Running Windows on a Mac

Most common software applications are available for both Windows and Macintosh operating systems – Microsoft Office documents, for example, created on a Mac open on a Windows computer, and vice versa.

University of Sheffield systems aim to be platform independent – you can connect wired or wirelessly to the network with a Mac and run the vast majority, if not all, of the services available to PCs including email, Calendar, MUSE, Blackboard (MOLE) and administrative applications

The only limitation is that you cannot run the Managed Desktop Service on an Apple Mac as it is built on Windows XP.

There are two main ways to run Windows on an Intel-based Mac, using the Boot Camp utility built in to Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6, or using virtualisation software like Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion.

Either way requires you to have your own, fully licensed copy of Windows (not one bundled with a computer) if it is your own Mac. Installation of Windows using Campus Agreement media is only permitted on University owned Macs with a valid Mac OS license.

Boot Camp

This utility, which is built in to Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6, gives the ability to choose on start up whether to run the Macintosh or Windows operating system. The advantage is you can run Windows to the full potential that your hardware allows.

The disadvantage is you have to restart the computer to switch between operating systems and when running Windows it is open to the normal security problems of viruses and malware that affects the Microsoft OS much more than the Macintosh OS.

Boot Camp supports XP, Vista and Windows 7


Applications like Parallels or Fusion allow you to run both Windows and Macintosh on Macs at the same time. You install a virtualisation application and then install your licensed copy of Windows within that. Windows applications installed on your Mac then appear in the Dock as just another application – allowing you to switch seamlessly between operating systems.

The latest virtualisation software – Fusion 3 and Parallels 5 – will run Windows 7 as well as XP and Vista.