I want the best of both worlds
January 11, 2012 1:43 PM   Subscribe

I want a Mac, but I also have some software (games) that I need to run in Windows. I know I can use bootcamp to run a virtual machine with Windows on it, but will it be flawless?

Will the performance be just as good as running games on a dedicated Windows machine of the same specs (graphics, processor, memory, etc.), or is there something to do with the way a Mac runs Windows that will impede the performance and will cause them to not run as well as one would anticipate given the specs?
posted by jasondbarr to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This is an older article, but in some cases, a Mac running Bootcamp has been known to outperform their PC cousins.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:47 PM on January 11, 2012

Best answer: VMware and Parallels are virtual machine environments. Bootcamp allows your Mac to boot into a fully native Windows environment (no virtualization).
posted by Nothlit at 1:51 PM on January 11, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, Admiral Haddock! Anyone have any personal experience with the scenario I'm talking about.
posted by jasondbarr at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2012

I know I can use bootcamp to run a virtual machine with Windows on it, but will it be flawless?

Yes. In fact, installing Windows on a Mac is the best Windows install experience I've ever seen. Embarrassingly so, really.

I use VMWare (I think parallels will do the same thing) to boot up my Windows partition as a virtual machine when I'm installing stuff, especially via Steam, just so that I can do other stuff in OSX-land while that's running. When it's game time, I reboot into Windows, and it's a pretty good experience.
posted by mhoye at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2012

Best answer: Yeah, you're conflating two things:
  1. Bootcamp, which (put simply) allows you to boot your Mac into either OS X or Windows, and
  2. Virtualisation - software like VMware or Parallels - which runs Windows inside OS X
For all intents and purposes, a Mac using bootcamp to boot into Windows is a plain 100% Windows machine.
posted by Pinback at 1:53 PM on January 11, 2012

I run Win7 through Bootcamp on a partition on my MacBook Pro (about a year old) so that I can play SW:TOR.

It runs really, really well. No problems yet (...it IS Windows afterall)!

FWIW, I got the cheapo Win7 1-installation-only version from Amazon (I think it was $99-ish).
posted by Zoyashka at 1:56 PM on January 11, 2012

I use Bootcamp. Yes, it's flawless. To the extent it ever does not run flawlessly, it's always a Windows problem that would probably occur on an ordinary PC.
posted by mikeand1 at 1:56 PM on January 11, 2012

I run Skyrim on the bootcamp/Win7 partition of my iMac. It's not maxed out on graphic settings -- more in the middle, I think -- but it runs smoothly
posted by BurntHombre at 2:04 PM on January 11, 2012

Yes, bootcamp is just dual booting. Mac are PCs and have been since the switch to x86. The only drawback is Mac's 3D hardware is always lagging the PC universe so sometimes the most modern games are just not going to be happy.

You may have to apple's window side video drivers for the OEM's but that's fairly easy.
posted by chairface at 2:08 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

What Chairface said.

I have an old Mac Pro (2006 as I recall) that I've upgraded RAM and the Graphics card on a couple of times. Since you want to have the best of both worlds, you are by necessity somewhat limited in what graphics cards you can slap in there. So there CAN be issues with the latest and greatest games. I've never had a game that Just Wouldn't Run....but I have had many many games where...even though my machine on paper matches or beats the recommended specs I've had to run it with less detail...or deal with some stuttering.

I'm currently playing SWTOR which runs fine (other than being on middle graphic settings) and recently plaid Deus Ex Human Revolution (which stuttered terribly in some parts of the city where there were a lot of bloom effects) but my processor, I know, is getting long in the tooth.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 2:18 PM on January 11, 2012

As Pinback says, Virtualization and Bootcamp are two different things.

Virtualization will never be 'flawless' because it's a slice of the actual machine and virtual copies of hardware Windows expects to fine. But barring direct hardware interfaces (should be dinosaur rare) or hard-driving gaming I think you'll find most things run well there.

Using bootcamp, on the other hand, will certainly be as flawless as any Windows experience. After all, the physical mac computer is simply another Intel machine. You can do a Windows install onto one that doesn't use Bootcamp - it can be the only operating system installed on it.

That is of course a crime against nature, but you can do it. So booting up into Windows via Bootcamp is similar to dual-booting any OSes on a machine, just like many of us used to do back in the dark ages with Linux.
posted by phearlez at 2:38 PM on January 11, 2012

Response by poster: Groovy. Thanks, all! Sounds like I was confused as to how bootcamp was actually working within the architecture of the system.
posted by jasondbarr at 3:06 PM on January 11, 2012

In the interest of full disclosure, I've had a few problems probably idiosyncratic to my iMac. My video card has a tendency to glitch on a random basis about once every 8-16 hours, painting the entire screen a garish tie-dye. There was one time I couldn't even get to the boot menu, which was fixed by the underdocumented trick of unplugging the machine from the wall for a full minute. Sometimes my Time Machine volume gets mounted as read-only when I reboot into OSX.

But, Win 7 on my Mac hardware has been more reliable than Win 7 on our AMD Frankencomputer, and these are problems usually fixed by a reboot.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:34 PM on January 11, 2012

I have a mid-2010 mac book pro running windows 7 ultimate. When I use bootcamp everything works great except the speakers & microphone, which don't work at all. Sound is fine with headphones.
posted by askmehow at 7:05 PM on January 11, 2012

Others have pretty much covered the bases. For gaming, you'll definitely want to use Bootcamp to boot into a purely Windows environment. For less resource-hungry applications, virtualization works great. I'm in the process of changing over to a Mac at work, though we do have a couple legacy Windows apps. They run great in VMware Fusion, and appear as just another application window. In fact, virtualized on my (new) Mac, they run better than natively on my 4-year-old dual-core PC. For virtual environments, I've tried both, and VMware Fusion is many times better (performance, ease of use, ease of installation) than Parallels. I have Windows XP and Windows 7 VMs set up, and XP installed in literally half the time under Fusion than under Parallels.
posted by xedrik at 7:56 PM on January 11, 2012

If you're not buying a Mac Pro (and you probably aren't), you won't be able to upgrade the graphics. So pay particular attention to what is available on the model you choose.
posted by smackfu at 6:50 AM on January 12, 2012

« Older Where can I find a transcript of an Army...   |   The UK Rump State Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.