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How to Run macOS on Windows 10 in a Virtual Machine

Windows 10 is a great operating system. It has its quirks and annoyances, but which operating system doesn't? Even if you're beholden to Microsoft and Windows 10, you can still shop around.

What better way to do that than from the safe confines of your existing operating system with a virtual machine? This way, you can run macOS on Windows, which is perfect for using Mac-only apps on Windows.

So, here's how you install macOS in a virtual machine on Windows, making a virtual Hackintosh that lets you run Apple apps from your Windows machine.

What Files Do You Need to Create a macOS Virtual Machine on Windows 10?

Before delving into the "how-to," you need to download and install the essential tools. The tutorial details how to create macOS virtual machines using both Oracle VirtualBox Manager (VirtualBox) and VMware Workstation Player (VMware Player).

Related: VirtualBox vs. VMware Player: The Best Virtual Machine for Windows

You need a copy of macOS, too. Big Sur is the latest macOS version. You can find the download links for macOS Big Sur in the next section.

This tutorial will focus on installing macOS Big Sur in a virtual machine running on Intel hardware, using either VirtualBox or VMware Player.

Unfortunately, I do not have access to any AMD hardware, so I cannot provide a tutorial.

There is, however, the code snippet that anyone using an AMD system requires to boot a macOS Big Sur using VMware on AMD hardware.

Launching the macOS Big Sur virtual machine is the same as the Intel version but uses a slightly different code snippet. You can find the tutorial and the code snippet in the section below.

Furthermore, you will find links to several AMD macOS Catalina, Mojave, and High Sierra virtual machine tutorials, at the end of the article.

Download macOS Big Sur Virtual Image

Use the download links below to download the macOS Big Sur image for both VirtualBox and VMware.

Download:macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine Image

Download:VMware Player Patch Tool

How to Create a macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine With VirtualBox

Before creating the macOS virtual machine, you need to install the VirtualBox Extension Pack. It includes fixes for USB 3.0 support, mouse and keyboard support, and other useful VirtualBox patches.

Download: VirtualBox Extension Pack for Windows (Free)

Scroll down, select All supported platforms to download, then double-click to install.

1. Create the macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine

Open VirtualBox. Select New. Type macOS.

VirtualBox will detect the OS as you type and will default to Mac OS X. You can leave this as is.

Regarding the virtual machine name, make it something memorable yet easy to type. You'll need to input this name in a series of commands, and it is frustrating to type a complicated name multiple times!

Next, set the amount of RAM the macOS virtual machine can use. I would suggest a minimum of 4GB, but the more you can give from the host system, the better your experience.

Remember, you cannot assign more RAM than your system has available, and you need to leave some memory available for the host operating system.

Now, select Create a hard disk now and select Create. On the next screen, select Virtual Hard Disk, then set the disk size to a minimum of 50GB, but ideally more if you can spare the space. macOS Big Sur requires at least 35GB of storage.

Related: How Much RAM Do You Really Need?

2. Edit the macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine Settings

Don't try and start your macOS Big Sur virtual machine yet. Before firing the virtual machine up, you need to make a few tweaks to the settings. Right-click your macOS virtual machine and select Settings.

  1. Under System, remove Floppy from the boot order. Ensure the Chipset is set to ICH9.
  2. Select the Processor tab. Assign two processors. If you have a CPU with power to spare (such as an Intel Core i7 or i9 with multiple extra cores), consider assigning more. However, this isn't vital.
  3. Make sure the Enable PAE/NX box is checked.
  4. Under Display, set Video Memory to 128MB.
  5. Now, under Storage, select the blank disc under Storage Devices. Next, select the disk icon alongside Optical Drives. Browse to and select your macOS Big Sur disk image.
  6. Finally, head to the USB tab and select USB 3.0, then press OK.

3. Use the Command Prompt to Add Custom Code to VirtualBox

It still isn't quite time to fire up your macOS Big Sur virtual machine. In its current configuration, VirtualBox doesn't work with your macOS disk image.

To get it up and running, you have to essentially patch VirtualBox before the macOS virtual machine will function. To do this, you need to enter some code using the Command Prompt. All the details are below.

Start by closing VirtualBox. The commands will not execute properly if VirtualBox or any of its associated processes are running.

