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Thread: Revit on the Mac (OS X)

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    Forum Co-Founder iru69's Avatar
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    Revit on the Mac (OS X)

    Revised: 7/3/2013

    Revit only runs on Windows. However, you can run Revit on your Mac by installing Windows on your Mac. There are two ways to do this: Boot Camp and via a Virtual Machine (VM).

    Boot Camp
    Boot Camp is very straight forward. It's essentially "dual booting" your Mac. Once Windows is installed in the Boot Camp partition, you'll have the choice at startup to either boot into OS X or boot into Boot Camp (Windows). Once in Boot Camp, you're essentially using a typical Windows computer – all the CPU and RAM is dedicated to Windows. You can install any Windows software you want, and it will run pretty much exactly like it would on a PC with the same hardware specs – same speed and everything.

    There's obviously one major drawback: you won't be able to access OS X from Boot Camp. None of the OS X apps will be available. While in Boot Camp, you're stuck in a Windows world. However, it will by far offer the best performance, so if you're going to spend a lot of time working in Revit, especially larger projects, or you need to let a rendering cook overnight, Boot Camp is probably your best bet.

    By the way, here's a handy utility called BootChamp for quickly rebooting into Boot Camp from OS X.

    Virtual Machine (VM)
    Virtual machine software (also often referred to as "virtualizaton") "creates" a generic PC within OS X. The software borrows RAM and CPU cores from OS X to power the VM. Using the VM software, you install Windows on this "virtual" PC (no partitioning of your hard drive is needed - the VM is stored as a file that is accessed by the VM software). You then can boot into Windows from within OS X, and have both operating systems running at the same time. This virtual PC really thinks it's a PC – you can install almost any Windows software on it, including Revit, and it will run. Unfortunately this nifty trick doesn't come without a significant loss in performance.

    Two things happen:

    First, the VM is borrowing hardware resources from OS X to run Windows – so that means OS X has less resources for itself, which may slow down or limit your OS X apps. On the other side, the VM only has access to the hardware resources you allow it to have. So if you have a 2 core CPU, OS X gets to use one, and the VM get to use one. If you have 8 GB of RAM, you might give 4 GB to the Windows VM (which isn't that much for Windows and Revit!) and keep 4 GB for OS X (or whatever combination you want - however, while the latest versions of OS X can work in 2-3GB, it can be a little tight).

    Second, because the VM is running inside of OS X, much of the PC hardware is being virtualized – it's kind of like everything that happens in the VM on a hardware level needs to be translated back into something that OS X can understand. This hardware translation takes a toll on performance, particularly with the video card, resulting in relatively slow graphic performance. Since the VM software can't use specific drivers provided by hardware manufacturers, it provides all of its own virtual generic drivers which may not be fully optimized.

    With that said, Revit can run fairly well (though not very fast) in a VM, provided your Mac has enough CPU speed and RAM. It's certainly more convenient to still have access to all your OS X apps and data at the same time. Whether you'll be satisfied with performance depends mostly on your Mac's hardware specs and your expectations. I'd strongly recommend seeking out a friend or associate with a Mac to try it out before buying a Mac for the intended purpose of running Revit in a VM on it.

    My personal experience: I have a Mac Pro at home: Xeon W3530 2.8GHz (3GHz with Turbo Boost); 12GB RAM; ATI Radeon HD5770, and I find Revit 2014 painfully sluggish compared to my Dell PC at work: i7-870 2.93GHz (3.4GHz with Turbo Boost); 8GB RAM; Nvidia GTX560Ti. Yes, the newest and fastest Macs offer 25% better performance than my creaky Mac Pro, but I'd need a 100% better performance just to catch up with my aging work PC. But YMMV.

    VM Software Options
    There are three major VM options: Parallels Desktop for Mac, VMware Fusion, and Oracle VirtualBox.

    Parallels Desktop was first on the scene for Intel-based Macs, and is very popular. It's known for being a very fast performer, though has been criticized for being a bit more buggy at times than VMware Fusion. The latest version of Parallels 8 supports DX10 (which is necessary for Revit's full graphic feature set), and retina displays (see more about retina below).

