Windows 8 and MS Office on MBA

Discussion in 'MacBook Air' started by thearmand, May 19, 2014.

  1. thearmand macrumors newbie

    May 19, 2014
    Hi everyone, I've been a longtime Windows user and it is only this year that I finally plan to test the waters and migrate to Mac. However, I feel I will still need to maintain a Windows option, and for that I plan to use Parallels Desktop 9 to install Windows 8.

    Since I'm planning to buy an MBA (base mid-2014 model, 1.4 Ghz, 4GB RAM), does anyone know if Parallels 9 and Windows work well with the MBA? I know the MBP would be better suited for its higher end specs, but I travel a lot and weight is a bigger consideration for me.

    Also, I'm a heavy MS Office user - is Office for Mac enough or should I install MS Office on Windows 8 via Parallels?

  2. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    MS office for mac is an older version, but it works fine for me.

    Why do you feel the need to run windows? I would avoid it unless absolutely necessary.
  3. thearmand thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 19, 2014
    Thanks for the reply, Meister! I actually don't plan to install Windows right away, but was thinking it would be good to have the option to run it virtually if needed down the road. It's my first Mac so I'm still not sure how much of my day to day tasks will be affected when I ditch Windows completely.

    Windows or not though, is the added cost to upgrade to 8GB RAM worth it? Or is the base model 4GB RAM good for at least the next 3 years? I don't really do any heavy photo/video editing - my MBA will be mostly for Office applications, watching movies, and surfing.
  4. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    4gb of ram will last easily three years, but if you plan on running VMs permanently, then I would consider 8gigs, since you will have to asign ram to the VM.
  5. Panch0, May 19, 2014
    Last edited: May 19, 2014

    Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Feb 23, 2010
    8GB is worth it if you expect to be using a VM extensively. You may not need windows for the uses that you have outlined. Personally, I would always max out the RAM as it is a reasonably inexpensive upgrade and you can't do it after the fact.

    Office for MAC is not 100% equivalent to Office for Windows, although they seem to get closer each release. If you are a Power User of Office, you may see some formatting differences between the platforms, but if your documents are relatively simple, you probably won't see any difference. In fact, Apple's Office programs (Pages/Numbers/Keynote) do a decent job with simple office documents as does LibreOffice/OpenOffice. If you make extensive use of Macros you will probably need the Windows option. I'm not sure if VBA is supported in Office Mac at all currently - if you use it, do your homework...

    As far as Virtualization, I prefer VMWare Fusion to Parallells but both will be more than adequate for your needs. Parallels usually has a slight advantage on Video performance which makes it somewhat better for games, but really if you are gaming you are using bootcamp anyway. There is also VirtualBox, which is free, but I haven't used it myself. When you create your VM, allocate 1 CPU - resist the temptation to give it 'more power'- what you actually do is create more contention for resources and increase the time you spend waiting for CPU time.

    I have found Win8 to be unpleasant to use in a VM due to interface changes that really want you to have both a Windows key and a touchscreen. It works, but it's a nuisance. I haven't used that VM very much to see if fixes like Classic shell make it better, but I would think that they would.
  6. thearmand thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 19, 2014
    Meister and Pancho - solid points there. I also just found out of apps like WineBottler and CrossOver which allow one to run Windows programs on Mac without necessarily needing a virtual Windows OS. Have to admit I'm pretty amazed these options are available.
  7. Meister Suspended


    Oct 10, 2013
    Winebottler didn't work with me. Neither did any other of these apps.

    Do not count on them.
  8. thearmand thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 19, 2014
    Ouch. Thanks for the heads up. Here I was thinking those software actually worked.
  9. yosemit, May 19, 2014
    Last edited: May 19, 2014

    yosemit macrumors regular

    Jul 19, 2013
    I have MS Office 2011 (Mac) installed on my MBA. It works very well. The super-fast (at this time) PCIe SSD definitely helps.

    A warning: Mac Office is the most frequently crashed program on my mac. :D

    I run Windows 8.1 VM on vmware and have Office 2013 (Windows) installed on the VM. Mac Office is good in general (except the crashes), but sometimes it has compatibility issue, e.g. not showing a Windows-based PowerPoint properly. So I use the Windows Office as backup. A good thing is that my employer provides all the licenses. :)

    PS I opted for 8GB memory and 256GB to run VMs.

