Virtualization Shootout: Apple Boot Camp vs. Parallels Desktop vs. VMware Fusion

“Part of the reason many people own an Intel-based Mac is because of the possibility of running Windows. If you are like most, you are looking to understand the differences between Apple’s Boot Camp, VMware Fusion, and Parallels Desktop,” Neil Ticktin reports for MacTech.

MacDailyNews Take: Define “many.”

Ticktin continues, “Boot Camp, as you probably know, allows you to run Windows natively on your Intel Mac. Here, Mac OS X is nowhere to be seen, and if you want to switch back and forth, you have to reboot the machine. As we’ve seen from some of the recent reports, a Mac can run Windows faster than a native PC machine, and it’s a nice solution. That said, you probably bought a Mac to run Mac OS X a good chunk of time, and that’s where virtualization comes in.”

“Virtualization technology has been around since the 1960s. In general, it refers to the abstraction of computer resources. In our case, we’re talking about the ability to run Windows on a Mac at the same time that you are running Mac OS X,” Ticktin reports.

“So, which solution do you go with? Does virtualization work well? Which virtualization product is faster? Should I run XP or Vista? In short, there are different answers for different people. It all depends on what your needs are,” Ticktin reports.

“To tackle this problem, MacTech undertook a huge benchmarking project starting in September. The goal was to see how Boot Camp, VMware Fusion, and Parallels performed on different levels of Mac hardware, covering both Windows XP and Vista, and comparing that to a baseline PC running Windows,” Ticktin reports.

“Boot Camp, VMware Fusion and Parallels are all very good, each in their own way. You should make your decisions based on what your needs are as a result,” Ticktin reports.

What MacTech found:

• If you don’t want Mac integration, and just want to run Windows, go with Boot Camp. It’s faster than a PC anyway.
• If you want a virtualization product (that allows you to run Windows alongside Mac OS X), and you want the best performance for the types of things that we tested, then clearly you need to run XP and not Vista. Furthermore, in our tests, both VMware Fusion and Parallels performed well, and were a good user experience. That said, Parallels was somewhat faster in general than VMware Fusion for XP.
• If you want the best virtualization performance for Vista, then VMware Fusion is your choice.

Full comprehensive benchmarks and explanations in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Too Hot!” for the heads up.]


  1. “Part of the reason many people own an Intel-based Mac is because of the possibility of running Windows. “

    god forbid yhe thought its because all macs are intel now, no, its because of windows lol

  2. Actually, running Windows faster isn’t the same as running Windows APPLICATIONS faster. That depends on the program in question and the hardware you’re comparing. There are Windows machines out there that will beat the pants off the best gaming Mac you could put together in terms of running games, at least at the moment.

  3. “Something that just tickles me is that Windows runs faster on a Mac”

    Yep, I’m stunned that a 2.66GHz Intel based machine with 4GB of RAM running Windows natively can beat a 1.86GHZ machine with 1GB of RAM running Windows natively.

  4. There are Windows machines out there that will beat the pants off the best gaming Mac you could put together in terms of running games, at least at the moment. —neoraven

    That sounds about right: PC’s for games, Macs for everything else.

  5. @Me in LA

    A word of warning – EMC the company that owns VMWare, is not known to be that Mac Friendly… Just ask anyone that uses or attempts to support the once great Retrospect… EMC bought Dantz and Mac support is practically non-existent…

  6. EMC not Mac friendly? Gee… That is funny because VMware Fusion ACTUALLY WORKS on my Mac Pro, while Parallels for Mac DOES NOT WORK at all.

    VMware Fusion runs Windows XP Professional fine, especially if you have 16 GB RAM on a Mac Pro and can allocate 4 GB RAM to the virtual environment. Runs almost as fast as it does natively. I’m impressed.

    Also, VMware Fusion doesn’t have the sickening hard drive size limitation of 128 GB.

  7. Dave,

    I am an EMC employee. EMC does not widely support OSX only because their footprint in the Enterprise space is very small. They are slowly adding more and more support, but most OSX in the Enterprise already use Apple SAN solutions. I have NEVER seen a customer use all OSX. Most of the time the Apple hardware they have has been installed and maintained by the “apple tech” or outside support for their 2 apple users. Most windows IT guys are afraid.

    EMC will support OSX and Apple 100% when it makes good business for them to do it. EMC does not “hate” Apple in anyway, at least that I can see working for them.

  8. I’ve been using VMWare Fusion for sometime now, I like it, I’ve only got 1GB RAM though ATM so it hugs my memory but that’s to be expected, I’ll be getting an iMac soon which I will be able to allocate more RAM and should run Windoze without any problems. I like all VMWares settings, and there hasn’t been anything i couldn’t run yet.

  9. lol I like how they said parallels runs a little faster=) I have a brand new macbook with the latest new graphic card in it (144 mb) and I can tell you right now the VM ware is much better on it than parallels. I dont even use parallels at all any more. Why would I want to use a system that is slow slow compared to VMware. My mouse stutters across the screen when I move it with parallels and VMware Fusion doesnt even give me any fits at all. Yes I do have a lot of ram so dont try to tell me I dont have enough. I have 2.5 gigs of ram

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