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Running SOLIDWORKS on a Mac People often ask if it is possible to run SOLIDWORKS on a Mac – the good news is you can. We know quite a few users running SOLIDWORKS successfully on a Mac. The bad news is that it isn’t supported by SOLIDWORKS … There are no versions of SOLIDWORKS that are written for Mac OS and OS X, however there are versions of eDrawings available for Mac OS. A change in Mac OS or an upgrade to SOLIDWORKS may suddenly give you major headache. We would always recommend running SOLIDWORKS on a Windows PC. 

However if you have to run SOLIDWORKS on a Mac read on:- Running SOLIDWORKS on a Mac means you are making compromises on speed, functionality and stability. SolidWorks is only supported when:-

  1. Running on Microsoft operating systems. With SolidWorks 2019, that means running Windows 10 or Windows 7 operating systems. However, Windows 7 will only be supported until the end of the 2020 release, so we recommend going with Windows 10. It also means you have to buy a copy of the Windows operating system.
  2. Running with a supported graphics card (more of this later).

The operating system on a Mac is called “Mac OS” and there are two ways of running Windows 10 on a Mac:-

  1. Boot Camp
  2. Parallels
  1. Boot Camp

This is the preferred method – it effectively runs Windows on your computer instead of Mac OS. In effect, you end up with one computer with a choice of two operating systems.

When you boot up your Mac you have to choose to run either Mac OS or Windows.

Boot Camp Assistant creates a partition just for Windows, leaving your existing Mac OS volume intact.

It is free to install but you do have to buy a copy of your preferred windows operating system.

Note: It is important you only use “boot camp assistant” to create this windows partition. See http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1461

2. Parallels

Parallels software can be installed on your Mac OS. It allows you to run a “virtual” copy of a Windows operating system at the same time as running your Mac OS.

In our case, we would use Parallels to run a “Virtual PC”. The “Virtual PC” would then run Windows 10 on which SolidWorks can ultimately run. You need to buy Parallels and a copy of Windows 10 for this solution.

Running Parallels on a Mac is really convenient as you can seamlessly switch between Windows and Mac OS when needed.

Unfortunately, it really stretches the capabilities of most machines to run both Mac OS and Windows as well as a heavy-duty program like SOLIDWORKS at the same time. It also introduces an extra level of software to “go wrong”. Certainly running via Parallels is slower and more prone to crashing SOLIDWORKS than the Boot Camp solution.

Graphics Cards

You need to be running a supported graphics card to get the most out of SOLIDWORKS.

Only a few cards are supported by SOLIDWORKS.

NVIDIA sell a range of supported graphics cards called “Quadro” (the exception is the Quadro NVS, which is unsupported). Most NVIDIA cards are from their GeForce range, which are not supported.

ATI sell as range of graphics cards called “FireGL”/“FirePRO” which are supported. Most ATI cards are from their Radeon range, which are not supported.

Not many Macs come with supported graphics card. No MacBook or MacBook Pros have supported cards.

If you run via Parallels, you are running a “virtual” graphics card driver. There is currently no way to install the correct NVIDIA Quadro or ATI Fire drivers required by SOLIDWORKS via Parallels even if you have a supported card. You have to use the generic Parallels virtual driver. The virtual driver is much slower than using the correct driver running on a normal Windows PC or laptop. 

Certain workarounds do exist to allow.

Without a supported card, you won’t get some feature such as the looking glass, RealView etc. to work.

Users have also reported items temporarily disappearing after you rotate/zoom/Pan e.g. dimension text.

Finally, without a supported card SOLIDWORKS is less stable and more prone to crashing.

If you are plagued by stability/display issues its worth running SOLIDWORKS with the option “Software OpenGL” turned on.

Start SOLIDWORKS without any document loaded and select “Tools, Options, System Options, Performance, use Software OpenGL”.

The option above calculates the graphics using your processor and a standard library, rather than the graphics card and graphics driver. This is slower but it can provide improve stability and a more reliable display.

If you have any more questions or would like us to spec you up a machine to run SOLIDWORKS on please refer to this guide, or contact us via one of our web forms here.

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