  10. Dweez macrumors 65816


    Jun 13, 2011
    Down by the river
    My opinion is that if you are going to run VMs, go for the 8 gig option. I run a Windows 7 VM (corporate image) and give it 4 gig - works very well. Better to get it up front vs find out down the road that you need it.

    And VirtualBox is free... :)
  11. mad3inch1na macrumors 6502a

    Oct 21, 2013

    If you are planning on getting the baseline model, I would recommend getting the 2013 model. You can pick one up at BestBuy for 750$ with a student discount. It is not worth the extra money for literally only a 0.1GHz processor bump.

    I have Office on my Windows 7 laptop and my iMac. I prefer writing at my desk, so I use my iMac more. I really don't use Office on Windows, and at this point I like the Mac version more. They are very similar, with a few UI differences. There is no reason to get both, but you may want to consider getting one over the other.

    On another note, as mentioned by other users, VMs will eat away at your RAM and your hard drive space. For your uses, you will most likely need 8GB/256GB. Look in to getting a rMBP 13" 8GB/256GB. That may fit your needs better.

  12. MrGimper macrumors 603


    Sep 22, 2012
    Andover, UK
    Adding my vote to the 8GB recommendations. I run a windows 8.1 vm on my 2012 air and it's configured with 2 processor cores and 4GB RAM and I have no issues (I do .net development in visual studio). I use Classic Shell to make windows more usable.

    It may be worth noting that there are rumours flying around the MS will release an updated office for mac this year....
  13. scaredpoet macrumors 604


    Apr 6, 2007
    The software works for very basic programs that aren't using any special APIs. It's not guaranteed though.

    but, I think you'll find that for nearly all your tasks, OS X is more than up to doing why you need. The only time I've ever run into problems is where a workplace is dedicated to using a very specific, proprietary piece of software that will only run on Windows, and aren't flexible about that. Then there's games, though even that is starting to improve quite a bit.

    But anything involving MS Office, Adobe, web based tasks and many other tasks, there's an equivalent program on the Mac that does the job just as good, if not better.
  14. Steve121178 macrumors 601


    Apr 13, 2010
    Bedfordshire, UK
    If you want to run a Windows VM, I would suggest running it in Unity mode (I believe it's called 'Coherence mode' in Parallels). This will allow you to run Office for Windows as if it were a native application. Unity works brilliantly in VMware Fusion so I presume Parallels does an equally good job.

    It is absolutely essential to ensure you have 8GB of RAM. You can get by with 4GB but if you allocate 2GB to your Windows VM then it leaves only 2GB for your Mac which is a no-go in my book.
  15. SRLMJ23 macrumors 68000


    Jul 11, 2008
    New York
    Definitely go for the 8gb version. Remember, you cannot upgrade your RAM on any MacBook Air or MacBook Pro so I would go with the 8gb. The more RAM the better.

    You can the Apple BootCamp Utility to install Windows on your Solid State Drive with its own partition. Basically a dual-boot between OS X and Windows.

    That, in my opinion will use less resources than a Virtual Machine since you are running that program, plus Windows. That can be pretty resource intensive.

    I used to be a hardcore Windows guy, but then I switched to a Mac and will never go back to Windows (Thought I do have a AlienWare Laptop with Windows on it, that I owned before my MacBook Air.

    As far as Microsoft Windows. You can buy the personal edition of Microsoft Office 365 which is the newest version of Office for Windows, however, also allows you to install on up to 5 devices (Mac, Windows, iPad etc...) I think it is $10 a month or you can buy a yearly subscription for some price I cannot think of right now.

    Here is the link to MS Office 365:

    I think you will not want Windows after you really experience a Mac and OS X.

    Just my two cents.
  16. Scepticalscribe Contributor


    Jul 29, 2008
    The Far Horizon
    I have had MBAs since 2010, and I am currently using a high specification 2013 model. Re recommendations, I'd certainly recommend (as many other posters have already done) 8 GB RAM over 4, and 256 GB SSD if your budget allows.

