Setting up Windows through VirtualBox on a Mac
Since many of my classmates and friends have been asking about how I've gotten Windows running on my Mac with good speed and for free, I thought I'd write this little guide. To be absolutely clear, this is meant for people who don't really know (or don't want to know) the particulars of these systems and just want it to work.
Disclaimers: I provide zero liability for this information; your mileage may vary 😉 I'm happy to chat about this process, but you're more likely to figure it out by searching for whatever error code or problematic symptoms you see.
- Download VirtualBox from their website. This has most of the features of VM Ware Fusion and Parallels (that I need, anyways), while being free. Its downside is that it is harder to configure.
- Install Windows (Microsoft provides the latest ISO file on their site).
- Install the Guest Additions from within Windows – see animation below (this is the part that is easy to miss but unlocks all the nice features and makes Windows run faster!).
- (Optional) Install the VirtualBox Extensions Pack so you can see things like USB devices on the Windows side.
- (Optional) You might be able to get even better performance by running VirtualBox "headless" and using Microsoft Remote Display (or some other software) to access the virtual environment. See this guide for some more information, but you should be able to use "localhost:XXXX" instead of needing to find your IP address. I find this to be the best on my computer.
- (Optional) Configure: shared folders, bidirectional clipboard and drag & drop. Optimize: I run 2D software acceleration and no 3D acceleration.
In case you're interested, I use Windows on my Mac for:
- Discrete event simulations in Simio
- System dynamics simulations in Vensim (it works somewhat better in Windows)
- Multi-actor analysis in DANA (developed at TU Delft TPM)
In general, I try to keep everything else on my macOS side because it's easier to manage and because I use many tools across different projects, so separating them just adds another technical barrier to smooth operation 😎
P.S. If you'd like to run VirtualBox in Bootcamp, it's doable too. I haven't done it myself since I rarely need to dedicate all of my computing resources to my Windows partition, so I haven't explored it further than some quick searching that's led to exchanges like this.
P.P.S. The Guest Additions file should already be on your computer at
/Applications/VirtualBox.app/Contents/MacOS/VBoxGuestAdditions.iso. If you still can't find it, you can find a download here. Note I've linked that for version 6.0.12; you'll likely need to search for your own.