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Virtualization: Using Windows Applications on a Mac 
Audience: All

Operating System: All
Article Number: 82 .18.0

Updated: 7/5/2013 10:51 AM
Running Windows "virtually" on a Mac allows you to use software and connect to services that are only available or compatible with the Windows operating system.

In this Article:


There are currently 2 predominant ways to run Windows on your Mac:

  1. Virtualization software, such as VMWare Fusion or Parallels.
  2. Dual-booting with Mac OSX native software Boot Camp.

Note: Northwestern University does not endorse these vendors or make any guarantees about these products.

KIS strongly encourages using the virtualization option (option 1), and for most purposes, both VMware Fusion and Parallels perform equally well. For detailed comparisons and performance testing results, see the resources below:


VMWare Fusion 5

  • Faculty: VMWare Fusion can be purchased by faculty and staff through iBuyNU.
  • Students: can purchase VMWare Fusion for $49.99 (academic discount) via the VMWare Online Academic Store.
  • Trial: There is a free 30-day trial available via the product overview page if you would like to first try VMWare Fusion before purchasing.

Parallels 8

  • Faculty: Parallels can be purchased by faculty and staff through iBuyNU.
  • Students: can purchase Parallels for $39.99 (academic discount) via the Parallels Online Academic Store.
  • Trial: There is a free 14-day trial available here if you would like to first try Parallels before purchasing.

Boot Camp

Boot Camp, which comes native with all Mac OS X systems, is not virtualization software. Unlike virtualization software, Boot Camp is unable to switch freely back and forth between Mac OSX and Windows.  Boot Camp may be the best options if your MacBook is unable to support more than 2GB RAM.  KIS will configure Boot Camp for you on an appointment basis only.

Note: If you are already using Boot Camp, you may purchase one of the above virutalization solutions and use it to access your Windows partition.

Installing a Windows 7 Virtual Image

Using a Virtual Image from KIS
KIS will provide a Windows 7 image complete with Office Pro 2010. 

Once you have purchased and activated either VMware Fusion or Parallels, stop by your KIS support office to schedule an appointment to install the KIS-provided virtual machine on your MacBook.  On the day of your appointment, bring your laptop to KIS. This process takes approximately 2 hours.

Using a Windows Installation Disc
If you have purchased a Windows 7 disc and wish to use it in your virtualization software, you must create a *.iso file or image of that disc. Parallels has great instructions on how to do that here.

Using a pre-existing Windows computer
Both VMware Fusion and Parallels provide easy ways to import a pre-existing Windows computer, maintaining all files and configuration. Make an appointment with KIS to set this up on your computer.