    VMware Fusion was released shortly after Parallels Desktop, but is from software vendor VMware, which is has a very long history with virtualization software on the PC side of things. Fusion is known for being very stable, but has been criticized for often being slightly slower than Parallels. The latest version of Fusion 4 does not have support for DX10, so the graphic features may be more limited at times. It does have support for retina displays (see more about retina below).

    Both Parallels and Fusion cost about $80 US, plus you'll need to purchase a copy of Windows to install (note that OEM versions of Windows from Dell, HP, etc., often will refuse to install or activate on any PC other than the original one it came from). Both are offered as limited-time trial versions, and I'd recommend taking both for a spin and seeing which one works best for you.

    VirtualBox is free (though you still need a copy of Windows) and open-source software. VirtualBox is great software for being free software, but it's more difficult to use and not nearly as slick or feature complete as Parallels and Fusion. Feel free to give it a shot – it might be perfect for occasional use, but if you're going to be doing a lot of Revit work in a VM, I'd recommend getting Parallels or Fusion.

    MacsBooks with Retina Displays
    Retina displays offer a super high resolution display that looks amazing in OS X. The way OS X works with a retina display is to effectively double the size of every element on the screen, but since the retina display resolution is twice a normal display in each direction, everything looks the same size as a normal display, only twice as sharp. Windows, and Windows applications like Revit, were never really designed with this concept in mind. This results in a couple of issues - icons and text can get very small or the application's user interface can get way out of whack. There are a few ways to handle this, but they may not be completely satisfactory to you.

    Retina Display using Boot Camp
    When you first boot up Windows in Boot Camp on a retina display, everything will be very tiny. The easiest way to fix this is to change the display resolution in Windows to something much lower. However, you may notice that text and graphics looks a little blocky and pixelated. This bothers some people more than others - it's very subjective.

    The other option is to change the DPI resolution. Windows will scale up the size of screen elements by the indicated percentage, making it easier to read. 125% works great, and 150% may work okay, but you'll start to notice various elements of the UI getting a bit out of whack. 200%, which theoretically would be similar to the way OS X works with retina, unfortunately will "break" many applications, including Revit. However, keep in mind that if you use an external display, the DPI setting will be reflected on that display as well.

    Retina Display Using a VM
    Working with Windows on a retina display using a VM is very similar to the experience of Boot Camp. Parallels and Fusion have settings in the VM's configuration, which effectively change the DPI resolution to 200%. This will likely break Revit unfortunately. You'll probably want to use one of the techniques indicated above for Boot Camp.

    Definitely check out these support articles:
    Parallels Mac support article on troubleshooting retina display issues with Windows.
    VMWare Fusion support article on troubleshooting retina display issues with Windows.

    Update (7/3/2013): Windows 8.1, which is set for release in late October of 2013, does improve the performance of the scaling techniques described here, including multi display support (i.e. different scaling on separate displays). I have briefly tested Revit 2014 on Windows 8.1 Preview release in a Parallels VM. While it appears to offer improvements to Retina display performance, particularly at settings short of 200%, Revit still displayed similar performance issues to previous releases of Windows. Hopefully, the official release of Windows 8.1 will improve even further. Upon its release, Windows 8.1 should be the "recommended" version of Windows for use on Retina displays.

    (I haven't yet had a chance to personally test Revit on a retina display, so please share your first-hand experience)

    Bottom Line
    If you're getting a Mac intending to use Revit extensively or full-time on it, spec the fastest CPU available, make it a quad core if available, and 8 GB of RAM minimum if you'll mostly be using Boot Camp, and 12 GB of RAM minimum if you'll be using a VM. Keep in mind that many of the most recent Macs make future RAM upgrades very difficult or even impossible, so you may need to anticipate your future needs - in most cases, I'd recommend 16 GB from the start. Parallels or Fusion - has generally been a toss-up (I purchased both!). This year, Parallel's gets the edge because of the DX10 support.

    __________

    I've been a computer enthusiast for over twenty years. I know a lot, but I don't know everything. Drop me a PM with suggestions, or if you spot any errors, or think something needs further clarification, or feel free to take it up with me in the forums. And please *post* those questions, requests for advice, and solutions!
    Last edited by iru69; October 13th, 2013 at 07:33 PM.
    bassed and TheRevitKid like this.

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    Iru, I tried to install RST on Mac with Fusion, but it gives me error when trying to install DirectX 9. Any ideea how to pass over that?

