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Windows, nothing but Windows?

Published on April 5, 2012 by in Uncategorized

One of the minor irritations of using a Mac is the minority (but very irritating minority) of software that insists you have a Windows computer – this post prompted by a verbal shrug of the shoulders from a company that should know better when I asked why they effectively wanted me to go and buy a new computer to be able to run a piece of software that I had to use for a particular issue. The software in question is run through a website: through a browser. It should be platform agnostic but, since it seems to have been written with a proprietary Microsoft platform, it doesn’t play well on Macs.

So, what to do?

Generally, the easiest thing to do is not to go and buy another computer. For a short, one-off, thing, you may be able to borrow someone else’s computer – where they haven’t (yet) switched to Mac.

A better solution (but slightly more expensive) is to install emulator software which allows you to run Windows on a Mac (ok, this assumes you’re running an Intel Mac. If you’re still using PowerPC chips, none of the following applies. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you don’t need to worry if you bought your Mac in the last five years or so). Yes, I know, you’re using a Mac so that you don’t have to use Windows. Not everyone is listening to sense, unfortunately.

The two main leaders in emulation software are Parallels and VMware Fusion. There’s also Apple’s own BootCamp, which is baked into the OS but this has one particular problem: you have to restart the computer to use Windows, and then restart again to get back to the Mac OS. Tiresome.

Parallels and VMware Fusion, instead, allow you to run Windows without any restart.  There’s not a lot to choose between them as far as I can tell – they seem to allow you to run most things without a hitch (if you use either, let me know how you find it!).

I use VirtualBox to run Windows, because it’s free (yes, I’m being miserly. I also don’t need to run Windows for many things – mostly an Open University program). It also allows you to run Windows without restarting the Mac.

Running Windows without a restart just means that the Windows environment runs in a windows on the Mac – you can maximise the window to get a full screen effect (which feels very odd on an iMac or MacBook!).  All the emulators seem to function with the printers, speakers etc attached to the Mac.

You do have to pay for a copy of Windows (unless you’ve got a licence already), as these programs just provide the environment for Windows to run.

If you don’t want to have to buy Windows, there is a program called CrossOver which claims to run Windows applications directly on the Mac. I haven’t tried it, and would be interested to hear what people have to say about it if any of you have tried it.

Oh, and that piece of annoying software? I did manage to get it to run without resorting to Windows in the end, but the company could not have been less helpful if they’d tried.

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