Answers: When to use Parallels or VMWare Fusion vs. when to use Bootcamp

by Ross McKillop on November 13, 2007

Mac Windows

Every so often someone will use the feedback form, or find me on IM, and ask a random question. I try to answer as many of them as possible, and occasionally the questions lead to tutorials here on Simple Help. Yesterday I wrote out a fairly long answer to a reader submitted question, and it dawned on me that I should consider posting these on SH, even if not in tutorial format. So – here’s the first one -

note: names are always changed

Hi,
My name is Jane and my aunty gave me your details. She said you were a great help! I was wondering if you knew the difference between Parallels and Bootcamp and which one is better? I have a mac osx 10.4.8 and need to run windows so I can run CAD programs. Am I able to do this from this version?

Hope to hear from you soon.
Kind Regards
Jane

Here was my answer to Jane –

<Parallels Desktop 6.0 for MacParallels Desktop for Mac runs while OS X is running. It opens like any other window (like Safari or iTunes) but inside that window, you can have a fully running “Windows”. So basically it’s like you’re using both Windows and OS X at the same time. The drawback is that both operating systems are using the same resources – your memory (RAM), your CPU etc. Normally, when just one operating system is running, it gets ALL of those resources. So the drawback – when you’re using OS X and Windows (via Parallels), everything is a bit ‘slower’. The plus is that you can run them both at the same time.

Bootcamp allows you to run Windows on your Mac. Basically every time you start your computer, it will ask you “Do you want to use Windows or OS X?”. And you choose one. If you select Windows, your computer will start up Windows. All of the system resources (RAM, CPU etc) are dedicated to Windows. So the drawback for Bootcamp is that if you want to switch from Windows to OS X, you have to restart your computer. The plus is that Windows will run a lot faster (because it’s not sharing any resources).

Here’s the rub – you want to use (I presume) Windows-only CAD programs. CAD software typically requires, or at the very least uses, a lot of system resources. If you opt for Parallels, you’ll boot OS X, start Parallels and use it to start Windows, then open a CAD program. By the time you start to do serious work in that CAD program, your entire computer is going to be “slow”. You’ll notice that everything responds a little bit more sluggishly, sometimes it’ll take a while longer to do some task than it normally does (like open a large file in the CAD software). IF you have the latest and greatest Mac with a ton of RAM and 2 CPU’s – you’ll be fine using Parallels.

If you have a slightly older system, and do a lot of intensive work in those CAD programs, you might want to use Bootcamp.

  • C

    Finally. Someone actually answered that question in plain English! I’m in the very same situation as that girl and wasn’t sure which to use. Cheers mate!

  • jim

    Can I assume that your comments regarding Fusion would have been the same as for Parallels?

    Jim

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