I've been looking around for reviews for the best way to run a Windows on a Mac. I've come across Bootcamp, Parallels, VitrualBox, and VMFusion. I am wondering what seems to be the most efficient, one with the least problems, and why use it over the others. If there are others I haven't mentioned let me know.


I have a MacBook Pro just bought it a few weeks ago, and at the moment I would only use the Windows side for a few games.

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    "Best" is subjective and hard to answer. My suggestions is if you're at all worried about easy and stability go with a paid product. Both Parallels and VMWare Fusion have been in this game for a while and run Windows well on OS X (even Lion).
    – Ian C.
    Aug 15, 2011 at 15:26
  • We need to know what model of Macintosh you are running, which version of the operating system you are running (Snow Leopard, Lion, etc.) and which version of Windows you want to run, and whether it will be 32-bit or 64-bit.
    – user9290
    Aug 15, 2011 at 15:28
  • It would be useful to know the reason you want to run Windows. Each of the solutions you mention has its own pros and cons -- for example, Bootcamp is the only one you mention that is not a virtualization solution, so it's well suited for high performance applications, but at the expense of having to reboot when you want to switch between OS X and Windows. Similarly, Fusion and Parallels both have better integration with OS X than does VirtualBox, but VirtualBox is free and has the most mature OpenGL support, but the least mature DirectX support.
    – calum_b
    Aug 15, 2011 at 15:29
  • You say you want to run "a Windows" -- is there one particular Windows program you want to run, or are you trying to run a copy of Windows to be able to run Windows programs in general?
    – Daniel
    Aug 15, 2011 at 15:41
  • We can't really tell you what the 'best' app is. That is different for everyone, so this can't have one definitive answer. If you can give us some more details and reframe the question, we may be able to help you. An example of a question that would work is "What app for running Windows on a Mac will give me the best gaming performance?". That works because it's answerable with a fact, not an opinion. If you can re-frame your question to be more like that, please feel free to ask it using the Ask Question button at the top right. Thanks. Aug 15, 2011 at 16:26

4 Answers 4


Your question is like that old Sesame Street song, "Which one of these things doesn't belong?". Bootcamp is a way to run Windows via dual booting, which means that when you are running Windows you are not running OS X. This is good for when you need maximum performance (e.g. Windows gaming) but very inconvenient when what you need is to be able to run Windows and OS X applications at the same time.

The other solutions you mentioned are all virtualization solutions that run Windows on top of OS X, letting you run a mix of applications. Of these, I agree with Wheat that Parallels and Fusion are both very good, and it's really hard to say one is better than another. Try them out (there are trial versions) and see which you prefer. Or just go with pricing; I run Parallels because I got a good price on it as part of a software bundle.

Virtualbox, on the other hand, is free and good at the basics, but it is MUCH less integrated into OS X. For example, it does not map your OS X documents folder into the Windows document folder to enable seamless sharing of data between the two environments. My take is that Virtualbox is good if you simply want to play around with Windows on a Mac, but if you have a real-world need for doing so, you're much better off spending the money for Fusion or Parallels.

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    Worth noting that although Virtual Box doesn't directly map your Documents folder, it does support sharing folders between host and guest, so you can still see and use your OS X Documents folder (or any other folder) from inside the Windows virtual machine. But you're right, it's not as well-integrated with OS X. (The main reason for that being that VirtualBox also runs on Solaris, Linux and Windows, which makes it considerably more useful for some of us.)
    – calum_b
    Aug 15, 2011 at 15:43
  • Good point; I do find that mapping avoids the need to copy files back and forth manually and so makes a huge difference in usability.
    – David
    Aug 15, 2011 at 15:52

Another option, depending on what you want to do, would be Crossover, which is built on top of the Wine software. It doesn't require a copy of Windows (and the disk space that would take up), but it doesn't have the full compatibility that entails, either. For my purposes (running one particular Windows program on my Mac), it is the solution I like best, but obviously, the best solution for your situation would depend on your specific goals.


Wine is great for running Windows applications. If you are just running the applications, I would highly recommend Wine instead of running a virtual machine. It is much faster and doesn't eat up as much CPU. Note: I haven't used Wine for running 3D games such as WOW or LOTRO, so I don't know how well that will do.

I use Winebottler rather that compiling Wine. If you want to compile Wine, you can follow this guide, but I would recommend Winebottler.

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    If you're specifically using it for games, you might also take a look at CodeWeavers' gaming-tweaked version of Wine, called CrossOver Games. It's not free, but there's a free trial.
    – calum_b
    Aug 15, 2011 at 16:09

I do not believe there is one that is best. All four solutions you mention work well, and have their own features.

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