ArcGIS on Mac OS X

ArcMap on Mac OS XSome might go out and play Minigolf on their free weekends, I stay at home and fiddle around with some geo things on my new MacBook.

As result of this afternoon I got ESRI’s ArcGIS up and running on Mac OS X. Of course with a little help of a virtual Windows installation in the background.

What needs to be done?

Well, first I had to decide which virtualization software I want to use. Basically I had a closer look at Apple’s Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop (aff link). Whereas Boot Camp doesn’t count as virtualization tool, it just enables booting and running Windows on any Intel Mac. That was mainly the reason why I didn’t go with Boot Camp. Every time you need Windows-only software you’ll have to restart your machine. In the case of ArcGIS I’m not planning to use it on a 10 hrs/day basis on the laptop, it’s just an “emergency” installation, to edit and modify some minor things on the way or to use it for presentation and demo purposes. So in the end I downloaded and installed Parallels Desktop.

There are of course some other tools available, like Virtual PC for instance, but after a quick research on some reviews I decided to focus on Boot Camp and Parallels Desktop for my purposes.

What about perfomance?

RAM limitationsActually I was positively surprised by ArcGIS’s performance in Parallels Desktop. I expected it to be sluggish and painfully slow, but it wasn’t at all. To complete basic tasks and do some map editing it’s quite ok and usable. The main limitations are RAM and video card. On Parallels Desktop you allocate a certain amount of RAM to your Windows installation, 512MB in my case. I think you can only allocate the half of your built-in RAM as maximum.

Virtual video driverThe video card is another major drawback: Windows sees a virtual graphic card with only 8MB of VRAM available. Not too much if you’re planning to do some 3D visualization (which I won’t). However, I’m wondering how ArcGIS Explorer (3D!) is performing under this conditions since there won’t be a Mac version.

A Windows installation enabled by Boot Camp accesses all of your RAM, makes use of your video card instead of emulating its own and the processor isn’t occupied with Mac OS X tasks while you are working in Windows. There are good chances that ArcGIS will act somewhat faster too.

Parallels Desktop 4.0 for Mac

Something else?

No luck with GPS so far. The Garmin GPSmap 60C is recognized by Windows but not by MapSource. I wish Garmin would fix their USB issue and come up with some Mac support. It can’t be that hard, other devices seem to work just fine.

Along with Apple’s switch to Intel it’s now easier than ever before to use Windows-only applications (like most GIS and GPS software) on Mac OS X. There are various virtualization products available which deliver good Windows perfomances. Using Boot Camp even gives you the full perfomance of your machine, considering some missing hardware drivers (Boot Camp is still beta). Let’s see in August what comes with Mac OS 10.5 out of the pipe.

  • geoLibro » ArcGIS on Mac OS X

    [...] From Spanring.nam: Rather than go out and play minigolf, Spanring set up a MacBook to run ArcGIS. I confess I’m a little disappointed I haven’t heard more excitement about this possibility in particular (within the greater cloud of excitement about Windows running on Apple machines), but nonetheless I am personally thrilled to hear this will work. Later this year I hope to receive delivery of my own MacBook Pro and you can be damned sure ArcGIS is going to be one of the first things I try (everything else I know works). I’ve spoken with another ArcGIS user via a listserv and we’re both very hungry for this type of news. I love the ethos of GRASS and I appreciate its power very much, but it just isn’t a fluid experience for people who are new to GIS. It’s a hard sell, to be sure. And using ArcGIS with the benefit of Exposé and the rest of the OS X UI? Swell. [...]

  • Bob Killips

    I too am anxious to install Bootcamp and ArcGIS on my new MacBook Pro. I have used the java version of ArcExplorer but it is much too limiting other than for display. The learning curve on GRASS is requiring too much time for what I need to do. Bob

  • Raymond Mojica

    I’ve been running ArcGIS 8.3 on a 2 GHz Intel MacBook Pro with 1 GB SDRAM and running 10.4.7. I opted to go with Boot Camp after getting very sluggish performance on a Virtual PC installation on my dual 2.5 Ghz Power Mac. So far the application runs as fast as on a 2 year old tower in our office. Running Xtools pro, Arcpad and am able to open up large full color 1 foot resolution imagery reasonably quick. So far so good. The draw back is moving data back and forth between the two OS’s. I guess I could get a USB thumb drive as a bridge. I plan on testing the speed of certain tasks and then loading parallels to see if there is a significant hit.

  • Helvecio Mafra

    I live in Brazil, and here ArcGIS comes with a USB hardware key. Any ideas if Parallels manage to recognize that king of key?

