How to run SOLIDWORKS on Apple Mac

Good news for users who wish to run SOLIDWORKS on an Apple Mac. We have now tried and tested a configuration that works really well! Our Technical Director, Ed Hawkins, talks about his current Mac set up…

This is a fairly long-standing issue we come up against on the Innova Systems technical support desk, and also while talking to prospective customers about SOLIDWORKS. The simple answer is that SOLIDWORKS do not develop an Apple Mac version of the software, so we can’t install SOLIDWORKS natively.

We used to recommend the Bootcamp route, which involves installation of Bootcamp and then Microsoft Windows on the partition Bootcamp creates. The issue here is that if you need to access the Apple Mac Operating System (OS), you would need to shut down windows and boot up the Apple Mac OS, because they cannot be running simultaneously. This allows the full use of the hardware (RAM and graphics card) you have in your Apple Mac for Windows.

The alternative solution that we used to steer people away from is Parallels, a virtual machine software that allows you to run another OS inside the Mac OS (inside a window). The reason for not recommending this is that you are sharing the resource of the machine with two operating systems, thus not necessarily having the required resource to run a demanding program like SOLIDWORKS.

There were also historic problems with not being able to use the graphics card properly which would result in exceptionally slow performance when selecting things. This is due to most Macs not having certified graphics cards for SOLIDWORKS and parallels using a virtual graphics card driver or the default Windows driver. The virtual or generic drivers don’t offer the level of performance needed to run SOLIDWORKS correctly.

Innova Systems Technical Director, Ed Hawkins, explains:

We have now installed and configured this on over 20 users’ Apple Mac computers and I have to say the response from these people has been amazing.

I have a MacBook Pro which I have been using as a test bed. The specs are listed below:

SOLIDWORKS on Apple Mac OS X Yosemite

You will note that this machine has Intel Iris Graphics (specific to the Mac) and not a certified graphics card for SOLIDWORKS.

So, I installed the latest version of Parallels (version 10) and a fresh copy of Windows 10 into the virtual environment and then set about making SOLIDWORKS work!

It’s pretty easy to get Windows installed, as Parallels guides you through that process very nicely. You can specify how much of the machine’s resource to give to the Windows OS – which is where a high spec Mac will stand you in better stead. It is always a good rule of thumb to assign half the available RAM to the Windows OS, so in my set up, I assigned 4GB of RAM.

The difficult bit is making the “Use Software OpenGL” button inside SOLIDWORKS become accessible. When you first install SOLIDWORKS, this button is ticked and greyed out, so we can’t turn it off. In our opinion, SOLIDWORKS is unusable at this point, as selecting geometry and navigating the software is too slow to be productive.

With a bit of effort, and some registry modifications,  I was able to untick the OpenGL box, allowing us to use the graphics card to a much higher potential. The difference in performance was huge, and it allowed me to select and navigate the software much, much faster. One limitation that frustrated me  early on was the lack of RealView Graphics (Accurate reflections and appearances), so I set about solving this problem too. I’m happy to report that RealView works perfectly on a properly specced Mac Book Pro!

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a new solution – Parallels has been around for some time, and installing Windows on a Mac for as long. The difference with our solution is that we can make SOLIDWORKS behave as well as a normal windows PC. No more slow selecting or poor rotational speed.

SOLIDWORKS on an Apple Mac using Parallels

Above is a screenshot of the working set up, albeit in Window mode, not full screen. I have this running at a resolution of 2560 x 1600 in full screen mode and it is functioning very well. Please note: the specification of my Mac, and the resource I can assign to Windows is far from ideal. It would be recommended for people who are creating fairly simple parts with up to 100 features, and assemblies containing up to 500 components. Any more than that, and I think it would struggle.

In summary, the Parallels solution is now recommended by Innova Systems. We are confident of this working well in a production environment, but the spec of the Mac is key to the success. Along with our modifications to the registry in Windows, of course.


Are you based in the UK and interested in running SOLIDWORKS on your Apple Mac? We can demonstrate our configuration to you via a Team Viewer session, or if you prefer and are interested in purchasing SOLIDWORKS we can come out and show you live with some of your data.

Call us on (01223) 200690 or complete this form to organise a consultation with Innova Systems.

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SOLIDWORKS running smoothly on an Apple Mac

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated to feature new information on our process.