp and virtualization require a Windows license, one of the significant advantages of Wine and CrossOver is that you won’t need it.
Comparison: What is the best virtual machine for Mac?
£69.99 Annual Subscription (Standard Edition); £79.99 Annual Subscription (Pro/Business Edition)
Parallels always schedule its updates by coinciding with the macOS update. This year, a new version of Windows has also arrived, so Parallels Desktop 17 has to offer compatibility with both macOS Monterey and Windows 11.
Windows 11 has very demanding system requirements, such as having the TPM 2.0 security chip. Parallels 17 includes a virtual TPM chip that will work with Windows 11 and its BitLocker encryption features.
It also comes with a new driver that improves the performance of 2D graphics, offering smoother graphics for the Windows interface. It also improves performance when playing video games.
But there are certain limitations with the new Macs with M1. You’ll only be able to use Parallels on a Mac with M1 with Monterey or Big Sur installed. On the other hand, you can copy text and graphics in the new Monterey quick notes from Windows applications.
Fusion hasn’t always kept pace with regular Parallels Desktop updates, but VMware Fusion 12 has narrowed those differences and offers a free version for home use.
Fusion uses the same virtualization method as Parallels Desktop and allows you to create a “virtual machine” (VM) that uses software to simulate the hardware of a conventional Windows PC.
You can run that virtual machine in a window or full screen. New in VMware Fusion 12 includes support for DirectX 11 and eGPUs. VMware Fusion Player 12 is also available now.
The interface had never been as refined and fast as that of Parallels Desktop, but with version 11, changes were added that made it easier to use.
Here are some of our VMWare Guides.
3. CrossOver 20
£32 (£48 with support)
CodeWeavers CrossOver for Mac is based on Wine, but it’s easier to use than this other emulator. Of course, it is not free but has a price of about 40 dollars.
CrossOver 20 arrived in November 2020 and has already brought Windows apps to Macs with M1. Emulation occurs through Rosetta 2 on your Mac, so you don’t have to install Windows.
CrossOver is a bit tricky to use at first, and that’s why we recommend using the 14-day free trial period to see if it’s really what you need.
Unlike the virtualization software included in this article, Boot Camp does not allow you to use apps for Windows and macOS at the same time. With this tool installed, you will be able to run one or the other operating system separately, never simultaneously.
Running Boot Camp Assistant will create two partitions on your Mac’s hard drive or solid-state drive. These partitions can vary in size, but in any case, you should keep in mind that one will be for macOS and the other for Windows.
This is the best option to enjoy Windows in full, using all the power that your Mac offers, especially if you want to run very demanding programs and 3D video games.
As said at the beginning, boot camp version 6.1 can only be used to install Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Windows 10. Not all Macs will work well with these three versions, so you’ll need to make sure of compatibility first.4.
Free (Personal/Education); £40 per user (Enterprise Edition – minimum 100 users)
VirtualBox is an open virtualization program available from Oracle that is more designed for a corporate environment than for personal use. Of course, it is only free if used in a personal or educational context.
This software allows you to create a virtual machine that will enable you to use Windows and Windows apps within the macOS. Linux and Windows versions are also available, so you can also convert these into virtual machines.
The significant disadvantage of an open software of this type is that it is not as refined or sophisticated as others on this list, such as Parallels or Fusion. Version 6.1 was a big update, but it still uses a very technical language.
In addition, being a free program, you will not have technical support at your fingertips. You must take advantage of the forum and consult your doubts with other users. VirtualBox is designed for companies that have their own IT department.5.
Here are some of our Virtualbox Guides.
In addition to virtual machines and virtualization, you have another option to be able to use Windows on a Mac. Wine will allow you to use Windows apps without installing the Microsoft operating system on your Apple computer.
It is an open program that you can download for free. To work, Wine will translate APIs — the application programming interfaces — so that Windows apps can target macOS directly without Windows intermediation.
Plus, you won’t need extra memory or power, so you might notice that your Mac’s performance is better using Wine and not a virtual machine. The big but is that it can be somewhat confusing for beginners.
CrossOver is a somewhat more straightforward alternative to use – although slightly complicated at first, you can try for 14 days for free to check if it offers enough compatibility with the Windows programs and games you want to use.