  • Christian

    Here in Europe we have this hardware key too. Parallels recognizes the USB device and ArcGIS sees the key just like on every Windows installation. This wasn’t a problem at all.

  • Steve Holloway

    Hi All,
    I work as a sysadmin for James Cook University in Cairns Australia. My colleague and I manage about 60-70 windows systems running ArcGIS. I am also a Mac User. I have a Mac Book Pro as my personal machine and a 20″ Intel iMac as My desktop. I have recently intalled ArcGIS 9.1 on my Parallels Desktop install of windows xp. I am very happy to announce I am having similar successes to Christian. Kudos to you for the detailed post. Just yesterday i did some performance tests while troubleshooting a hardware issue with a few month old
    3.2Ghz P4 HT with 1GB Ram. This should do basic Arc operations without issue. Under Parallels I was impressed by the performance. Looks like that PC has faulty RAM.
    We are finding that Parallels is just brilliant formost things and some of Geography Post Grads are looking at MacBooks with bootcamp to do their ArcGIS work with.
    I had the pleasure of attending Apple’s WWDC in San Francisco a few weeks back. I met the guys from Parallels and had to congratulate them on a great product. Also look out for VMWare they have and OS X Virtualisation product in alpha as I type. Good to see there are some ArcGIS / Mac Users our there. I am envisioning (maybe fantising) about rolling out a load of Intel iMacs for our GIS Lab. Will this will happen! Probably not but hey we can dream.

  • Steven Holloway

    Sorry guys one more thing.
    Virtual PC will not run on an Intel Mac, as its an Intel to PowerPC translator, which is bascially why its performance is terrible.
    Microsoft have recently announced they have stopped its development. So there will not be a version for Intel Macs.

  • Christian

    Thanks for the information Steve!
    Even at the ESRI support user forums people are asking about ArcGIS on Intel Macs. Maybe you could share your experience there too…

  • Mona

    Hey all, thank you so much for all your advice. However, I’m going to be purchasing a new laptop for research being conducted in Namiba [involving much GIS work] and I still don’t know which one to buy. For the funders, I need to stay as close to 2000USD as i can but I want ArcGIS to work at its best. The question I have for those of you who’ve done the research, can I buy a
    MacBook 2.0GHz Intel Core Duo – Black Z0DG 1
    2GB 667 DDR2 SDRAM – 2x1GB 065-6305
    2.0GHz Intel Core Duo 065-6466
    Accessory Kit 065-6313
    120GB Serial ATA drive 065-6229
    SuperDrive (DVD±RW/CD-RW) 065-6231

    With Parallels Desktop for Mac Or will I have to go with the MacBook Pro series? Any and all help will be greatly appreciated! [I need to buy this asap...]


    Mona (Chicago)

  • Christian

    Mona, the main difference between the MacBook and the MacBook Pro are the better video hardware, bigger screen and higher screen resolution. As for Parallels Desktop, it won’t benefit from the better graphics card since it doesn’t use hardware acceleration.
    Remains the screen size. It depends on you if prefer either a smaller compact laptop or a better screen resolution and a slightly larger piece to carry.
    Good luck in Namibia!

  • André

    I have a 2GHz/1GB Macbook with Parallels PC now, but for the benefit of potential users of this environment, I experience some heavy virtual memory swapping when switching back and forth between Mac OS X and Windows applications. If you stay within one or the other environment, then things go smoothly.
    Also, VMware has announced it is working on a Mac OS X version of their virtualization products and this is really good news because virtual machines will then be transferrable between a Mac and a PC. I have registered to the beta program but the beta version is not available yet: we’ll see.

  • Sam V.

    Hello – I have a new macbook pro with a 2.33 ghz core 2 duo and 2gb RAM. I installed windows XP through parallels and XP works very well. I installed arcinfo workstation and arcGIS 9.1 and both work great. When I edit very big geologic maps with 100,000′s of polygons, for example, using either gridtools or Arcmap, edits and graphics redraws are very quick. I would estimate that the speed is equivalent to a 2 year old top-notch PC, maybe. It could be better than that but I’m just trying to be conservative. I am incredibly excited about how well Arc works on my mac. I post only because this site motivated me to go for it. Thanks everyone. Sam

  • Jeni

    I just got Arc running on my mac book pro using boot camp – does anyone know how to “right click” on the PC side?

  • Christian

    Jeni, which boot camp version do you have installed? At the Apple Boot Camp site they say that version 1.1.2 supports right-click on Apple Laptops: hold the right Command key while tapping the trackpad button.