    Mac OS X 10.5.8
    Fusion 3.1.2
    Windows XP Professional

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    Forum Co-Founder iru69's Avatar
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    This is XP 32-bit?

    Do you have SP3 installed on XP? If not, start there. Also make sure you don't all the Window updates that you can (review the "optional" ones as well to see if there's anything related to Direct X 9).

    If you already have SP3 installed, you might need to install a more recent version of Direct X 9 runtime.

    Hopefully something there will fix that for you.

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    Yes, there is a 32-bit version with SP3.
    It has all the updates until December 2010.

    L.E.:

    Found a solution. Install ACad 2011 with DIrectX9 Runtime. After that install Revit
    Last edited by lucis29; January 30th, 2011 at 12:48 PM. Reason: solution found

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    Quote Originally Posted by iru69 View Post
    In getting the most performance out of Parallels and Fusion, there are a number of settings to be considered. I'm going to save my own write-up about that for another time. When I do, I'll provide links to those posts here (or maybe someone else will beat me to it Ė that would be great as well).
    Having just started using Revit 2011 on a Macbook Pro under Fusion, I'd be really interested in hearing about how Fusion can be tweaked for maximum performance. I did allocate it 2 cores and 4Gb of RAM but that's all I've changed at the moment.

    Cheers, Brett

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    Forum Co-Founder iru69's Avatar
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    This is not meant as a "review" of Fusion 4, but I wanted to examine the settings as they relate directly to Revit. That being said, Fusion 4 is a great upgrade from Fusion 3 - definitely worth the upgrade in my opinion. I also use Parallels 6, so I'll have to update my Parallels 5 post to my latest settings and post that here as well (when I have time ;-) ).

    These settings seemed to work best for my computer, but obviously YMMV. Please share your experiences with settings and what you've found works best in your setup.

    My current computer specs:
    i7-870 @ 2.93GHz
    8 GB RAM
    Nvidia GeForce 9600GT


    FUSION 4

    VIEW MODES
    Window; Unity; Full Screen: I kept switching between all three modes, and I couldnít really perceive a noticeable difference. Maybe Full Screen mode is a tad faster than Window mode which is a tad faster than Unity, but itís a really close call. Very subjective, but Iíll actually suggest that the graphics were smoothest in Unity mode.

    Use All Displays in Full Screen and Unity: This feature never worked for me in Fusion 3, so it didn't occur to me to try it again until just now. Seems to be working pretty well!

    PREFERENCES:

    General:
    Gaming: Never optimize mouse for games. This is another feature that was broken in Fusion 3 - on my system, the ďoptimizationĒ used to create havoc with Revit (for instance, set to Automatic, as soon as the mouse cursor touched the ViewCube, the cursor would inexplicably slow to a crawl). That problem is gone, but now it prohibits the cursor from automatically crossing over from the Window screen to OS X. So I'm sticking with my recommendation.

    Keyboard & Mouse:
    Key Mappings: This may be important if youíve made changes to the default Mac keyboard settings. For instance, the Apple Command key is equivalent to the Windows Control key Ė since I switch back and forth between using Windows at the office and a Mac at home, I like to have the Command key mapped to the Control key on my keyboard. This way, I always use the Control key for common keyboard shortcuts like Cut/Copy/Paste, etc, whether Iím using Windows or Mac. However, the keyboard mapping in OS X gets reversed again in the VM. By default, when I would press the Control key, the VM thought I was pressing the Windows key. So using the Key Mappings settings, I can map it back. Sound confusing? It is! In my case, I enabled Enable Key Mappings and set the Mac Shortcut Command key to the Virtual Machine Shortcut Control key.

    (p.s. Parallels has the same issue, and can similarly be fixed using itís Keyboard & Mouse Preference settings)

    Mouse Shortcuts: Personal preference, but since Iím using a multi-button mouse, I disabled Secondary Button and Button 3.

    Mac OS Shortcuts and Fusion Shortcuts: Personal preference Ė my headís still spinning on the Key Mappings, so Iíve left these alone for the time being.

    SETTINGS:

    Sharing:
    Share folders on your Mac: Personal preference - I manually added my Projects folder and Family library as shared folders.

