Through the years, Macintosh and Windows never played well together, although there were plenty of attempts to make them do so. But not only were there different pieces of software, they ran on completely different processors. Windows used Intel, AMD and other compatible chips, while Macs, like the top-of-the-line Quadra 950, ran on Motorola processors – and were slower by far than today’s iMac.
When Apple began using Intel processors in 2006, everything changed. Now it doesn’t matter if a particular Windows program doesn’t have a dedicated Mac OS X version, because there are two different ways to run it on a Mac – emulation or virtualization – with various approaches for each. If you have a favorite Windows program you want to use for a presentation on one of our plasma display rentals, you can do that with a Mac, no problem.
Emulation software simulates enough basic parts of the Windows OS to run some programs on the Mac. One well known Windows-on-Mac emulator is WINE, which you build yourself from freely available code (difficult) or install with a third-party “pre-fab” package (not so difficult). Among the best of the latter is PlayOnMac, which features a simple interface for browsing and installing compatible Windows programs.
The more advanced Crossover application is quite straightforward. Try it for free to see if the programs you want to run are supported, and then buy it if they work. The shortcomings of emulation include a limited selection of programs, potential quirks in running them outside their native environment and a heavy CPU load for some. Of course, the MacBook Pro and other Macs now have Intel “Core i-” series CPUs, so that last problem is greatly diminished.
In the era of Motorola CPUs, the open source VirtualBox (since acquired by Oracle) was among several complicated ways to run Windows on the Mac. Virtualization now relies on an actual installation of Windows, which became possible after Apple started using Intel chips. You can boot into Windows, as well as run it “in parallel” with Mac OS X. In fact, one of the first programs to offer this functionality was named Parallels, which is in wide use.
Running two operating systems simultaneously gobbles up memory and CPU resources, and early virtual machines did not always work properly with peripherals. Now, Parallels and VMware run on every Mac from laptops to the mighty Mac Pro, and can interface with scanners, networks and all kinds of printer rentals. Just ensure that your Mac has at least 4GB of RAM and a Core 2 Duo processor and you should have smooth sailing. Remember, you need a Windows installation disc with a serial number for a legitimate installation.
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