    Hope that helps!

  • Tim

    I have been dreaming of having one maching for years and am finally going to buy a MacBook Pro with Boot Camp. My question is can I install Boot Camp and Parallels and install ArcView on each? Most of the time I will be running my Boot Camp and the PC but occasionally I will need to do work on Illustrator Mac. Can I launch Parallels and ArcView just to export some more data as needed?

  • Christian

    as far as I know, with the latest release, Parallels can now access Boot Camp’s Windows partition. So you don’t have to install Windows and ArcView twice on your machine, you can either choose to use Parallels or Boot Camp with the same Windows installation.
    And yes, while running Mac OS X you can just start Parallels, Windows and ArcView to export some more data or do some other needed tasks.

  • Natasha

    Hi everyone,

    I am a student and a devout Mac user, but have been considering purchasing a PC for the sake of being able to run ArcGIS and other earth imaging software. I currently use a low-end, 3 or 4 year old PC for these application, and it’s absolutely, painfully slow – it routinely takes one to three mintues to load, move around, or save any map possessed of layers that are more than minimally complicated. Even scrolling a single centimeter can eat up thirty seconds. At this point I’m willing to find and shell out the bucks for a computer that would run the space shuttle.

    Many of you sound happy running Arc applications in Boot Camp, though mention that reserve the running of ArcGIS and the like on the Mac for emergency situations. Is this an accurate assessment of your feelings? I am aiming to purchase a machine that will be my primary platforma for earth imaging. Would I be truly happy with Boot Camp Mac, or do I need to buy a PC?

    Thanks so much,
    Sincerely yours,

    Natasha Mitchell

  • Christian


    I recently created a partition for Boot Camp on my MacBook and installed ArcGIS on Win XP there. The new version of Parallels can start Windows from Boot Camp partitions too, so if I need to do only minor map editing I use Parallels to start ArcGIS under Mac OS X, works fairly well. For heavy tasks I boot into Windows and use ArcGIS there, works better than my 3 year old PC. It’s not only for emergency situations any longer, Boot Camp and Parallels let me run ArcGIS on my MacBook in a day-to-day use.
    The only thing you should consider is if you plan using 3D applications, since the MacBook (not the MacBook Pro!) has only very limited 3D capabilities. That could be a bottleneck.

    Hope that helps!

  • Natasha

    Christian, it does help, thanks! If you have the time, I’ve got a few more questions: Are you saying you use your Mac (via Boot Camp and Win. XP) as the primary platform for your ArcGIS work? If I did get a new Mac it would almost certainly be a MacBook Pro…I just want to make sure I’d be truly happy running it. What’s your load/scroll time like? On the PC I currently use (low-end, about 4 years old) for ArcGIS work it takes anywhere from 30 seconds to three minutes to load, save, make changes to or move around in a multi-layered, multi-polygon documents. What’s the time like on your MacBook Pro?

    Thanks so much for your help!


  • Christian


    no, the MacBook is not my primary computer. I got it as mobile addition to a desktop PC. For GIS I still prefer a desktop PC over a laptop, well, I could just plug a bigger screen, keyboard, etc. to the MacBook too and equip it similar to a desktop PC.
    However, since they use almost the same hardware there is no difference between the MacBook and any other comparable PC laptop in terms of performance. The only thing I don’t like running Boot Camp is that you can’t access the Windows partition under Mac OS X and vice versa. To exchange files between Windows and Mac OS X you either have to load Parallels, use a network share or another external hard disk. But maybe that’s going to be fixed in a future Version of Mac OS X.
    To answer your question: loading ArcGIS takes something between 5 seconds and a minute, depending on how complex the map document is, e.g. multiple layers, different projections and data source types, etc.

  • Natasha


    Thanks so much for your thoughts and advice!


  • Wilfredo Falcon

    Hello all!

    I’ve been reading all your posts and since you mostly talk about macbooks/macbooks pros I wanted to know if you recomend a 20″ imac as a Primary Computer for research using Arc-GIS? Basicly we will be doing ecological research and mapping natural reserves/forests/parks and adding vegetation, topography, animal/plant information/layers. We use Adobe Photoshop CS2 and other Adobe programs so we use a lot the imac. I am a Mac user and I would like to keep buying Macs for the lab…if its possible.

    Any help/advise will be appreciated, Thanks!

