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Three most popular ways to use Windows on Mac OS X

Must of us who have chosen Apple and their user-friendly, stable OS over PC have done so because we prefer it to the other options on the market today. That choice may be based on previous computing experiences, our belief in the brand, what we need to use our computers for or just personal opinion. Whatever the reason, most people are either “Mac” or “PC.” But what about those instances where crossover is necessary? Some niche software or career demands require hardcore Mac users to delve into Windows territory. There are even some websites out there that still only run on Internet Explorer.

Thankfully, for Mac users who have to cross over to PC on occasion, it’s not necessary to purchase another computer. Instead, a parallel installation of a Windows operating system can be done right on Macs, resulting in increased convenience and money saved.

There are several different methods of achieving a Mac/Windows hybrid. Here are three of the most popular:

1. Boot Camp

Boot Camp is Mac software that comes included with OS X Lion and Mountain Lion. With it, you can run compatible versions of Windows, such as the new Windows 8, on an Intel-based Mac computer.

Officially, Boot Camp is a set of drivers that allow users with compatible Macs to partition their hard drive for a parallel installation of Windows. It’s compatible with a large number of Mac drivers, but essentially recognizes the Windows and OS X installations as two separate computers, going so far as to require iTunes users to authorize the Windows install as a separate computer within their accounts.

Boot Camp Assistant

2. Parallels

Parallels does virtually the same thing as Boot Camp – it enables you to partition your hard drive and have parallel installations of OS X and Windows 8. However, instead of being a featured set of drivers within your Mac that require setting up, it’s actually a software program you can purchase online or from the electronics store of your choice.

Parallels is a popular choice for some people as it doesn’t necessitate making as many manual tweaks and configurations as Boot Camp. Furthermore, the purchase includes support for Retina display, Thunderbolt and many other features. Essentially, it provides the best of both worlds with easy switching between immersive and complete Mac and Windows environments. In addition, Parallels provides mobile apps that allow users to carry Windows functionality over to the iPad and iPhone.

Parallels running multiple versions of Windows on Mac OS X

3. VMWare Fusion

Suggested for home users who want to install Windows on an Apple computer, VMWare Fusion is a less-intimidating but still functional solution for those who may simply want the parallel install for nothing more than the ability to play PC games on a Mac. Switching between operating systems is easy, and the user-friendly experience is extended by letting users manage their desktop and interact with their Windows OS like it was a Mac – complete with dock.

VMWare Fusion running Windows on Mac OS X

Another option worth considering is VirtualBox. A “feature rich, high-performance product,” it’s less consumer-targeted than Parallels or VMWare Fusion. VirtualBox markets itself as a professional solution that will meet the most specific lists of criteria, yet is available entirely as Open Source Software, backed by a dedicated tech community. It’s available for Mac, Windows and Linux and enables users to have a virtual experience of another operating system.

Whether you need to use specific business or scientific software or you’re just eager to check out computer games that are still targeted only for PC, there are many reasons you may want to set up a parallel installation of Windows 8 on your Mac. Fortunately, there are also several options that will enable you to do so.

Mac App Store vs Windows Store

The Mac App Store has been such an incredibly useful invention for anyone who owns an iMac or MacBook. Unlike in years past, through it we’ve been able to download new software and operating system updates directly from the Internet, without having to go out and buy the discs.

But what about those who favor PC computers? Do they have anything similar, or is still a matter of heading down to the nearest computer shop or ordering discs online every time there’s a new edition of Windows or Office?

For those who are now using a PC with Windows 8 or RT, they can now access the Windows Store, which bears some similar qualities to the Mac App Store. Although it hasn’t been around as long as the Mac version, and isn’t accessible to as many consumers, it does have 50,000 apps already in it.

Much like the Mac App Store, apps are divided into categories as well as listed by new releases, top free apps and top paid apps. Apps can be installed on up o five different PCs. One great thing about the Windows Store is that while there are free and paid apps, just like Mac, there are also paid apps that offer free trials. That’s an excellent way to ensure you’ll really like an app before you spend money on it, and could help to ensure greater customer satisfaction.

Many of the apps in the Windows Store are similar to those in the Mac App Store, including well-known titles like Twitter, Skype, All Recipes and Adobe Photoshop. Other best sellers include games like Halo and Scribblemix and the Nook e-reader app. While there are many apps in common, given the two different platforms, there are some apps that are different. Each app store has products exclusive only to Windows or to Mac, which sets the two apart.

The Mac App Store is great because it is well established already and offers a vast range of software. For anyone knew to it, it’s easy to use because it has the same interface and overall user experience as the iTunes Store. It also has a wider audience than the Windows Store, which is still only available to purchasers of the latest PC computers, making it useful to more people.

It’s difficult to determine one as being better than the other. Comparing app stores is much like every other aspect of the Mac versus PC debate; those who like Mac will always insist that Apple products are superior, while those who favor PC will in turn voice their opinion that Windows and the choice of computers it comes on is a better option. There are certainly pros and cons to both, as no computer is perfect – in the end, consumers will decide which product, interface and user experience they prefer and buy accordingly.

However, it’s worth noting that many of Windows’ latest developments, like the Windows Store, are similar to features those of us who buy Mac have been enjoying for some time already. Despite Microsoft developing app stores and other technology similar to what we’ve already enjoyed for years with Mac, those of us who choose Apple will continue to enjoy the quality manufacturing and innovative design provided to us for years to come.