Once closed, press the Windows key + X, then select Command Prompt (Admin) from the menu. If your menu only shows the PowerShell option, type command into your Start menu search bar. Then right-click the Best Match, and select Run as Administrator. Use the following command to locate the Oracle VirtualBox directory:

Now, enter the following commands, one by one. Adjust the command to match the name of your virtual machine. For instance, my virtual machine name is macOS Big Sur.

Here are the commands:

After the completion of the commands and presuming you encountered no errors, close the Command Prompt.

4. Boot Your macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine

Reopen VirtualBox. Double-click your macOS virtual machine to start it. You will see a long stream of text, followed by the Apple logo. On the next screen, select your language of choice, then Continue.

  1. Next, select Disk Utility. You create a clean drive for macOS Big Sur to install to.
  2. In the Disk Utility, select VBOX HARDDISK MEDIA from the Internal drive column.
  3. After selecting the drive, head to the Erase option found at the top of the utility.
  4. Give your drive a name, set the Format to Mac OS Extended (Journaled), and the Scheme to GUID Partition Map.
  5. Select Erase.
  6. Once complete, you can exit the Disk Utility back to the Big Sur recovery screen. From here, you should select Install macOS Big Sur.
  7. Select the drive you created in the Disk Utility, followed by Continue.

Now, the installation says it'll take a few minutes. However, in my experience, this wasn't correct. The initial installation phase took around 15 minutes, but then you land on a second installation screen after the macOS Big Sur virtual machine restarts.

The initial installation time on that screen begins at around 29 minutes. However, once it reaches Less than a minute remaining and you get your hopes up—don't.

It took another hour for the installation to complete from this point, but I've also read reports of people waiting for upwards of three hours. Worse, there is no way to tell if the installation is ongoing on you're just wasting your time.

If you can afford the time, leave it for several hours, and hopefully, when you come back, you'll be staring at the macOS Big Sur Welcome page.

Once you complete the macOS setup, take a snapshot within VirtualBox. Head to Machine > Take Snapshot, give your snapshot a name, and wait for it to process. If anything breaks or the Big Sur virtual machine corrupts, you can head back to the snapshot to restore your previously good installation.

How to Create a macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine Using VMware Workstation Player

Prefer VMware over VirtualBox? You can create a macOS Big Sur virtual machine using VMware that works exactly the same as VirtualBox. And, just as with VirtualBox, VMware also requires patching before the macOS Big Sur virtual machine will work.

This part of the tutorial works for Intel and AMD systems. AMD users must use the second code snippet when editing the virtual machine VMX file. Read through the tutorial to see what this means exactly.

1. Patch VMware Workstation Player

  1. In the "Download macOS Big Sur Virtual Image" section is the VMware Player Patch Tool. Before commencing any further, download the patch tool.
  2. Browse to the location you downloaded the patch tool to. Extract the contents of the archive. This process works best when the folders are on the same drive (e.g., the VMware root folder and extracted archive are both found on the C:\ drive).
  3. Make sure VMware is completely closed. In the Unlocker folder, right-click the win-install command script and select Run as Administrator. The script will open a Command Prompt window, and the patch script will run.

Do pay attention. The script whizzes by, and you need to keep watch for any "File not Found" messages.

The most common reason for a "file not found" or a "system cannot find the file specified" message is installing VMware Workstation Player in a different location to the default folder and executing the patch from a different directory.

Once the patch completes, you can open VMware.

2. Create the macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine with VMware

  1. Select Create a New Virtual Machine. Choose I will install the operating system later.
  2. Now, select Apple Mac OS X, and change the Version to macOS 10.16. If you don't see the macOS options, it is because the patch didn't install correctly.
  3. Next, you need to choose a name for your macOS Big Sur virtual machine. Choose something easy to remember, then copy the file path to somewhere handy—you're going to need it to make some edits in a moment.
  4. On the next screen, set a disk size of 50GB or larger and select Store virtual disk as a single file. Complete the virtual disk creation wizard, but do not start the virtual machine just yet.

3. Edit the macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine Settings

Before you can boot the virtual machine, you must edit the hardware specification.

