For as long I can remember there have been numerous PC-cloning utilities for Mac that would allow you to run Windows software on the Mac operating system. More often than not these programs (like “SoftWindows”) barely functioned at all and got me so frustrated I often wanted to throw my Mac through a window. Fortunately we live in better times now, and since Mac computers are now armed with robust Intel chips, running Windows on your Mac has never been easier or smoother.

Currently there are two very popular options to running Windows (either Vista or XP) on your Mac, should you want to play poker in the PC environment to take advantage of a program like Holdem Manager or PokerTracker 3. The alternatives are Boot Camp and Parallels, and the purpose of this article is to give a quick informative look at the difference between both options.

Apple Boot Camp

Boot Camp is basically a dual boot program loaded with Windows Drivers so your Mac computer will operate with the Windows operating system. The good news here is that the cost is cheap in the form of $0. I suppose it doesn’t get cheaper than that! As a feature within Leopard, users simply install the program and then when prompted, install their Microsoft operating system of choice (please use XP as we all have seen the well documented problems with Vista). From there, when you turn on your computer you can have it auto-boot either to Mac OSX or Windows (or have it allow you to pick which one) and then that operating system will load and you’ll be ready to roll.

The advantages of Boot Camp are that the Windows environment will run fastest under this configuration. You are only loading the Windows operating system so there’s no dual layer of OS “stuff” going on to boggle down your processor and available RAM. In addition there’s the less prohibitive cost of zero dollars. All you would be on the hook for is buying a copy of XP or Vista, and that can be done pretty cheaply from discount retailers online.

The disadvantages of Boot Camp are that it creates a partition (you decide how big) that (in laymen’s terms) splits your hard drive in two parts. So if your OSX operating system and its files take up 80GB of your 100GB drive, then you’ll barely have enough room to install XP and a few programs. This makes it very difficult to run Boot Camp on a MacBook Pro for example, since hard drive sizes are smaller in relation to an iMac. Finally, programs you install on your OSX version of your computer are invisible within the Windows operating environment.

Tip: For more information about installing Boot Camp on a Mac, visit this article: Install Windows Using Bootcamp.


Parallels is a software program for sale exclusively online for a price of $79.99 and has recently released a new 4.0 version offering better performance and compatibility. It is best described as a virtualization software program that lets you run Windows within the OSX environment and allows the windows programs that you run under this environment to interact with OSX programs.

The main advantage of using Parallels is that the software works within the OSX environment. You won’t have to reinstall Photoshop for example if you already have it loaded for OSX if you are running windows simultaneously. It’s a very easy way to get instant access and have files and folders seamlessly work between your Windows and Mac OSX environments. Installation of the program is easy and it takes you through installing XP/Vista without any hassle.

The disadvantage of using Parallels is the cost mainly, an extra $80 that you’ll have to spend in order to get it to work with your system. It should be of note that if you hunt around Google enough you should be able to find a coupon here and there for a discount on the price. Speaking from experience, the software runs best with at least 3GB of memory equally split between both operating systems and if your hardware is lacking (specifically your CPU power and amount of RAM) you will see the windows side run slower than what you might desire.

Final Recommendation

For me, the solution is pretty simple. Since I typically do video games and poker while at home on my powerful PC, there’s no sense in running either on my iMac. However if my iMac was the only solution available to me I would be running Parallels if money was no object. On my MacBook Pro laptop, Parallels was the only option because I didn’t have the available hard drive space to partition it so I could run Boot Camp. Also the ability to run all my OSX programs in conjunction with running Windows was a slick selling feature I couldn’t pass up.

Fortunately Parallels comes with a free trial so if you are curious about giving it a run, there’s nothing to lose except for some time. Boot Camp is free and comes with Leopard so that’s another cost-free option that you can experiment with. Whatever you decide is the best solution for you, always remember to backup your critical data and virus scan everything!

Parallels Desktop 4.0 for Mac can be found at the Parallels website:

Information about Mac Boot camp can be found at Apple’s website:

This article was written by Sean “icemonkey9” Gibson exclusively for Mac Poker.