For many businesses, the world of computers has long been dominated by the Microsoft Windows operating system and programs that run under Windows, such as the Office Suite of programs.
Apple and their line of Macintosh computers and OS X have always been strong in the graphic arts and other niches, but in the world of accounting, spreadsheets and other business work, Windows has been dominant for years.
But many Windows users are exhausted by the problems with Windows, while Apple has been making inroads in the small business environment with their OS X operating system, based on open source software.
In other words, the old choice between Windows and Apple has been transformed because it’s possible to run Windows on a Mac.
Running Windows on a Mac is called “virtualization,” because you’re running Windows without the hardware and under another operating system, and in this case, that’s OS X. The Windows PC desktop appears in its own window on the Mac desktop, and you click between the two operating systems with your mouse.
Running Windows on a Mac requires two software packages: a copy of Windows and virtualization software, such as VMWare and Parallels, which allow Windows to run inside a Mac window on your desktop. The version of Windows can be Vista, Windows 7 or XP, but I suggest XP.
I run Windows XP on my MacBook with VMWare in order to install and test Windows software and Web sites with Internet Explorer. And I can move right back to OS X when I need to by clicking out of the VMWare window and back to the Mac side.
If you want to run Windows on a Mac, a good idea is to Google around for the specific name of the Windows application you need to use and “VMWare” or “Parallels” and see what other people are using. You’ll find lots of help at those companies’ online forums, too.
Another Windows option is called Crossover. It doesn’t require a copy of Windows and is handy if you need to run just one or two Windows programs. Crossover maintains a list of Windows programs that run OK.
Some caveats: If your Windows program needs a serial or parallel port, you’re out of luck, because Macs don’t have that kind of hardware.
And remember, too, that your “virtual” Windows is somewhat “real.” In other words, you need to have Windows Automatic Updates turned on, and use antivirus and antispyware, too, because those Windows malware bugs can still bite.
AVG antivirus and Webroot Spysweeper have free versions, so you can save some money there. But it’s rare that a Windows virus infection is going to hurt OS X. The most that may happen is you’ll need to delete your Windows virtual machine and reinstall it.
Yet another way to run Windows on a Mac is called Boot Camp. If you have a newer Mac with OS X 10.5 or 10.6, you’re already set up to run Windows. You just need a copy of Windows and the programs you want to run. There’s lots of support at Apple for Boot Camp users.
The difference is that you’ll have to restart to get to a program you need to run in OS X, because when you boot with Boot Camp, you’re running Windows all by itself and not side by side with OS X.