Over the years many folks in client sites have noticed the glowing apple on the lid of my laptop and knowing that I’m running Microsoft Project have asked me: “How the heck do you do that?!”
My quick reply: “Well, let me show you…”
To start, you have to learn about the wonderful world of “virtualization.” Virtualization is a techie buzzword that simply means running another operating system (with all its associated applications) on another operating system — for example, running Windows 10 on your Apple’s macOS platform.
The implication of this apparent magic is that you can actually run Microsoft Project on your Mac — something that most folks find unfathomable since Microsoft doesn’t make a version to run natively on your shiny aluminum Apple laptop. So why not turn this problem on its head and just run Windows on your Mac?
6 Reasons for Running Windows on a Mac
If you’re not already doing this, why would you want to run Windows on a Mac? Let me count the reasons…
- It’s economical in the end. Recently, IBM found that Apple hardware is more cost-effective than any other is. This year the company purchased 100,000 Macs for employee use instead of buying the hardware you’d expect, such as Lenovo or Dell. IBM estimates it will save about $600 USD per employee over three years in hardware expenses. In my own business, I’ve saved even more. I’ve found that the average lifespan of an Apple computer lasts longer than four years and my clients can run the latest operating systems throughout that lifespan.
- If you have an Apple laptop at home and another PC laptop at work, you may find yourself having to choose one over the other — or worse, carrying both around! With virtualization software, there’s no need for such backbreaking nonsense.
- If you worry about PC viruses and PC malware (and who doesn’t?), running a virtual instance of Windows is easier to recover from should a software bug bite you. Virtual instances of Windows that go south can be quickly blown away and restored fresh using snapshots.
- Multiple instances of Windows can be created and run on a Mac at will, allowing you to test new software. If something goes wrong, you can easily roll back to a previous snapshot in time (similar to the previous reason).
- In your virtual space, you’re running authentic Microsoft software (just like all your office buds) and not some version created to run (and ultimately fail) for the Mac. For example, anyone who has tried to share Office for Mac files with Windows users will eventually run into a glitch or incompatibility. Trust me.
- Moreover, in the case of Microsoft Project, you really have no choice! Project must be run in Windows, as there is no other version that runs on the Mac — unlike some of the other Microsoft Office apps that are built for both OSs.
A Native Mac App
Project Viewer 365 from Housatonic is a native Mac app that allows you to view or edit Project files on your Mac without virtualization. For users who don’t touch Windows PCs that’s a perfectly reasonable solution. However, it should be noted that the cost of $80 per year for a version of Project Viewer 365 that edits your .MPP files is oftentimes higher than the cost of buying true virtualization software. In my mind, running true-blue Project software to edit your precious project files is the safest and best way to go.
Getting Windows (and ultimately Project) to run on a Mac is neither complicated nor expensive. Note that if you’re not technically inclined, the procedure may sound a bit challenging because it requires a software installation akin to installing Windows.
Basically, you need to purchase virtualization software, which is less than $80 on popular retail sites. My top preferences are:
I’ve vacillated between these two choices over the years, with both doing the same thing in about the same way. I’ve recently settled on the Parallels product because of its great product support and overall simplicity.
A note to those who have tried Apple’s Boot Camp Utility to run Windows on a Mac in the past: forgettaboutit — not recommended!
Regardless of your choice, the procedure is the same:
- Install the virtualization package (Parallels or VMWare).
- Install the Windows version of your choice into a virtual space, which is simplified with onboard wizards. Windows 10 is the ideal choice.
- Install any version of Microsoft Project and any other Office and/or Windows apps of your choosing.
- Run your instance of virtual Windows in full screen mode, allowing you to just swipe between working on the Mac side and Windows side.
