Yes, but not really. Here's how.
"Can SOLIDWORKS run on a Mac?" or "Does SOLIDWORKS work on a Mac" are questions we get all the time. Unfortunately, the answer is no, it does not run natively on a Mac. It can only be installed on a Windows environment. So, the question then becomes "How can I run SOLIDWORKS on a Mac and how well does it perform?" Let's talk about how to get SOLIDWORKS running on your Mac and what you can expect in terms of performance with this kind of set up.
SOLIDWORKS System Requirements
Let’s start here, the same place where everyone looking to install SOLIDWORKS starts, system requirements, which can be found on the software website. Keep in mind that these are only the minimum requirements. TriMech maintains a document that includes hardware recommendations based on the advice from our Application Engineering team and tailored towards the type of work you might be using SOLIDWORKS for. We’d be happy to share this with you.
Currently, SOLIDWORKS 2019 works only on Windows 10, 64-bit and Windows 7 SP1, 64-bit. If you’re not planning on upgrading to Windows 10 from Windows 7, you still have over a year before Windows 7 is no longer supported with the release of SOLIDWORKS 2021 coming sometime in the Fall of 2020.
As you look at the table of system requirements below, you’ll notice a link for the supported virtual environments or hypervisors. Here is where you’ll find the first indication that SOLIDWORKS will somehow run on your Mac computer.
Virtualization enables you to create a software-based or virtual representation of an operating system. Essentially, virtualization allows you to have multiple virtual computers on your computer. At TriMech, we do this all the time to build test machines or sandbox computers that are separate from our main day-to-day operating systems. We do this mainly to test things out or for training and demonstration purposes. But if you own a Mac and you want to run SOLIDWORKS, this is the key to making it work.
There are many different virtualization tools out there. At TriMech we use a combination of VMWare and Virtual Box from Oracle. These are some options you can look at, but the most common virtualization options for Mac owners is Bootcamp or Parallels. Parallels runs in parallel with your Mac OS while Bootcamp requires you to boot into the particular OS you wish to use.
Bootcamp works through a partition of your hard drive. You build a separate virtual computer with the Windows Operating System with Bootcamp. You then need to boot into the operating system you want to use, which means you can only use one operating system at a time. This is both a huge pro and a con. The con is that you can’t access Mac OS when you’re running Windows and vice versa; while the pro is that the OS uses all the hardware resources instead of sharing with a second OS. In other words, the performance will be the best, but it could be inconvenient to have to shut down and reboot your machine to change operating systems.
Parallels runs just like VMWare and Virtual box. These tools are more convenient because you access the Windows OS through an application installed on your Mac OS. This is great because all your files are available to you on both operating systems, and it’s super easy to switch between things like e-mail, keynote, final cut and SOLIDWORKS. But like most other virtualization software, the virtual OS will be sharing resources with the host OS.
The trick to making Parallels run SOLIDWORKS effectively has to do with the graphics. To be productive with SOLIDWORKS in any environment you need to have a certified graphics card listed on the SOLIDWORKS website. On a Mac, this could be difficult because most Macs do not come with a certified graphics card.
This issue gets compounded when running a virtual OS because you are running a “virtual” graphics card driver.
To get the best possible performance on virtual environments you need to run OpenGL graphics out of the box, the performance of SOLIDWORKS running on Parallels is effectively unusable because the graphics performance becomes painfully slow. But with a few tweaks to the registry, you can force SOLIDWORKS to use OpenGL graphics and then it becomes usable.
SOLIDWORKS on a Mac
Is it possible? Yes, and a handful of our clients successfully do it. But it takes some tweaking to get it to where the performance is decent enough to get some work done. Therefore, with all these hurdles you are forced to overcome, we don't recommend it as a first choice. But it is possible and having SOLIDWORKS installed on your Mac could mean the difference between getting a project done in time or not.
Although installing SOLIDWORKS on a Mac isn't what we would recommend, it's important to know that the future of SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD is here and that's SOLIDWORKS xDesign. It moves the power of SOLIDWORKS to the browser, meaning that it works on any operating system. It is CAD on the cloud and platform agnostic. But when you remove all the buzz words, xDesign is, at its core, the familiar SOLIDWORKS CAD package we have grown to love for nearly 25 years. What this means to us is that this is the number one contender to become the future of 3D CAD. So, when you’re debating how to get SOLIDWORKS to run on your Mac or even on your lightweight laptop, think about SOLIDWORKS xDesign.
For an in-depth walk-through of the SOLIDWORKS xDesign application running on the cloud-based 3DEXPERIENCE platform, see our mini-webinar introductory series.