- Boot Camp
- A virtual machine running Windows
- A VNC software suite and access to a computer running Windows
Boot Camp is Apple's answer to the Windows-only software problem. It allows you to boot into Windows when you turn on or restart your Mac. It will look and feel just like you are running Windows on a PC. Boot Camp is included with OS X for free, but you will need your own licensed copy of Windows (XP, Vista, 7, or 8).
Pros: free if you own a copy of Windows; Windows has direct access to your Mac's hardware including USB drives, optical drives, microphone, etc.; no new software to learn.
Cons: you loose all of the great features that make Mac OS X such a joy; you have to reboot your Mac every time you want to run software on a different operating system, no shared files between Windows and Mac.
A virtual machine running Windows
Don't be put-off by the terminology, this is a great way to roll. A virtual machine allows you to run another operating system within your current OS. I use Parallels daily to run Internet Explorer or Visio without having to reboot my Mac. This lets you run Windows programs and Mac programs side by side, almost seamlessly.
Pros: no need to reboot; you can share files between Windows and Mac; Windows has access to your Mac's hardware.
Cons: virtual machine software has a cost; running the VM can be a drain on your battery;
A VNC software suite and access to a computer running Windows
This last option is probably the most difficult to setup and maintain, but may be good if you only need Windows on the rarest of occasions. You install a VNC server on the Windows PC and a VNC client on your Mac. RealVNC is a good option. Then you open the client on your Mac and remotely connect to the Windows computer.
Pros: cheap if you have access to a Windows computer; doesn't bog down your Mac.
Cons: you must have a network connection to the Windows computer; difficult to share files; takes up a lot of network bandwidth; unreliable.
These are the options that I know of. I'll be talking more about option 2 since that is the setup I use personally. The decision likely boils down to how often you need to run Windows and whether you need to share files between Windows and Mac.