  1. From the main VMware screen, select your macOS Big Sur virtual machine, then right-click and select Settings.
  2. Bump the virtual machine memory up to at least 4GB. You can allocate more if you have RAM to spare.
  3. Under Processors, edit the number of available cores to 2 (or more if available).
  4. Now, select New CD/DVD (SATA)> Use ISO image file. Browse to the macOS Big Sur ISO file and select it.
  5. Close the Hardware window, and select Finish.

However, don't start the VMware Workstation Player macOS Big Sur virtual machine just yet. There are still some edits to make to configuration files.

4. Edit the macOS Big Sur VMX File for Intel Hardware

This section is for Intel users, and it involves the final set of edits you need to make before switching your VMware macOS Big Sur virtual machine on!

Close VMware. Head to the location you stored the macOS virtual machine. The default location is:

Browse to macOS Big Sur.vmx, right-click, and select Open with > Notepad (or your preferred text editor). Scroll to the bottom of the configuration file and add the following line:

Save, then Exit.

You can now open VMware, select your macOS Big Sur virtual machine, and fire it up!

5. Edit the macOS Big Sur VMX File for AMD Hardware

This section is for AMD users. Like the above section, AMD users must also edit the VMX file before proceeding. The AMD edit involves a few more lines than the Intel version, but you can copy and paste the data into the file.

Close VMware. Head to the location you stored the macOS virtual machine. The default location is:

Browse to macOS Big Sur.vmx, right-click, and select Open with > Notepad (or your preferred text editor). Scroll to the bottom of the configuration file and add the following lines:

Save, then Exit.

You can now open VMware, select your macOS Big Sur virtual machine, and fire it up!

6. Configure and Install the macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine

After launching the macOS Big Sur virtual machine, you'll have to configure the storage drive before installation.

  1. Next, select Disk Utility. You create a clean drive for macOS Big Sur to install to.
  2. In the Disk Utility, select VMware Virtual SATA Hard Drive Media from the Internal drive column.
  3. After selecting the drive, head to the Erase option found at the top of the utility.
  4. Give your drive a name, set the Format to APFS, and the Scheme to GUID Partition Map.
  5. Select Erase.
  6. Once complete, you can exit the Disk Utility back to the Big Sur recovery screen. From here, you should select Install macOS Big Sur.
  7. Select the drive you created in the Disk Utility, followed by Continue.

The installation process takes a while, but it is faster than VirtualBox. Once macOS Big Sur loads, you can configure the operating system as you see fit.

7. Install VMware Tools to Your macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine

You now need to install VMware Tools, which is a set of utilities and extensions that improve mouse handling, video performance, and other useful things.

With the macOS virtual machine running, head to Player > Manage > Install VMware Tools.

The installation disc will appear on the macOS desktop. When the option appears, select Install VMware Tools, then allow it access to the removable volume. Follow the guided installer, which will require a restart on completion.


A couple of things can go wrong during the macOS virtual machine installation in VMware Player Workstation.

  1. If you cannot see "Apple Mac OS X" during the virtual machine creation wizard, then you need to revisit the patch process. Ensure every process associated with VMware Player is off.
  2. If you receive the message "Mac OS X is not supported with binary translation" when starting the virtual machine, there is a strong chance you need to activate virtualization in your BIOS/UEFI configuration.
  3. If you receive the message "VMware Player unrecoverable error: (vcpu-0)" when starting the virtual machine, you need to head back to the macOS Big Sur.vmx configuration file to ensure you added the extra line and saved the edit.
  4. If you're running AMD hardware and get stuck at the Apple logo, first power off the virtual machine. Now, head to Settings > Options > General. Change the Guest operating system to Microsoft Windows and the Version to Windows 10 x64. Press OK, then attempt to power up the virtual machine again. Once the Apple logo passes, power down the virtual machine, then set the Guest operating system option back to Apple Mac OS X, selecting the correct version.

macOS Virtual Machines for AMD Hardware

Apple uses Intel hardware to power desktops and laptops. Configuring a macOS virtual machine using Intel hardware is easier because the hardware specifications are very similar.

With AMD, the opposite is true. Because Apple does not develop macOS on AMD hardware, creating a macOS virtual machine on an AMD system is trickier. However, you can check out the following video tutorial to learn how to install macOS Big Sur on a VMware virtual machine using AMD hardware.