    Wilfredo Falcon
    University of Puerto Rico
    Humacao Campus

  • Christian


    I suppose if the solution works on MacBooks it should work on Intel iMacs as well. But I don’t have any experiences with the newer (Intel) models. Maybe you could ask your dealer to run a test ArcGIS installation…

  • Tom

    I can’t seem to get the flexlm licensing to work under bootcamp. I have a usb dongle, the necessary license file. We are installing ARC 9.2 I’ve done a number of these installs on non MAC hardware and seld have any iisues. The license servicee fails to start up and if you try to start the service you get a rather generic 1067 error.

  • Christian

    We are still using ArcGIS 9.1 and this version works fine so far, no problems with USB dongles and flexlm…


    Recently installed ARC 9 on my MBP, and am very happy to announce that the program does work, however with some limitations. Anyone have a clue as to why i cannot import DBF files with the add data icon. I can only open existing map files. Editing preferences is a little off too. I cannot change my wireframe preferences, it is stuck on always displaying raster data at all times and extents.

  • Mandla

    I have just purchased a MacBook Pro and Installed Arc 9.2, it works fine but i’m not happy with the performance. after reading in this blog I realised that there are solution. Now I’m going to try a Boot Camp Beta, cos I don’t have any other version. Does anyone knows where can I download a full version and will it make a difference compared to the Parallel desktop? I must stress that I’m new in Apple, any tips will help.

  • Christian

    Currently there is only the Boot Camp beta available. AFAIK it will be included in the next version of Mac OS X (10.5 Leopard) and maybe released as commercial stand-alone application too.

    The difference compared to Parallels Desktop is that starting Windows with the help of Boot Camp won’t launch Mac OS X and therefore Windows gains full access to all resources of your Mac. Windows won’t share resources with Mac OS X as it does when running under Parallels, that’s basically why you’ll notice a performance boost.


    Slowlly working out my kinks as I discover them…
    Only major concern now is I cannot save my edits to shapefiles; merge, divide, dissolve, etc.

    Any thoughts christian?
    Think boot camp might eliminate these inconsistencies

  • Christian

    hmmm, seems like your shapefile is kind of write protected, but frankly I’ve never seen that issue before…


    I think you might be right, becaue it works fine one one of our servers, just not the other…

    lets all assume that arc is working fine, since it works beautifully with everything else; if i find a solution to my problem..or even what the problem is… i’ll post again

  • Marilyn

    I, like others, have loaded ArcGIS 9.1 under Parallels 3.0 on my MacBook Pro. The GIS software starts and loads maps, etc, but I am having a fatal problem when it comes to geoprocessing tools. Basically, I have not found what works yet – but what does not work is to interpolate a raster grid from a set of points in a shapefile and just opening some tools in ArcToolbox. I suspect there is problem with where the files are being saved, but when I go to Tools/Options/geoprocessing and click on the Change Environments button, the software shuts down.

    I do not totally understand how parallels in general relates to the Mac,- I have used ArcGIS a lot on PC platforms. Anyone have any ideas?


  • Christian

    Marylin, it probably won’t help you much but here I have ArcGIS 9.2 running with Paralles 3 (Build 5160) and ArcToolbox works fine. I just verified that I can interpolate points (I did it earlier too but wasn’t sure if I did it then under Parallels or BootCamp) by choosing IDW interpolation from ArcToolbox.
    As for the geoprocessing environment: I didn’t change any of my default settings and can access all options without having the application crashed.

    It probably won’t make a difference, but are you using a BootCamp partition or a Parallels image for running Windows?

    On a Mac I’d suggest to backup and delete the preference file, but I’m not sure if this works under windows too. Anyways, you always can try to backup and delete the ArcToolbox folder under documents and settings/user/application data/esri/. Maybe that helps.

  • Marilyn

    thanks – that is very helpful. It tells me that at least there is hope. I plan to upgrade to 9.2 so will uninstall and re-install. Could be that the whole thing will be fixed at that point and I will not know why. This does leave me concerned with stability of ArcGIS on this platform – since ArcGIS dies often enough even in a standard setup. Stability gets higher points than speed in my view. I also hope that ESRI is paying attention to the new Mac users – and will eventually test and support this platform along with others.

    Thanks again. I appreciate you pulling together this discussion and being so responsive.


  • Anne

    I recently installed ArcGIS on my MacBookPro with Parallels Desktop. I’m having a major problem – when I open ArcMap, there are no menus and no toolbars – only the layers and data windows. I tried reinstalling everything with no luck. Has this happened to anyone else, or does anyone have suggestions? Is there possibly a simple fix that I am overlooking?

    Any thoughts would be helpful.


