What it is: If you need to run Windows on a Macintosh, you have several options but Parallels may be the best choice.
Many people prefer using a Macintosh for stability and simplicity, yet they may still need to run Windows. While you probably don’t want to buy a separate Windows PC, you have several choices for running Windows on your Mac.
First, you can use Boot Camp. Boot Camp essentially partitions your hard disk so you can boot into either macOS or Windows. This turns your Macintosh into a Windows PC but forces you to choose between either Windows or macOS. If you want to switch out of Windows, you have to reboot into macOS. If you want to switch back to Windows, you have to reboot into Windows again. For that reason, Boot Camp is a simple but cumbersome solution.
The second solution is to run Windows as a virtual machine. That means Windows runs as a separate macOS window, letting you run Windows in one window and any other macOS programs in other windows. Now you can use Windows and your Macintosh at the same time and even copy data from one operating system to another. For many people, running Windows as a virtual machine is the best solution.
The three choices for virtual machines are VirtualBox, VMware’s Fusion, and Parallels. VirtualBox’s major advantage is that it’s free and open source so you can experiment with virtual machines at no cost. Try loading VirtualBox with any Linux distribution to learn how easy (or how hard) running a virtual machine can be. Since VirtualBox is free, it’s support and user interface may be choppy but it’s free so you might as well try it and see what you think.
The remaining two virtual machine programs, VMware’s Fusion and Parallels, used to be major rivals in the virtual machine market. Then VMWare inexplicably laid off a large portion of the Fusion development team. While VMware still promises to support and develop Fusion, it’s not evolving as fast as Parallels. At one time, Fusion was actually slightly better than Parallels but Parallels kept steadily improving while Fusion did not. Since both Fusion and Parallels cost roughly the same, there’s little point in choosing Fusion. If you’re going to buy a virtual machine program, get Parallels.
The latest version of Parallels is even optimized for gaming and Windows 10 so if you need a fast, reliable virtual machine solution, Parallels is your best choice. No matter what solution you choose to run Windows, you’ll need to buy a copy of Windows.
So the choices are simple. Use Boot Camp to turn your Mac into a PC (and essentially lose the features of a Mac), or use a virtual machine program. Try VirtualBox since it’s free, but if you’re not the type who likes fiddling with software, you’ll find Parallels is much simpler and easier to use, especially when creating a Windows virtual machine for the first time.
Parallels is crucial software for anyone who prefers a Macintosh but needs to use Windows on a regular basis. Once you can use Windows and a Macintosh side by side, it’s easy to see which one is easier and less troublesome over the long run.