Get two computers in one with Parallels and Boot Camp

When Apple moved to Intel chips and introduced the MacBook, MacBook Pro and Mac Pro (and now, MacBook Air), people were excited to find a way to have both operating systems on one machine. That would allow the best of both worlds; you could use OS X for your daily work, and when an application came up that didn’t have a Mac equivalent or was Windows only, you could use Windows.

Several months later, you now have several options to bring Redmond’s software to your Mac.

In the early days of the Intel transition, there was a project started to get Windows XP running on the iMac Core Duo – the first Intel machine. This project, called OSX86, involved numerous hacks to the system files to trick the Windows installer into thinking you had a real Windows machine. At startup, you could select which operating system you would like to boot, and run each system at its native speed.

Soon after, Apple announced a product that more or less ended the OSX86 project, and shocked much of the Mac world. Called Boot Camp, it was a program to automate the process of sharing your computer between two operating systems. You could divide your hard disk up into 2 sections, and Boot Camp would live happily in its partition – safely away from all of the Mac OS X files. This was huge for gamers, who could finally run many of the Windows-only games on their Macs. The only problem was that you needed to restart the computer before using the Windows installation.

To solve this problem, a company named Parallels introduced a product they called Parallels Desktop for Mac. It was revolutionary in that it allows a user to operate a Windows installation at the same time as a Mac OS X installation. This was huge. For casual Windows users, it meant that they wouldn’t need to sit through a restart to be able to use that one program only available for Windows. With very little performance impact, users could now truly have the best of both worlds. Since then, more companies have begun offering “virtualization” software – most notable is Fusion.

So how do you choose between the two products? To help you decide, I present this neat little table comparing the two front runners.

Boot Camp Parallels Desktop
  • runs at native speed – essential for gaming
  • regular Windows installation process
  • requires restart
  • Best for: heavy use with programs requiring full access to hardware
  • runs at near native speed – unsuitable for gaming
  • can speed Windows installation with proper information
  • runs alongside regular Mac OS X applications
  • Best for: casual use with non-CPU intensive applications

[tags]Mac OS X, Boot Camp, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Parallels[/tags]