Related: How to Install Linux in Windows With a VMware Virtual Machine

macOS Big Sur Virtual Machine Installation Complete

You have two options to choose from for your macOS Big Sur virtual machine. Both options are great if you want to give macOS a try before making the switch from Windows and enjoy some of the best Apple apps on offer.


How to Create a Virtual Machine Using Windows 10 Hyper-V

Did you know Windows 10 has an integrated tool for creating virtual machines? It's called Hyper-V and here's how it works.

Read Next

About The Author
Gavin Phillips (963 Articles Published)

Gavin is the Junior Editor for Windows and Technology Explained, a regular contributor to the Really Useful Podcast, and a regular product reviewer. He has a BA (Hons) Contemporary Writing with Digital Art Practices pillaged from the hills of Devon, as well as over a decade of professional writing experience. He enjoys copious amounts of tea, board games, and football.

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VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 2. See "About VirtualBox" for an introduction.

Presently, VirtualBox runs on Windows, Linux, Macintosh, and Solaris hosts and supports a large number of guest operating systems including but not limited to Windows (NT 4.0, 2000, XP, Server 2003, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10), DOS/Windows 3.x, Linux (2.4, 2.6, 3.x and 4.x), Solaris and OpenSolaris, OS/2, and OpenBSD.

VirtualBox is being actively developed with frequent releases and has an ever growing list of features, supported guest operating systems and platforms it runs on. VirtualBox is a community effort backed by a dedicated company: everyone is encouraged to contribute while Oracle ensures the product always meets professional quality criteria.


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Virtual Machine on Mac: Which to choose and why?

For Mac users, virtual machines (VM) are important when there’s a need for Windows or Linux to run on the desktop. Developers will often use a Mac VM to run an older version of macOS for testing software. Whatever the need, a good virtual machine for Mac can be just what you need to stay productive.

We’ll tell you how to run virtual machine on Mac, how to install virtual machine on Mac desktops, which is the best virtual machine for Mac, and the differences between some of the best macOS virtual machine options.

What is a Virtual Machine?

A virtual machine on Mac is best understood when breaking the term down. ‘Virtual’ means it’s not really there, and ‘machine’ relates to the computer itself. So a virtual machine for your Mac is like having another computer – except there’s no hardware.

Virtual machines allow users to boot into completely different desktops from one Mac. You can use a virtual machine to run Windows or Linux as though you booted up a completely different machine. This is handy; a Mac virtual machine is an excellent choice for part-time use of Windows, Linux, or a different macOS version.

Why run Windows on the Mac? 

Sure, Macs have the full Office 365 suite, so running Windows on a Mac won’t appeal to everyone. But there are times you may need features Microsoft didn’t bundle into the Mac version of its apps.

A macOS or mac OS X virtual machine allow you to quickly boot up a windows environment and get the full complement of tooling available for Office 365, including an Access database macOS doesn’t have. Windows also has many third-party apps macOS doesn’t, and PC gaming is just far better than macOS gaming!

Virtualization vs Apple Boot Camp

Virtualization is the method for booting up virtual machines on your Mac without Apple oversight. Apple Boot Camp is a built-in feature older Macs have for booting straight into Windows.

Boot Camp is handy for those who need Windows, but Apple controls this environment. Currently, Boot Camp only boots to Windows 10, and only on certain Macs. 

Virtualization taps into a virtual machine hosted on a server, and you can open and run any Windows, Linux, or macOS variant you like in a secure environment on your desktop. 

Best Virtual Machine Software for Mac

When picking a virtual machine Mac users have tons of options. Sure, there’s the Apple virtual machine (Boot Camp) but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 

Parallels Desktop

Parallels is the best choice for all Mac users who need virtualization. It’s affordable, only costing $19.99 per year for a single user, and has options to run desktop apps on mobile devices. If you’ve ever been frustrated with Office 365 apps native to iPhone, Parallels is a great option for that reason alone.

But Parallels doesn’t stop there. It also taps deeper into Apple Metal 2 than other virtualization services, which is excellent if you need to run intense graphical apps on your Mac, like CAD or other design software. Because Parallels supports Metal, PC games requiring DirectX (and there are plenty) run a lot better on your Mac.

Parallels is also macOS Big Sur-ready and supports Sidecar for a dual-screen environment. 