  • Christian

    Anne, does it only affect ArcMap or other ArcGIS parts too?

    You might want to have a look at this thread at the ESRI User Forums, where another user is reporting about a similar issue.

  • Anne


    It seems to be only ArcMap. Thanks for finding that thread – I added a post there, as well, because so far the advice hasn’t been helpful. I’m unable to find the HKEY file they suggest deleting.

  • Erin Ross

    Is ArcGIS the only worthwhile GIS application – and hence you are finding ways to get it running in OS X? I ask because our planning firm is interested in possibly being able to offer GIS capabilities, and as the IT go-to girl in the office, I have been tasked to find out about the GIS software options for OS X, as we are an Apple-only office (and rightly-so :) . Any and all comments are welcomed and appreciated!

  • Christian

    as the post and comment show, ArcGIS can be run under virtualized Windows on Mac OS X. It’s not the only worthwhile GIS desktop application, there are other commercial systems like Mapinfo, Geomedia or Manifold, to name the most popular ones. Those are only available for Windows. Open Source applications like GRASS, QGIS or uDig will run natively on Mac OS X.
    However, the decision which system is best for you mainly depends on your defined GIS tasks and expected GIS user skills. Hope that helps!

  • TINI

    Hallo, ich hab eine ähnliche Frage wie alle, und hoffe von Euch einen Tipp zu bekommen. Möchte einen Laptop (Budget 1500), auf dem ich Linux (SHELL) laufen lassen kann (zusammen mit Linux-Software wie vi, GMT, g77 fortran compiler, Latex, ein Finite-Elemente Programm, …) möchte aber auch Adobe Illustrator, ArcView 3.2 bzw ArcGIS, MS Word und MS Powerpoint. Bisher dachte ich an das MacBook mit 2GB RAM (statt 1GB). Nun habe ich trotzdem bedenken, dass wenn ich Parallel Desktop und GIS, sowie die FEM Programme installiere, dann vielleicht Schwierigkeiten bekomme das eine oder andere laufenzulassen? Obwohl Eure Berichte ja da Gegenteil aussagen. Aber sind da 2GB RAM echt ausreichend? Ich würde dann 512 MB für den Parallel Desktop rechnen, was mir dann bei den FEM Programmen natürlich fehlt, richtig?
    Wenn ich richtig verstanden habe, dann bedeutet bootcamp dass ich meinen MAC erst neu starten muss bevor ich zB mit ArcGIS arbeiten kann, deshalb würde ich die parallel Desktop Version bevorzugen. Gibt es da verschiedene Anbieter, und wenn ja welchen sollte man sich zulegen? Bin über jeden Tip dankbar.

  • Christian


    verstehe ich das richtig: du möchtest du 3 Betriebssysteme parallel laufen lassen?

    Bis auf Performance-Einbußen sollten sich keine Probleme ergeben weil sich ja Windows-Mac-Linux gegenseitig nicht “sehen”. Ich würde versuchen es auf wenigstens 2 Systeme einzuschränken, ein Hauptsystem und ein Gastsystem, je nachdem du welche Software wie häufig benutzen wirst. Für deine aufgezählten Programme brauchst du glaube ich nicht 3 Betriebssysteme.

    2GB sind für Mac, Parallels und ArcGIS nach meiner Ansicht völlig ausreichend. Ich komme ganz gut damit klar.

    Ja, BootCamp bedeutet den Rechner neu starten. BootCamp ist nichts anderes als ein Partitionierungstool, Bootmanager und von Apple für Windows bereit gestellte Treiber.

    Z.Zt. hat VMware fusion in Sachen Performance am Mac die Nase vorn. Wirf da vielleicht nochmal einen Blick drauf.

    Hoffe das hilft mal!

  • Dean

    What’s the advantage of the MacBook Pro over the MacBook for ArcGIS? I know the NVIDIA video card is nice, but for ArcGIS, does it make a difference? The new MB has 144 MB of shared RAM (over the previous 64 MB) What does this show up as when running VMWare? Boot Camp?

    Anybody running this set up? I’m looking at the 2.2 GHz MB with 2 GB of RAM. Trying to save $400 and space (ie size), but still want to be able to run ArcGIS 9.2.


  • Whit

    Hello everyone. Thanks for a great thread and good information.

