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My friend needs to run some Windows (XP/Vista/7/whatever) software on her MacBook Pro, ideally in a window whilst running Mac OS X. Is that possible?

EDIT: The most important issue is ease of setting up for a non-techie. Cost and speed of running are not critical.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

One of the common solutions is Parallels. Works quite well as long as it's not about 3D games and such.

It's an Windows emulator that runs within Mac OS X. It even offers a seamless mode, where Windows windows just appear to be on the Mac desktop. Comes with a bit of a performance penalty (compared to a native Windows), but is doing fine for MS Office and similar programs.

The other solution would be bootcamp (it's on the Mac in Applications, Utilities, Bootcamp Assistant). Bootcamp sets aside some space on the partition to install Windows there (you then boot into Windows or MacOS).

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Parallels Desktop is easier to set up than Bootcmap. – Nicholaz Feb 17 '10 at 18:37

Another common solution is VirtualBox

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At a glance it looks more techie than other solutions... where's the video tutorial? :-) – Mick Feb 17 '10 at 19:37
@Mick The Documentation for virtualbox takes you step-by-step through building a virtual machine. If you can install windows, you can use openbox. – brice Feb 17 '10 at 19:54
Virtual box is very easy to use and not particularly techie and runs stably with great performance. – Matt H Feb 17 '10 at 22:29

VMWare Fusion is similar to Parallels.

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For what you want (ease of use, most polished interface) I would use VMWare Fusion. Parallels is the fastest, and Virtual Box the best value for money (it is free and excellent) but VMWare Fusion is the easiest to use, you can load pre-canned appliances for Linux, or turn your pld Windows machine (including applications) into a virtual machine.

Crossover will run some, but far from all Windows programs, and runs some better than others, It is a good solution if you need to run a few specific apps which it supports.

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If you use Parallels, you can even set it up to talk to a BootCamp partition. I do this myself and I find it really handy as for most applications which you need to run in Windows you can just launch Parallels like a Virtual Machine and run Windows within OSX.

However, if you DO need to do something which requires the full power of your computer (for example play a game) you can use Bootcamp to jump into Windows only. I only have to do this very rarely but it's really great to have the ability to do it.

I'm not sure if the other VM solutions allow you to do this... (I'm sure that at least some would though, they all try and keep up with one another in terms of features)

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There's also CrossOver and with it, you don't even need to install Windows !

There's also free versions : WineBottler or Darwine, which are pretty useful !

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Not having the aggro of installing windows sounds great. – Mick Feb 17 '10 at 19:16
@Mick - I added free versions if you want ! – Studer Feb 17 '10 at 21:58

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