I Stand Corrected, Part #23,752 (Running Mac Programs on a PC)

I mentioned several days ago that with a virtualization program like VMware Fusion, "I can happily run any Windows program on a Mac, but things don't work the other way around."

In accord with the timeless principle that the surest way to generate readers' corrections is to state something categorically, it turns out that what I said is not quite true. You can make the Macintosh operating system run on a Windows computer. It's just not easy -- and, according to Apple, it's not legal either. Reader Hal O'Brien explains:

Google the term, "hackintosh." Basically, you get a copy of OS X, apply patches to it, and either a) use as the base system for, say, a netbook, or b) run it in a VMWare window, same as any other OS. Here's a picture of when I did this on my own [which shows Linux, Mac OS X, and Win XP all running on a Dell, with VMware]:


Apple's official position appears to be, it's completely in violation of the license agreement. OTOH, they don't appear to be enforcing claims against violators to date, and they're fairly open about it (see earlier Google search, pointing to some transparent domains). 
And here's a pair of pointers to mildly boggle the mind: here and here.

This is all a consequence of when Apple decided to go to the Intel architecture. As long as they were using Motorola/PowerPC, it just wasn't possible. Rather, clearly one *can* virtualize Motorola/PowerPC on an Intel platform. But it's a lot *easier* when the code is native for Intel, as OS X is these days -- and that's a clear consequence of the chip switch Apple made.

One of the curious upshots is it allows comparisons to the "true" demand for Mac vs PC, by looking at torrent sites and seeing how many downloads are going on. On a major site, the most popular torrent of OS X has ~150 downloaders just now. For Windows 7, it's in the high 600s. Which implies roughly a 20% share of demand. [Versus normal estimates of Mac OS market share being somewhere in mid-single-digit range, eg this or this.]

I don't think I'll ever try this, but in theory it can be done. FWIW.

Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it. They are repulsed by it."


The Horrors of Rat Hole Mining

"The river was our source of water. Now, the people won't touch it."


What's Your Favorite Slang Word?

From "swag" to "on fleek," tweens choose.


Cryotherapy's Dubious Appeal

James Hamblin tries a questionable medical treatment.


Confessions of Moms Around the World

In Europe, mothers get maternity leave, discounted daycare, and flexible working hours.


How Do Trees Know When It's Spring?

The science behind beautiful seasonal blooming

More in Technology

From This Author

Just In