    I’m a heavy ArcGIS user at work and a Mac lover at home. I’m in the market for a laptop and considering a MacBook Pro. My question is this:

    Does Parallels Desktop only recognize the hardwired video graphics memory or can it also access a video card? This makes a difference with the MacBook vs. MacBook Pro b/c the MB has a decent amount of shared video memory while the MBP has a much better video card. BUT, this video card is only helpful if the software can use it, and can be potentially inhibiting if Parallels only has the minimal hardwired video memory to work with. I noticed you touch on the subject, Christian, in your first blog. I was hoping you (or anyone else) could elaborate.

    Thanks again. Great site!

  • Christian


    I only own a MacBook by myself, so I only can tell you what I’ve read at the Parallels website. Since Parallels supports OpenGL/DirectX 3D graphics I’d surprised if it doesn’t fully use your video card.

    Parallels even lists ArcGIS 9.2 at the 3D section.

  • Whit

    Thanks for the prompt reply Christian.

    I read the same thing last night on the Parallels website and came to the same conclusion, so that’s nice ;)

    I’m leaning toward the MacBook for value and portability but I plan to use graphics intensive ArcGIS and I’m a little concerned about the 128MB shared video memory and if that will significantly slow the computer down compared to the MBP. ArcGIS is a heavy-hitting program that analyzes large databases and represents the data in graphical format.

    I pland to run ArcGIS on a Parallels/Windows XP platform and will upgrade to a 7200 rpm HD and 4 GB of RAM from if i go with the MacBook. What’s your gut feeling on the ability of the MacBook to handle graphics operations under such conditions?

    Thanks again for your insight!

  • Christian

    depends on what your understanding of “graphics work” is, do you mean 3D analysis and renderings with 3D or Spatial Analyst or just regular 2D visualizations? I’m not very good regarding hardware but to me your configuration (fast hard drive, 4GB memory) sounds excellent. I’m on a standard MacBook CoreDuo with 2GB and it works fine. But I’m not doing 3D work here. Maybe you want to search ESRI’s support forums for hardware related questions.

  • Whit

    Good News and Bad News.
    Bad – It looks like Parallels 3.0 can not access the functionality of a video graphics card. There is a means to virtualize up to 64 mb of video ram. So that’s nice, but not quite enough for full-on GIS analysis that rivals native PC speeds.

    Good News – Parallels 4.0, which could be out this summer by July, should resolve this issue and allow the software to interface and access the video card. I’ll be looking forward to this upgrade as it should make for a wonderfully seemless GIS experience on a Mac.

    Thanks again Christian for a great forum. And good luck to all you GIS users out there in the Mac world. It’s about time!

  • Christian

    Thanks for sharing that information Whit!

    As workaround until Parallels 4 is released, you can always use BootCamp to access all of your MacBook’s hardware without any limitations.

  • Emil

    Instead of parallels try vmware fusion.

  • Christian

    For some reason VMware Fusion couldn’t access my BootCamp partition and I wasn’t able to find a solution to that problem. So I stayed with Parallels.

  • Vera

    I have a MacBook with parallels installed for the purpose of using ArcGis. I have purchase ArcGIs software through my library and it comes with a Hardware key (USB). I manage to run Arc Reader but neither ArcMap or ArcScene seem to work. I’m not sure if the USB is recognized because it doesn’t appear on my computer or finder (however the light is turned on). The error window that pops up when I try to open ArcMap says that something is wrong related to the network and license, although my internet connection is fine (and firewall off).
    Can anyone help me?
    Thanks, Vera

  • Christian

    I think you have to start Parallels with the USB hardware key already plugged in. Otherwise the ArcGIS License Manager won’t work correctly and won’t let you start any licensed ArcGIS installation.

    Here is an article which should help you to verify that the hardware key is attached correctly. Maybe it helps to update the hardware key driver to the latest version.

    I never had any troubles with the hardware key actually.

  • Norman Pillsbury

    I am running an Intel MacPro with 2.2 GHz, 2GB with Parallels 3.0 and Windows XP. I installed ArcGIS 9.2 and everything was running smoothly but suddenly, it stopped. I am still able to use ArcCatalog but when I go to load ArcMap, it just stalled on the start-up screen, at first.

    It actually worked fine for about a week; then today major errors, starting with (1) stalled start-up screen. I kept trying and then it said (2) that my registration number was not valid, even though it showed that ArcMap was licensed in Administration. I did a repair first, no help, and then removed ArcGIS 9.2 and reinstalled it. No change.

