I recently needed to run a Windows application (TurboTax Business) on my Macbook. I know about Parallels, dual boots, etc but those either cost money or seemed like too much work. Based on my experience with the incredible pain of getting a modern Rails stack to run on OSX, I decided to try using a VM, and it worked really well. Can’t recommend it enough.
Step 1: VMWare Fusion
I’m not often wowed by software, but VMWare Fusion is effectively magic. You can do the normal VM experience of having a computer in a window, but you can also run Windows programs separately and they behave like normal Mac apps. The 30 day free trial was plenty for me.
Step 2: Windows ISO Images
I thought I was either going to have to buy a copy of Windows or do something shady. At the time, Microsoft has stopped selling Windows 7, but it was not how well supported my program was on Windows 8. I haven’t used Windows regularly since Vista, and I did not want this to suck up a bunch of time.
UPDATE: Microsoft shut down the Digital River links. I was able to find a Windows 8 ISO here: http://getintopc.com/softwares/operating-systems/download-windows-8-pro/
Luckily, you can legally download ISO images of Windows that come with a trial period, and you buy an activation key when the license runs out. I found a link to all the different variations of Windows 7 here: http://www.w7forums.com/threads/official-windows-7-sp1-iso-image-downloads.12325/. I chose Windows 7 Home Premium x64 English: http://msft.digitalrivercontent.net/win/X17-24209.iso (big file).
Step 3: Interacting with VM
From that point, it was easy to create a new VM, using the ISO as the disk. A shared disk folder, networking, etc all work with no additional setup. I downloaded and installed my program, and everything worked.
Discussion threads I read while figuring this out