There’s plenty of amazing CAD software for Macs nowadays but unfortunately SolidWorks for Mac still does not exist.
However the good news is there are ways to install the Windows version of SolidWorks on macOS including SolidWorks 2021 on M1 Macs.
Thanks to the Parallels virtual machine, you can now switch between macOS and SolidWorks running in Windows at anytime.
Even better, Parallels recently added support for running Windows on M1 Macs so that you can run SolidWorks on an Apple Silicon M1 chip Mac.
Although Parallels only supports running Windows 10 for ARM (a specially adapted version of Windows for ARM chips like the M1), Microsoft has added Intel x86 emulation inside Windows 10 ARM to run software that requires Intel chips like SolidWorks.
Alternatively, if you still have an Intel Mac, you can install SolidWorks using Boot Camp if you don’t need access to macOS while you’re using SolidWorks.
Note however that Boot Camp does not work on M1 chip Macs.
Here we show you how to install Solidworks on both Intel and M1 Macs and give you a few tips about how to improve the performance of SolidWorks when it’s running on a Mac.
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How to Install SolidWorks on a Mac
There are two ways to install SolidWorks on a Mac:
- Boot Camp (not available on M1 Macs)
Boot Camp is free in macOS but only allows you to run either Windows or macOS at one time. It does not work on Apple Silicon M1 Macs though so it’s not an option to run SolidWorks for M1 Mac owners.
- Virtual Machine (such as Parallels)
Virtual machines like Parallels are not free but allow you to run macOS and Windows at the same time which is far more convenient as you can switch between your Mac and Windows in one click. It also works on the latest M1 Macs.
Using Parallels means you don’t have to restart your Mac when you want to use SolidWorks – you can just switch to macOS as you do when you want to use any other application.
With Boot Camp on the other hand, you have to shutdown your Mac and restart it in Windows.
Although Boot Camp allows your Mac to devote all of its resources to running SolidWorks (thus in theory giving you smoother performance) both Macs and Parallels have become more powerful in processing speed and RAM size meaning SolidWorks now works almost as well using Parallels as it does using Boot Camp.
Parallels is also the only way to run Windows on an M1 Mac.
To understand the difference between both in more detail, check out our article on the best way to run Windows on Mac.
Here then are 2 different ways to install and run SolidWorks on a Mac.
1. Run SolidWorks on a Mac With a Virtual Environment
Follow these instructions to run SolidWorks on Mac using a virtual machine.
- Download Parallels which will automatically install Windows 10 for free on your Mac. Microsoft no longer requires uses to activate Windows 10 with a product key in order to use so the great thing is Windows doesn’t cost a cent. If you’ve got a new Silicon M1 Mac, the installation process is slightly different so follow these instructions to install Windows on an M1 Mac.
- Purchase SolidWorks and install it in Windows. Note that SolidWorks 2021 only works with Windows 10 and is not compatible with Windows 7. Once installed, start SolidWorks so that it makes a few entries in your Windows Registry and then close it.
There are then a few tweaks you need to make sure that SolidWorks works properly on your Mac.
- First make sure you are running Windows and then go to the menu at the top of the screen and select Actions > Configure. Make sure that Resource Usage is set to No Limit.
- In earlier versions of Parallels running Windows 7, the process is go to Parallels > Virtual Machine > Configure > Options > Optimization and make sure your settings are the same as below:
- Then select Graphics and make sure that 3D Acceleration is set to DirectX10 and Vertical Synchronization is selected in Advanced Settings.
- In earlier versions of Parallels running Windows 7, go to Parallels > Virtual Machine > Configure > Hardware > Video and make sure your settings are the same as this on Windows 7:
- If you’re using the latest version of Parallels with Windows 10 instead, you’ll find that you can now force Parallels to use multiple core processors which will dramatically improve the performance of SolidWorks on your Mac.
Make sure you select more than one processor. Depending on how much RAM you’ve got, we recommend allocating at least 8GB of RAM or more to Parallels to ensure Solidworks runs quickly.
Note that macOS requires at least 4GB of RAM to run smoothly so you should make sure that at least 8GB is free otherwise you’ll find your Mac runs slow.
Make sure your settings look something like this:
- Finally, you need to make these changes in the Windows Registry in order to make OpenGL and RealView work in macOS running SolidWorks on Parallels. You should be good to go after that.
2. Run SolidWorks on a Mac With Boot Camp
The installation of SolidWorks using Boot Camp follows the same principle as with Parallels with the main difference being that it installs Windows in a partition on your hard drive.
Note that Boot Camp does not work on M1 Macs as it only works with Intel processors.
Here’s how to install SolidWorks on an Intel Mac using Boot Camp.
- First you need to install Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp.
- You then need to purchase a copy of SolidWorks. Note that SolidWorks 2021 only works with Windows 10 – it is not compatible with Windows 7.
- To install SolidWorks is then exactly the same as if you were installing it on a PC.
How to use RealView & OpenGL in SolidWorks on a Mac
You will find that RealView and OpenGL won’t work by default on Mac because the graphics cards in Mac are not supported by SolidWorks for these features.
However, you can force SolidWorks to use these features although you’ll find that the results aren’t always perfect.