We like Parallels because it’s a no-nonsense approach to virtualization that doesn’t compromise. You can run any app without fear of support, and its mobile support is great for iPad users. Use of Metal creates a seamless environment for apps leaning into your GPU; other services not using Metal can create lag, or worse, on the very same apps running on your Mac. 

Parallels even supports multiple virtual environments, a great option for those who need to tap into multiple virtual desktops from afar. 

Apple Boot Camp

Apple Boot Camp is an excellent, built-in option for those with basic needs. If all you need to do is access a productivity app available only to Windows, Boot Camp will likely do everything you want.

Boot Camp Downloads support documents and partitions your hard drive with just a few clicks, then automatically downloads a supported version of Windows. All very user-friendly – but there’s a catch. Boot Camp is not supported for Macs with Apple’s M1 chipset, so the latest Mac hardware will not support Boot Camp at all. This is because Windows machines are still Intel-based, and it seems Apple is not interested in supporting Windows virtualization moving forward. 

It’s worth noting Boot Camp is also Windows-only; if you need Linux support, Boot Camp won’t help. Apple also suggests a full backup of your Mac before using Boot Camp for the first time, and there’s no better backup service for macOS than Get Backup Pro.

Get Backup Pro lets you back your Mac up whenever you want, to whatever hard drive you like. You can choose to back your entire system up, or choose folders to backup, all on a schedule that suits your needs. You can even create multiple backups; back your pics up daily, and your full hard drive weekly, all without having to do anything manually. Create your backups, schedule them, and let Get Backup Pro do the rest!

get backup pro mac

Windows or macOS, your computer will accumulate files or folders you don’t need. There’s also a good chance running Windows environments will change settings on your Mac, all of which can cause confusion and disruption to you workflow. When you’re done working in a virtual environment, run CleanMyMac X to get your Mac back in tip-top shape.

CleanMyMac X has a handy Smart Scan feature for quickly cleaning up and optimizing your Mac any time, and has several modules dedicated to deeper analysis and cleanup of your Mac. The ‘Maintenance’ module digs deep into your Mac’s settings to free up RAM, re-index Spotlight search, flush your DNS cache, and repair disk permissions – all things that can be altered in virtualization and cause headaches when you return to your Mac desktop setting.

No matter how thorough a scrub you want to give your Mac, simply open CleanMyMac X, choose the service module you’d like to run, and click “Run” at the bottom of the screen – then sit back and let CleanMyMac X do its magic!

CleanMyMac X

Bouncing between macOS and virtual environments is taxing on your Mac. You should monitor your system, keeping tabs both during virtualization and when you’re using macOS. This is where iStat Menus comes in.

iStat Menus keeps an eye on your Mac’s performance all day, every day. It monitors CPU load, how your GPU is operating, memory allocation, apps using significant energy, and so much more. Living in your Mac’s menu bar, iStat Menus surfaces relevant details when you click its icon.

But that’s not all; hover over a portion of the drop-down menu, and iStat Menus surfaces even more data, all displayed in real-time graphs that show you historical data going back a full month. iStat Menus is a sensational app for keeping tabs on your Mac, no matter how you use it.

istat menus mac

VMWare Fusion

Dell’s virtualization solution, VMWare, is nearly as good as Parallels. It offers a fully sandboxed environment for Windows or Linux virtual environments on your Mac, and works with the VMWare vSphere virtual environment. It’s Big Sur compatible, supports Kubernetes, and supports DirectX and OpenGL for optimized graphics performance. 

If there’s a downside for Fusion, it’s that Dell has chosen to position it for tech professionals rather than everyday users or other professionals. Fusion is available to anyone, but its cluster of supporting services makes it ideal for tech pros.

Its interface is not as nice as Parallels, but Fusion is just as powerful for desktop-only users (there’s no mobile compatibility, as we find in Parallels). 


Designed more for emulation than virtualization, QEMU is defined as a “generic and open source machine emulator and virtualizer.” It’s a fair assessment; if you’re looking for a truly bare-bones virtual environment, QEMU is just what you’re looking for.

Though similar, emulation is not virtualization. An emulator is most often used for creating an environment for legacy software to operate – this is why gamers rely on emulators to run old games for platforms that were discontinued years ago. 

This helps us understand why QEMU is so simple: it’s meant to provide a service and get ‘out of your way’ so you can do what you like. In virtualization, QEMU runs KVM for straight virtualization, and Xen if you need to operate several virtual instances at once. Just keep in mind QEMU is probably best for tech pros who have an idea how to weave other services through QEMU to build the environment they want.

