Tech Matters: The Advantages and Pitfalls of Running Windows on a Mac

Image courtesy of DeclanTM's photostream

Image courtesy of DeclanTM’s photostream

I totally get it.  Apple MacBooks are awesome computers that make getting things done easy.  They are premium computers that last long and come with a huge amount of support.  Why would you want anything else?

When Intel chips made it possible for Mac to run Windows it really changed the game.  You can run the operating system of your choice on a fantastic piece of hardware.  But, there are some important things to consider.

First, you must choose HOW you will run Windows on a Mac.  There are two ways of doing this:
1.    Through virtual machine software like Parallels
2.    Running Windows independently through Boot Camp

The difference is that when a user runs Windows through a virtual machine your Mac opens Windows through the OSX operating system. To put it simply, Windows is running on top of OSX, the operating system for Macs.  To do this smoothly your hardware needs to have adequate specifications.  For example, you want to make sure your computer has enough memory (aka RAM) to handle two operating systems running at the same time.  Both Windows and OSX will share the same resources, so you want to make sure there is plenty of memory to go around, otherwise you will find that it’ll run slowly.

The other way is to run Boot Camp.  This is a feature of all Macs that allows you to install Windows and choose which operating system you want to run when you power on the computer.  The installation of Windows is tricky and is best handled by getting instructions from a Specialist at an Apple Store.  The benefit is whichever operating system is running will have access to all the memory and hard drive space allotted to it.  You can partition your hard drive so that Windows can use a certain portion and OSX can use a certain portion.  The downside is if you need to switch from one to another you must first restart your computer to boot the differing operating system.

No matter which option you choose you must remember one thing: either way you will need to purchase a full copy of the Windows operating system you wish to install.  That can be an additional $200 or more for your setup.  If you purchase virtual machine software like Parallels that will cost another $80 or so.  For many users either of options will far outweigh the costs.

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