To enable RealView and OpenGL on Mac using NVIDIA graphics cards, follow these instructions (obviously change the value of “SolidWorks 2015” or “SoliwWorks 2016” to the appropriate version of SolidWorks you are using).
- Open the Registry Editor in Windows. To do this, depends on the version of Windows you are using but you can find instructions here.
- In the Registry Editor, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/SolidWorks/SolidWorks 2015/Performance/Graphics/Hardware/Current
- Double click on the “Renderer” key and, copy the value string and click “OK”.
- In the Registry Editor, then go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/SolidWorks/SolidWorks 2015/Performance/Graphics/Hardware/Gl2Shaders/Other. Right click on the “Other” folder and select “New Key”. Then simply paste in the value you copied previously as the name of the folder.
- Select the new folder and in the panel on the right, right-click and select “New” and then DWORD (32bit).
- Change the Name the Key to Workarounds.
- Double Click on it and enter the hex value 40008. This is the correct setting for the nVidia graphics card in your Mac.
- In the Registry Editor, go to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/SolidWorks/SolidWorks 2015/Performance/Graphics/Hardware and then search for the 4 sub-folders called Parallels. In the Parallels and NVIDIA folders, change the Workarounds value to 4000480 and for the Parallels and ATI folders change to modify in 10. Close the Registry Editor.
- Those that are using older Macs with Intel graphics cards, can try these values instead: For Realview Graphics: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SolidWorks\SolidWorks 2016\Performance\Graphics\Hardware\Gl2Shaders\Other\Parallels using Intel HD Graphics 4000 OpenGL Engine. Add value Workarounds: 0x04000480. For Open CL: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\SolidWorks\SolidWorks 2016\Performance\Graphics\Hardware\Intel\Parallels using Intel HD Graphics 4000 OpenGL Engine. Add value Workarounds: 0x09. If this doesn’t work on your Intel Mac, try adding these two keys instead:..\Performance\Graphics\Hardware\Gl2Shaders\Other\Parallels using Intel HD Graphics 4000 OpenGL Engine
DWORD Workaround value 4000480...\Performance\Graphics\Hardware\Intel\Parallels using Intel HD Graphics 4000 OpenGL Engine
DWORD Workaround value 4000480.
- Finally, open SolidWorks and make sure that OpenGL is activated by going to Tools, Options, System Options, Performance and select the checkbox Use Software OpenGL:
This enables SolidWorks to adapt to your Mac graphics card better and will minimize some of the graphics cards problems described earlier. The result is a slightly slower SolidWorks but it will improve stability and give you a more reliable display.
Note: If you install a service pack later on in Windows, you will have to go through the entire Registry Edit process again.
- Another tip to make SolidWorks perform better on your Mac is to run Windows in Classic Mode – this will free up resources that are dedicated to running more advanced Windows features to SolidWorks. To do thus, go to Control Panel in Windows and select Appearance and Personalization. Click Personalization and then Theme. Under Theme select Windows Classic:
This will allow your Mac to devote more resources to running SolidWorks rather than fancy animations and effects in Windows.
If you’re finding that hardware acceleration is greyed out in SolidWorks, follow these instructions to fix it.
For more on optimizing SolidWorks to run on a Mac, check out the video below.
Fixing Graphics Cards Issues
It’s important to be aware that you will experience some performance related issues when running SolidWorks on Mac this way.
This is because Apple does not build Macs with NVIDIA Quadro and ATI FirePro graphics cards for which SolidWorks is designed for.
This means that some features such as Looking Glass and RealView are not officially supported on Mac.
However, there are a few hacks you can use to make RealView and OpenGL work on Mac and we show you how in the installation instructions below.
Nevertheless, you may still experience other little glitches such as items temporarily disappearing when you rotate, zoom and pan such as with dimension text and 3D details missing such as the example below:
If you do experience any performance or installation issues with SolidWorks on Mac, don’t expect any support from either Dassault Systems or resellers as it is not officially supported on Mac and the installation is performed at your own risk.
When Will SolidWorks Be Available For Mac?
For the moment, these are the best way to run SolidWorks on macOS.
The makers of SolidWorks Dassault Systems has outlined its reasons for not making Solidworks for Mac and it basically comes down to a matter of resources and technical limitations.
Dassault Systems does produce software such as eDrawings and DraftSight for Mac and if you just need a SolidWorks viewer for Mac so you can open diagrams, the company has made eDrawings for Mac which allows you to view (but not edit) DWG and DXF files on Mac.
However, the relatively small Mac user base and the complexities of CAD Software such as Solidworks means that the company simply can’t justify the investment required to produce a full Mac version of Solidworks.
Dassault Systems has however released SolidWorks Xdesign which does work on a Mac.
There is the also interesting OnShape project headed by a former SolidWorks CEO and a group of ex-employees that’s aiming to create a online alternative to SolidWorks.
At the moment, the functionality isn’t quite on a par with Solidworks but OnShape is developing rapidly and it’s quite possible that in a few years, OnCloud will basically be SolidWorks online and be accessible on any platform including Mac.
Early reviews have called OnShape “Google Docs for CAD” due to it’s ease of use for a CAD software and cloud based deployment that works on any platform.