How to use Visual Studio on a Mac

- select the contributor at the end of the page -
Those of us invested in Apple's ecosystem love our iPhones, iPads and MacBooks. We trust Apple's intensive review process, which makes it easy to embrace the new and innovative. But when it comes to the business world, Microsoft's tools and operating systems tend to have the edge.

Both small and large organizations invest heavily in Microsoft products. Take Visual Studio, for example, which has seen years of tuning and refining. Visual Studio is often used by developers -- even those of us who swear by Apple's ecosystem. It's software like this that has led to many of us living double lives (I'm a PC at work and a Mac at home). Thankfully, we no longer have to divide our love between the two, because it's actually possible to run Visual Studio on a Mac with a little something known as a virtual machine.

What exactly is virtual machine technology?

Virtual machine technology allows you to run another PC – in this case, a Windows PC – on your Mac OS X as piece of software that functions just like the physical machine itself. A Windows PC, which is normally a physical device, takes the form of a file, which is handled using virtual machine technology. It's almost as if it fools the Windows OS into thinking that it's running on a physical machine. Virtual machine technology isn't just limited to running Windows on a Mac; you can run any OS that supports your standard PC architecture.

What's more is it's used everywhere, from well known cloud systems to small software houses wanting to host and test their software on portable, clone-able environments that are simple to setup. (And it's affordable, but we'll talk more about that in a minute.)

What about performance?

Performance can be a concern when using a virtual machine to run an entire OS on top of a machine's own homegrown version. Two operating systems running side by side in this manner require extra resources from the underlying hardware. However, the amount of extra performance required to run a virtual machine is surprisingly low. And in the course Visual Studio Development on a Mac, you'll witness the impact a virtual machine running Windows and Visual Studio has on its host, the Mac OS X.

This smooth performance is in the details of Apple's hardware and the cleverness of the virtual machine software. All the Apple components, both hardware and software, are designed to work together in the most efficient way on a Mac. These are not off-the-shelf components placed onto a third party developed circuit board. The Mac OS X itself features drivers specifically tuned for the hardware and the OS X. Each of these factors positively affects the Mac's performance, and it truly shines when running software like virtual machines.

How practical is this method?

For day-to-day use, how usable and practical are virtual machines when using Windows and Visual Studio on a Mac? Thankfully, it's good news. Both usability and practicality are enhanced within this setup. Practicality is enhanced by features which allow you to pause, copy and backup a virtual machine. Usability is enhanced, because features like reliable virtual machine displays and interaction between the two operating systems are possible in real time; you can handle the virtual machine like any other application running on the host system. (You'll also get a better look at this in the course).

What is the cost of running Visual Studio on a Mac?

Surprisingly, the virtual machine software options are affordable. And when combined with a Windows license, this setup is still cheaper than buying an additional machine just for this purpose. If you're a student, you can benefit from discounted prices for both a Windows license and a virtual machine software license.

The virtual machine vendors featured in the course are committed companies that provide regular updates and discounts on upgrades to newer versions with new functionality. Gone are the days when it wasn't possible to drag a file from the host system into the virtual machine. The continued commitment by these vendors to add features like drag-and-drop year after year makes the experience much better than juggling two physical machines running Windows and Mac OS X.


If you're an Apple fan and devoted Visual Studio developer for the Windows world, watch my Pluralsight course, Visual Studio Development on a Mac. You'll learn which virtual machine software is available and how to install and setup an environment for Visual Studio development on a Mac. You'll also see many aspects of the virtual machine, which can be configured to your liking, and usability features which make the setup a valuable asset. Once you're finished with the course you should feel completely comfortable with the idea of running a virtual machine on your own.

Get our content first. In your inbox.

Loading form...

If this message remains, it may be due to cookies being disabled or to an ad blocker.


Rag Dhiman

has over a decade’s experience of working with clients to develop solid solutions to their problems. With a Microsoft and iOS background, he specialises in a range of technologies including XCode, Objective-C, OS X, Windows, HTML5, JavaScript, CSS, C#, .NET and SQL Server. Rag enjoys problem solving using up to date technologies; his current interests include the iOS Sprite Kit and the new iOS framework. He has developed multiple apps for mobile devices. In his spare time Rag likes to develop his photography skills and he is a petrol head who particularly enjoys motor car racing.