It’s easier than you might think to run Windows on a Mac; all you need is virtualization (also know as virtual machine) software. The top three applications for running Windows on an Intel-based Mac are Boot Camp, Parallels, and Fusion. All three work well, and are easy to use. Determining which one performs best, provides the best value, and best meets your needs can be difficult. A closer look at each may make the decision easier.
Apple Boot Camp has two important features that Parallels and Fusion can’t even touch. First of all, it’s free. Well, almost free; it’s included with OSX Leopard 10.5 and Snow Leopard 10.6. Boot Camp is also the fastest of the three contenders, running at the native speed of the underlying hardware. This makes Boot Camp a good choice when performance is important, such as playing your favorite Windows games.
Boot Camp’s main drawback is that it can’t run Windows and OS X at the same time. You must restart your computer to switch between the two OSes.
Parallels was the first commercial virtualization software to allow Intel-based Macs to run Windows. Its main advantage is its ability to run Windows (or other OSes, such as Linux) simultaneously with OS X. This lets you share data between OS X and Windows, and work productively in both environments without stopping to reboot.
In a match against Boot Camp, Parallels will always lag behind. For most general use, such as using Microsoft Office, the performance penalty is negligible. If you’re using graphics-intensive applications, such as Photoshop or 3D games, you will see the difference.
VMware Fusion, like Parallels, lets you run Windows and OS X simultaneously, and share data between the two environments.
Fusion has a few capabilities that Parallels lacks, such as support for multiple processors. The ability to use multiple cores lets Fusion perform better than Parallels, although nowhere near as fast as Boot Camp. Its other key benefits are slightly better graphics drivers and a more Mac-like user interface.
On the downside, Fusion may not support as many USB devices as Parallels currently does.