Basic Requirements and Under-the-Cover Operations
Before you begin, it’s best to understand the following regarding requirements and what is really going on under the covers:
- You’ll need lots of free hard drive space. Each virtual instance (called a virtual machine or VM in techie lingo) consumes from 30 gigabytes to 90, depending on how much you put into it. My most common VMs contain all of Office, Project and Adobe Creative Suite, and those are at least 50 GB large. Then, you need to factor in plenty of additional storage for growth (added files and even more apps).
- You can run your virtual machine on an external USB3 drive, but for better performance and reliability, it’s best to have your VM on your internal drive or SSD (even better). If you have to upgrade your SSD or hard drive, remember, it’s worth the expense, as you’re really getting two laptops for the price of one, plus the cost of a larger drive.
- Once created, a virtual machine is contained in a single (albeit gigantic) file and can be moved from machine to machine as needed. As always, it should be backed up by copying to a safe location. If you’re an OS X Time Machine user, you’ll want to exclude this huge file from the Time Machine backup, since including the VM file in that backup will slow things down.
- You’ll need licenses for all the software running in your VM, for example, for a new instance of Windows. Windows 8 and above is recommended, and Windows 10 works best.
- As far as what MacBook this approach works best on, the obvious choice is the fastest and most expensive! However, any new MacBook sold in the last year or so will work fine. Older MacBook Airs may struggle, but any MacBook Pro sold in the past few years will work well, as will any newer iMac. Newer Mac Minis also work and, of course, the power-horse Mac Pro will run many multiple VMs at once.
The important take-away about VM files is that once created, they can be copied, modified and shared. Everything you need is self-contained in that one ginormous file. Typically, (as done within my organization), a techie initially creates the VM file and shares with other staff (with appropriate software licensing applied).
Once all is installed and set up, you’ll find working with Microsoft Project no different from working on any other type of machine. You just do what you do: create project schedules, produce Gantt charts and interact with Project Server just as you did on a PC. Nothing has changed here. You’ll find that Project is snappy and responsive, as are all other applications running in your virtual environment.
When storing your work files, I recommend that you not save them inside of your virtual space, but instead save them to the cloud or to the file directories on the Mac side. VMs are great for running a different operating system and Windows applications on a Mac, but I wouldn’t keep my precious project files there. I store all my work files in the cloud, so that no matter what happens to my machine, virtual or otherwise, I know they will be safe. Why? VMs can be used as temporary spaces, to either test new applications or otherwise be blown away — in case you catch a malware bug, which is common when working with Windows-based machines.
You may have work files in your Mac directories (on the desktop, in your documents folder, etc.). In that case, no fear! Your new VM will see these files and allow you to edit them directly without having a copy on the Windows side of things. In short, the VM running Windows is a collection of software running in a virtual space, interacting with all of your files on the Mac side.
You also get to choose which applications are run where, regardless of which side of the fence you’re working on. For example, Parallels Desktop can be configured to open up all of your web pages in Safari, just in case you’re not a fan of Internet Explorer or Window’s new browser, Edge. Likewise, with document files; you can choose to open up spreadsheets in either Numbers or Excel, or presentations in either Keynote or PowerPoint.
My recommendation is this: If you’re running, say, Windows 10 on your Mac, why not open all your document files using real Windows software? I know I do, and I have never been sorry. As a long-time Mac user, I have run into situations when using Numbers or Keynote that the files don’t translate well into Excel or PowerPoint when I’m sharing with Windows users — too many gotchas for my nervous system!
Working within the Best of Both Worlds
As a lover of both the Mac operating system and the Windows 10 operating system, I’ve never been happier with my two-in-one machine. I’ve saved tons of money using this method and no longer have to tote around two laptops — the one I love (my Mac) and one I must use for my business (the PC).
For the past several years, I’ve found other advantages outside of maintaining two separate laptops. First, I find work much more enjoyable and affordable. Yes, I’ve had to upgrade my SSD, and I’ve had to buy top-of-the-line Macs, but I’ve saved tons of dollars and no longer have to work on what I consider inferior and short-lived hardware. I’ve truly found comfort and joy while working within the best of both computing worlds.