    While I don't use Windows, I have always had a version of Office for Mac on my Apple laptops and have never experienced any problems with it. This is because Word is used by my entire work universe, and is an absolute must for me; (I also have Pages, but find that I rarely use it.)
  17. philxor macrumors regular

    Dec 21, 2010
    +1 on buying one with 8GB of RAM.

    Office 2011 for Mac works for me for 95% of the things I need to do. I do have Windows 8.1 installed in a VM using Fusion (I have Parallels also, both work fine) for when I need a Windows-specific program or there is something funky with Office 2011.
  18. 2IS macrumors 68030

    Jan 9, 2011
    It will work. I'm running W8 via parallels and have office installed there too with 4GB, but the RAM situation does get a bit ugly with 4GB and a VM running. Mine is an older 2010 model so 4GB was the max. You'll certainly want to upgrade to 8GB in your case.
  19. bluespark macrumors 65816

    Jul 11, 2009
    New York
    Congrats on the Mac -- you'll love it. Without question, get 8 GB for running a virtual machine.

    I'm a heavy Office user and prefer the a Windows version (though I know people who prefer the Mac version). It runs beautifully in Parallels.
  20. thearmand thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 19, 2014
    Thanks, Matt! I'd like the rMBP but I travel a lot and weight is the bigger concern for me. My current Asus laptop is already relatively light at 3 pounds, but I'm looking for something even lighter, hence the 11 inch MBA.

    I am however taking everyone's advice and going for the 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD MBA variant. :)


    This is really comforting to know. I've always been a Windows user and having a Mac for the first time as my primary laptop is making me paranoid about how different the experience will be between both platforms for my day to day use.


    Thanks for the replies everyone! I'm sold on getting the 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD variant, but am planning to wait a few more months to see if Apple pulls anything out of its hat as far as a new MBA model is concerned. If that rumor of a 12 inch rMBA doesn't pan out at WWDC this June or at the September launch, I'll get the 2014 Haswell refresh model. :)
  21. DiscardedPacket macrumors member

    Mar 8, 2013
    FYI there are cut and paste issues between OSX and Windows Apps when in unity mode with VMware Fusion. It is extremely painful.

    I am not sure if Parallels (coherence mode) has the same issues....
  22. TacticalDesire macrumors 68020


    Mar 19, 2012
    If you're a heaving office user (as am I) I would go with the windows version. Especially if you're working on documents from other windows users. If you're going to be running it in a VM with I would go with 8gb. If you go through bootcamp 4gb is more than enough for Windows.
  23. Freyqq, May 25, 2014
    Last edited: May 25, 2014

    Freyqq macrumors 601

    Dec 13, 2004
    I used a macbook pro all the way through grad school. My grad school provided a lot of software for all the students, including PC and Mac versions of office and a Windows 7 install. What I learned:

    1. Onenote is amazing. It is worth using windows, either in visualization or bootcamp, to use it when you need it. No other program comes close, even the mac version of onenote (which is missing 90% of the features of the PC version...not an exaggeration). Rumor is that the next version of mac office will have onenote with all the features, but I wouldn't rely on that rumor. If you are virtualizing windows, 8 gb of ram is a must. I recommend parallels, as it gets the best reviews for tasks like using MS office.

    2. The rest of office 2011 is about 90% as good as the PC version. PC version is slightly better, but I wouldn't bother going through the hassle of visualization for it. Both are fine, and they are suppose to be 100% backwards compatible.

    3. Don't bother with outlook and use apple mail. It is pretty great.

    In sum, if you need onenote, visualize or use bootcamp when you need it. If you don't care about onenote, just go with office for mac 2011.
  24. Glennster, May 25, 2014
    Last edited: May 25, 2014

    Glennster macrumors 6502


    Apr 30, 2014
    Windows 8 and MS Office on MBA

    Is this enough system dedication to run Windows 7 on an 8g MB Air with 512gig? I am a first timer but need windows. Let me know of any other changes I need. Running Parallels 9.

  25. TacticalDesire macrumors 68020


    Mar 19, 2012
    What will you be using in the VM

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