Oracle VM VirtualBox

Free for personal use, VirtualBox has many of the same capabilities as Parallels or Fusion but lacks a lot of polish. Like QEMU, VirtualBox is open source, which is a hat-tip that Oracle will not support it moving forwar,d instead relying on the open source community to update and improve it.

This also means VirtualBox will eventually become useless as Apple moves towards its own M1 chipset architecture, leaving Intel-based system behind.

Citrix Hypervisor

Like the rest of Citrix’s suite of tools, Hypervisor is enterprise-focused. It’s a centralized platform for weaving other Citrix services together, including virtualization. Unlike VirtualBox and QEMU, which are bare-bones open source virtualization platforms, using Hypervisor means you inherit other Citrix dependencies as well.

For businesses, Hypervisor is free to existing Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop customers, which is a strong indication Hypervisor is best suited for those who have a need for creating a unique virtual server environment or centralized VM management that work with existing Citrix services and need a virtualization tool to make it all work seamlessly.

citrix hypervisor

Wine 4.1

Wine isn’t technically virtualization at all. Instead of creating a virtual environment, Wine translates Windows APIs for use on macOS so you don’t even need a copy of Windows or a virtual machine to run it on. This means you also don’t need a lot of memory or CPU prowess for apps Wine is translating.

It all sounds wonderful, but Wine has massive caveats. It can’t run on macOS Catalina or Big Sur, as both lack support for 32-bit apps. It also won’t work on M1 Macs, and is an open source “project” requiring support form a community of developers. 


Virtual machines for your Mac are incredibly handy at critical times – but they’re not all created equal. If you’re looking for our best choice, it’s Fusion, which offers an interface beginners can grasp with ease, support for mobile devices, and enough customization to satisfy professionals.

We also recommend using Get Backup Pro, iStat Menus, and CleanMyMac X, even if you don’t operate in virtualization. This bundle of apps is the perfect DIY suite to keep your Mac running its best and backed up often.

All three apps are available for free during a seven-day trial of Setapp, an incredible suite of over 200 native Mac apps. During your free trial, use all the apps you like without limitations to craft your own perfect macOS app setup!

When your trial ends, Setapp is only $9.99 per month for continuous, unfettered use of its full suite of apps, which is constantly growing. Now is the perfect time to download Setapp, so why wait? Give Setapp a try now!

Como instalar o Big Sur na Máquina Virtual (AMD e INTEL)

Macs have a thriving ecosystem of software, but some programs still only support Windows. Whether you want to use business software or play Windows PC games, there are many ways to run Windows programs on your Mac.

Some of these methods are similar to the ways you can install Windows software on Linux or run Windows programs on a Chromebook. Virtual machines, dual-booting, the Wine compatibility layer, and remote desktop solutions are all included here.

Virtual Machines

We recommend using a virtual machine program, ideally Parallels or VMWare Fusion, to run Windows applications on a Mac without rebooting. For maximum performance, which is particularly necessary for gaming, we recommend dual-booting Windows with Boot Camp instead.

A virtual machine is one of the best ways to run Windows desktop software. They allow you to install Windows and other operating systems in a window on your Mac desktop. Windows will think it’s running on a real computer, but it’s actually running inside a piece of software on your Mac.

You don’t have to use your Windows program in the virtual machine window, either—many virtual machine programs allow you to break Windows programs out of your virtual machine window so they can appear on your Mac desktop. However, they’re still running inside the virtual machine in the background.

You’ll need a Windows license to install Windows in a virtual machine. If you already have a product key, you can download Windows installation media for free and install it in a virtual machine program.

RELATED:How to Seamlessly Run Windows Programs on Your Mac with Parallels

Popular virtual machine programs for Mac include Parallels and VMware Fusion. Each of these is a paid program, so you’ll have to buy both a Windows license and a copy of your virtual machine program of choice. You can also use the completely free and open-source VirtualBox for Mac, but its 3D graphics support and Mac operating system integration aren’t as good. Parallels and VMWare Fusion both offer free trials, so you can try all these programs and decide which is best for you.

