There are features in the best Windows genealogy software that aren’t in Mac offerings. Family Tree Maker 2012’s ability to synchronize with Ancestry.com and RootsMagic’s full-featured narrative reports spring to mind.
There are essentially three approaches to running PC software:
- Run Windows on your Mac in a “virtual PC”
- Make your Mac boot into either OS X or Windows using BootCamp
- Use a piece of software to do for your genealogy software what Windows would (Windows emulation)
Let’s get this one out of the way right away. I don’t want to reboot every time I want to use Windows genealogy software. It’s too disruptive and I can’t use my favorite apps alongside my favorite PC genealogy software. BootCamp isn’t an option for me.
If you can’t afford or don’t want to buy Windows there’s the option of installing a Windows emulator. Well, there’s one option, called Wine. Jonathan Bejarano has published a video demonstrating how to install RootsMagic using Wine.
I’ve tried this as well. I found the installation to be complex and experienced hiccups. You get what you pay for. I’ve found that my limited genealogy time is very valuable so I want to use it for research and creating a treasured family history not dealing with quirky software.
Oh, and the genealogy software that is known to actually work with it is extremely limited. No problem if you want RootsMagic. Not so much otherwise.
One related solution I’ve covered previously is using CrossOver Mac to run RootsMagic on your Mac. I tried it for a while and found that the experience wasn’t smooth. CrossOver Mac uses Wine under the covers, so that’s no surprise.
So, I prefer a virtual computer. I’ve successfully used VMware Fusion 4 and Parallels Desktop. My beef with those two is that they’re expensive especially when already springing for a copy of Windows.
I’m now using an alternative called VirtualBox. It does for me what the others do and it’s free. I’ve figured out how to make it integrate well with OS X and I’ll share my secrets with you in the accompanying videos.
Getting the Necessary Software
- Buy Windows 7 if you don’t already own it
- Choose and buy a PC genealogy application if you don’t already own it; I recommend FTM 2012 or RootsMagic
- Download “VirtualBox for OSX hosts”
Installing VirtualBox and Windows
- Install VirtualBox on Your Mac
- Create a virtual machine for Windows 7 in VirtualBox
- Install Windows 7 in VirtualBox
- Update Windows 7
Installing Windows 7
You can avoid installing anti-virus software, which slows down your virtual machine, if you don’t browse the web, download software, or execute any other programs than your genealogy application on Windows.
There’s another piece of VirtualBox you’ll want to install before moving on to loading your genealogy software.
Install Guest Additions
VirtualBox includes a bit of software called guest additions, that helps Windows operate better with your Mac. It enables you to do things like copy and paste between Mac and Windows programs. Unfortunately, it’s not installed automatically. This video will show you how to install guest additions.
Installing PC Genealogy Software
Next you’ll install your chosen genealogy software. Videos demonstrating the installation of my favorites, RootsMagic and FTM 2012, follow. If you prefer some other program just follow whatever instructions are provided with it.
Family Tree Maker 2012
Setting Up VirtualBox and Windows
Now that you’ve got your virtual PC, Windows, and PC genealogy software installed it’s time to make them play nicely together. I’ve discovered what configurations work best and share them with you in this video exclusively for GenealogyTools members.
It will show you, step-by-step, how to:
- Choose a window mode that feels comfortable for you
- Share your Mac home folder with Windows which will make it simple to use the files (like photos) you already have with your new PC genealogy software
- Prevent OS X’s dock and Window’s task-bar from overlapping to eliminate confusion
- Getting you to work faster by turning off the Windows password prompt and configuring your PC genealogy software to launch automatically when you start your virtual PC
- Switch between your running Mac applications and PC genealogy software
- Start Windows and your PC genealogy software in a tiny fraction of the time taken when shutting down and restarting your virtual PC
Network and Printer
Networking works out-of-the-box. VirtualBox transparently share’s your Mac’s network connection with Windows. The news isn’t quite as good for your printer.
You’ll need to install the Windows drivers for your printer. The process varies by printer so I can’t show you how. Just insert the installation CD and capture it with virtual box just like you did with the Windows CD during the “Installing Windows 7 in VirutalBox” video, or download and run the installation driver from the manufacturer’s website.
If you’ve made it to this point without actually carrying out the instructions above, what are you waiting for? You can have access to the productivity enhancing features that only exist in PC genealogy software. Go back up to the Getting the Necessary Software section to get going. You can do it!