    I thought if I downloaded service pack 5 it might help, but then I got more errors:

    (3) “Error 1904. Module C:\Program Files\ArcGIS\Bin\CadastralFabricLayerUI.dll failed to register. Contact support personnel”

    and then:

    (4) “The procedure entry point ?GetLength@BString@@QBEKXZ COULD NOT BE LOCATED IN THE DYNAMIC LINK LIBRARY AFCORE.Dll”

    and finally:

    “Runtime Error! Program: C:\WINDOWS\Explorer.EXE. The application has requested the Runtime to terminate it in an unusual way.”

    It was doing so good for a week. What happened? How do I fix it?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Christian

    Sorry, but I’d suggest to contact ESRI support. That sounds like a real bad problem.

  • Niels van der Vaart

    Dear all,

    Currently i’m doing my GIS work on a Win XP Laptop. Origionally i’m a mac user, but diving deeper into GIS forced me to switch to windows two years ago. Now there are Intel Macs, i want to grab my chance and switch back to a Mac.

    Now I have a dilemma on what mac to choose, a high end macbook or low end macbook pro. The specs are the same exept that the macbook pro has a video card and the macbook not. I’d love to go for the portability of the macbook but i don’t know if the absense of a video card will be a big issue in daily use of arcgis (not arcscene).

    Can you share your experiences on this? Thanks!

    Cheers! Niels

  • Whit

    Niels et al.
    I had the same decision to make earlier this year. I’m running ArcGIS through BootCamp on a lower end MacBook Pro (with upgraded RAM from for a very reasonable price). I have not regretted my decision one second. In fact, I often max out the computer’s potential and appreciate the desktop capabilities of a MBP.

    I’m a daily GIS user with large databases, so my observations only reflect heavy usage. For lighter use on the fly, I use Parallels just fine and would imagine that a MB with maximum RAM could do the same.

    On another note, I do not feel constrained by the larger size of the MBP.

    Good luck -whit-

  • Anika


    for my bachelor’s thesis I would like to run ArcGIS on my mac. Since I am a poor student I am still using a PowerBook.
    Has anyone experiences in running ArcGIS on a PowerBook? I can’t use the Boot Camp on a powerPC, thats all I know. Can I try Parallels?
    Somebody recommended me to try Darwine. Does anyone know something about that?
    I really don’t care if the performance is bad, it is only a batchelor’s thesis.
    Thank you in advance,

  • Christian

    Neither Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion will work with a G4 processor. You can try Microsoft Virtual PC for Mac or Darwine to run Windows on PowerPC Macs, whereas I’ve never tried either one. However, the performance is said to be really poor on such emulations.

  • SN271

    I am currently testing the MacBookPro with ArcGIS 9.2 in VMware fusion – so far so good, however there is an issue with Xtools not installing.

    I will be testing with Bootcamp as well and roll with the best solution.

    Performance so far is comparable to our Dell M90s – so far…

    More to follow.

  • Michelle Tabet

    Hi Christian!
    You seem to be the expert on all things Mac and GIS related! I have a MBP and have parallels on it. I installed an educational version of ArcGIS 9 and ArcMap simply will not open. I can get ArcCatalog and ArcGIS help to work but ArcMap won’t have it… It crashes right away! Is there anything you can recommend for this? A patch? An update?

    Thanks a lot!


  • SN271

    Hello Michelle,

    I’m using Arcinfo 9.2 with a USB dongle under a Parallel environment with no problems including all my extensions including XTools.

    It could possibly be a conflict with the educational license.


  • Michelle Tabet

    Well, the thing is that ArcCatalog and Help seem to work fine. If it were a conflict with the Educational license, wouldn’t it affect those two programs as well? As you can tell I am totally clueless but also very nervous because I need to use ArcMap on a trip to South Africa for which I am leaving tomorrow!
    THanks for helping out and please send over any other suggestions!!!



  • SN271

    Not sure if it will help but here is a bit more detailed list of the hard/software configuration im using. If you can mirror it there should be no reason it won’t work.

    - MBP
    - MAC OSX 10.5.3
    - Parallel 3.0
    - ARCGIS Desktop SP5 w/ arcinfo license, i don’t imagine the extensions make any difference.

    I noticed that different versions of Parallels would cause some of my extensions not to work. Perhaps that’s the problem??

    hope this helps


    I’ve been using both windows OS and GIS for the past 10 years.
    I have recently become very concerned with Vista OS. I am wanting to upgrade my pc and have been thinking a lot about a Mac (never used one before) so knowing there may be a way to load ESRI products on a Mac really solidifies that decision….Thanks

  • Fernando

    Hi! You are genius! I’m planing to move to apple for about 1 year and I didn’t do yet just because I really need ArcGIS. Well, I’m going to move to apple in the next days…
    Regarding Garmim, I saw a friend using it normally in Windows installed in an apple, but you need to restart your computer to use… Well, it’s better than use PC Windows…
    Thank you very much for this clue!!!