Note:We don’t often recommend paid software, but in the case of Parallels Desktop, it’s something we use at How-To Geek every single day for testing software and running Windows. The integration with macOS is amazingly well done, and the speed blows away VirtualBox. In the long run, the price is well worth it.

There’s one big downside to virtual machines: 3D graphics performance isn’t amazing, so this isn’t the best way to run Windows games on your Mac. Yes, it can work—especially with older games—but you won’t get the best performance, even in an ideal situation. Many games, especially newer ones, will be unplayable. That’s where the next option comes into play.

Boot Camp

RELATED:How to Install Windows on a Mac With Boot Camp

Apple’s Boot Camp allows you to install Windows alongside macOS on your Mac. Only one operating system can be running at a time, so you’ll have to restart your Mac to switch between macOS and Windows. If you’ve ever dual-booted Linux on your Windows PC, it’s just like that.

Installing Windows as a real operating system on your Mac is the best idea if you want to play Windows games or use demanding applications that need all the performance they can get. When you install Windows on your Mac, you’ll be able to use Windows and Windows applications with the maximum possible performance. Your Mac will perform as well as a Windows PC with the same specifications.

The downside here is that you can’t run macOS applications and Windows applications side-by-side at the same time. If you just want to run a Windows desktop application alongside your Mac applications, a virtual machine will probably be ideal. On the other hand, if you want to play the latest Windows games on your Mac, Boot Camp will be ideal.

As with virtual machines, you’ll need a Windows license to install Windows on your Mac.


RELATED:How to Run Windows Programs on a Mac With Wine

Wine originated on Linux. It’s a compatibility layer that allows Windows applications to run on other operating systems. Essentially, Wine is an attempt to rewrite the Windows code that applications depend on so they can run on other operating systems. This means that Wine is nowhere near perfect. It won’t run every Windows application, and will have bugs with many of them. The Wine AppDB can give you some idea of which applications are supported, although it focuses on Linux support.

Nevertheless, Wine is one way to try running Windows applications on a Mac. Because it doesn’t require you actually use Windows, you don’t need a Windows license to use Wine. It’s completely free. Just download Wine or WineBottler for macOS and see how well it works for your application.

CrossOver Mac

CodeWeavers’ CrossOver Mac is a paid application that will run Windows programs on Mac. It uses the open-source Wine code to accomplish this, but CrossOver provides a nice graphical interface and focuses on officially supporting popular programs. If an officially supported program doesn’t work, you can contact CodeWeavers and expect them to make it work for you. CodeWeavers contributes their improvements back to the open-source Wine project, so paying for CrossOver Mac also helps the Wine project itself.

CrossOver offers a free trial it you want to try it out first. You can also view a list of which programs run well on CrossOver before buying. While CrossOver focuses on compatibility, it’s still based on Wine, and won’t work with everything.

Most people will probably be happiest going for a virtual machine program and a Windows license. With CrossOver, you don’t need to run a Windows virtual machine—but, if you do run a Windows virtual machine, you’ll be able to run almost any Windows program with less risk of bugs. CrossOver does theoretically allow you to run Windows PC games on a Mac with better performance than you’d get in a virtual machine, but you’ll risk running into bugs and unsupported programs. Boot Camp may still be a better solution for that.

Remote Desktop

RELATED:How to Access Windows Remote Desktop Over the Internet

If you already have a Windows system, you could skip running Windows software on your Mac completely and use remote desktop software to access the Windows machine from your Mac’s desktop. Organizations with business software that runs on Windows can host Windows servers and make their applications available to Macs, Chromebooks, Linux PCs, iPads, Android tablet, and other devices. If you’re just a home user who also has a Windows PC, you could configure that Windows PC for remote access and connect to it whenever you need a Windows application. Bear in mind that this isn’t ideal for visually intensive applications like PC games.

If you’re a Chrome user, you can even use Chrome Remote Desktop to connect to a Windows PC running Chrome from your Mac running Chrome.

All these tricks obviously require more work than simply installing a Windows program on a Windows PC. If you have a Mac, you should focus on using Mac software when possible. Windows programs won’t be as integrated or work as well.

You may have to buy a Windows license for your Mac to get the best compatibility, whether you’re using a virtual machine or installing Windows in Boot Camp. Wine and CrossOver are nice ideas, but they aren’t perfect.

Image Credit: Roman Soto on Flickr


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