  • Fernando

    It’s me again… And version of ArcGIS did you install? Is it the 9.1? Thank you again

  • Christian

    I’m currently using ArcGIS 9.2.

    regarding Garmin: do you know Project Bobcat?

  • SN271

    Hey Fernando.

    I’m happy to say that since my last post ARCInfo 9.2SP5 is working flawlessly within a Parallels environment – to the point where I trust it past the R&D phase.

    Funny you bring up Garmin..Many of my clients rely on Garmin for nav purposes so I regularly update/maintain these.

    Having said that I haven’t tested that in Parallels yet being more concerned with ESRI and ERDAS. I’ll give it a shot this week and post my results – confidence is high.

    I’ll check out Bobcat.

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  • Jennifer

    What a great resource this thread has been! I think there are enough success stories here that have convinced me this is a viable solution. One by one, the people I work with (professors at a university) are converting to Macs. My coworker just got Windows Vista 64-bit working through Bootcamp on a new Mac Pro (eight-core with 18GB RAM). The ArcGIS install went fine after making sure the license server name was set everywhere. No report on how it runs, though!

    The computer store I’m thinking about getting my MacBook Pro at is pushing VMware (as is my boss who has it running on his MBP, but he is not running ArcGIS) over Parallels. Parallels cost twice as much – so is it worth it and/or necessary? I will certainly run Bootcamp, but like others will want to access ArcGIS occasionally while in OS X.


  • Christian


    meanwhile I made the switch to VMware too. Well, I’m still running VMware 2.0 beta which I can use until Oct 2nd. Then I’ll probably get a new license.

    But, Sun released a new Version of Virtualbox which I wanted to test before purchasing VMware. It seems to be a very good and free open source option on the virtualization market.

  • Punongbayan

    Dear Christian,

    I recently bought a Macbook pro and was undecided on whether to partition the windows xp hardrive into FAT32 or NTFS. Any recommended partition format? Will ArcGIS perform better with NTFS or FAT32?


  • Christian

    NTFS is the preferred file system. I don’t know what you have in mind, but consider that Mac OS X can only read but not write on NTFS partitions.

    If you’re talking about a Boot Camp partition or a virtual Windows image, then NTFS is the best choice because you’ll never access those partitions directly in Mac OS X (using the Finder for instance). For any other partition you want to have read/write enabled in both Windows and Mac OS X you should use FAT.

  • Link

    I’m a longtime Mac user but new to ArcGIS. I’m planning a new purchase of a Mac laptop for grad school in the fall and want to be able to run ArcGIS.
    It seems that some are still finding the best results with Parallels but others have made the switch to VMware. Is there a growing consensus on what works best? I’m also interested in hearing about performance issues. What are the minimum and preferred system requirements to be able to pull this off in a virtual environment without it running too slow to be practical? Do I need to buy the top of the line MBP or can I step down to a less expensive Mac?

    Thanks to all of you who have pioneered the way on this.

  • Lara

    I’ve been reading the feedback and it is all very helpfull. I am a new grad student studying GIS and I am looking to buy a new laptop since my current, archaic one can’t handle it anymore. I was considering getting a Macbook or a Macbook Pro, but I am a little concerned about how ArcGIS will run on it. I have been a PC user my entire life but I am so ready to convert, it’s rediculous. :)

    How easy is it to use ArcMap on the Macbook or Macbook pro, and with the new developments for parallels, is it better to get the MBP or the MB?

    Thanks so much,

  • Christian

    I recently switched from Parallels to VMware, mainly for the reason because I wasn’t able to convert a Boot Camp partition into a Parallels virtual image. VMware transfered my partition without any problems and I never went back to Parallels.

    As for performance: if you have the option for a MacBook Pro, go for it! It’s faster, especially regarding graphics, and comes with a bigger screen.

    I’m still using my black MacBook (2 GHz Intel Core Duo with 2 GB RAM). In VMware I have 1 processor core and 512MB RAM allocated to Windows XP, which I only use for working with ArcGIS 9.2. I found this to be the best configuration for working in both Windows and Mac OS at reasonable speeds. What I do with ArcGIS is about 80% visualization and 20% geoprocessing. I recently did some benchmarks comparing various storage options if you’re interested.

    However, all I can say, it really works well for my purposes and isn’t any slower than our desktop PC installations (probably because they are messed up with hundreds of other applications running in the background).

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