    Mirrored Folders:
    This is another feature that was a mess in Fusion 3 on my system - enabling mirrored folders would cause Revit to stall (or even crash) when attempting file operations (Open, Load, etc.), similar to the Profiles issue in Parallels 5. However, again, after just enabling it, Mirrored Folders appear to be working fine in Fusion 4 (note: I didn't test each one individually).

    Processors & RAM:
    Processors: The number of processors (or CPU cores) to dedicate to the VM.

    If you have a non-Hyper-Threaded CPU, each core is considered 1 "processor". In which case, if you have a Dual Core, select 1 processor. If you have a Quad Core or better, select 2 processors (or more if you have more than 4 cores).

    If you have a Hyper-Threaded CPU, each core is considered 2 "processors". If you have a Dual Core, select 2 processors. If you have a Quad Core or better, select 4 processors.

    If you're going to be doing tons of rendering, and you have a quad core, you might selectively bump those up further on those occasions when you need to.

    Main memory: As much as you can spare, but donít overdo it if itís not needed. OS X needs a minimum of 1GB for itself, but will be happier with 2GB. If you only have 4GB of RAM installed, try 3GB for the Windows VM - Revit isn't very happy on a system with less than 3GB even on small models. If you have 6GB+ of RAM installed, try 4GB (or more as needed). You can monitor your Macís memory usage using the OS X Activity Monitor. You can monitor your Windowís memory usage using the Windows Task Manager. Keep in mind that Windows (particularly 64-bit) will still have access to virtual memory even if you canít allocate huge amounts of RAM to your Windows VM.

    Display:
    I previously favored disabling Accelerate 3D Graphics... now it seems to generally work better with it on most of the time. Also, with a lot of the graphic features like shadows and ambient occlusion becoming a more common part of building documentation, it's becoming more difficult to go without it. I'd suggest starting with it on, and you can always try it with it off.

    REMOVABLE DEVICES:

    Hard Disks:
    For disk size, I set it to 40GB, but used the Split into 2 GB files option rather than pre-allocating the disk space. I donít think this affects general Revit performance, but it might have an impact on open/save speeds or even Windows itself in uncommon circumstances (e.g. a large pagefile)? I'd figure about 20GB for W7, a 4GB pagefile, and Revit 2011 - so I'd guess 30GB is absolutely as small as you'd want to go, and 40GB is a good starting place.

    I notice thereís a Disk Cleanup button which might be one to keep an eye on if you notice any degradation in hard drive performance while using the VM (mine currently indicates a disk cleanup is not required).
    Last edited by iru69; March 28th, 2011 at 06:25 PM. Reason: formatting

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    Member tidalwave1's Avatar
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    Anyone have any thoughts on the new iMac's BTO specs? To use for Revit via BootCamp and/or Parallels???

    3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7
    AMD Radeon HD 6970M with 2GB of GDDR5 memory
    16GB memory upgrade (four 4GB)
    2TB hard drive
    256GB solid-state second drive

    I need to buy a new computer for the home/office and I'm thinking of switching to OSX for non-Revit stuff. But, I want to make sure that I can run Revit effectively on the machine for two-to-three years...

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    Mac will only run Revit in a virtulized Windows enviroment. The new iMac will cost more up front, but from my experience are much better in the long run. You should not have any issues with running Revit on OSX with those system specs. But talk with a Mac user for a more details understanding on how Revit and MAC work together.

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    Forum Co-Founder iru69's Avatar
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    Just to add to Alex's comment, Revit should work in Boot Camp as well.

    Hardware-wise, those specs don't get much better. What I don't think anyone can answer until someone actually tries it on that Mac, is whether the Radeon HD 6970M will perform well with Revit's Hardware Acceleration turned on (in Boot Camp). In a VM environment (such as Parallels or Fusion), it should work okay, but will be considerably slower than in Boot Camp. However, depending on the size of projects you work on, performance may be acceptable to you.

    Word of advice: if you plan on using Boot Camp, you can't use OS X until you reboot. Rebooting gets to be a PITA. So, unless you plan on cleanly dividing work usage from home usage, you're going to want to use a VM most of the time. Personally, using Revit in a VM all day would drive me a little batty because of the sluggishness, but YMMV.


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    Administrator Gordon Price's Avatar
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    At least at the moment Revit 2012 Ambient Shadows cause issues in Parallels. At least in the latest version of Parallels. Basically the background goes black in some situations. Older versions of Parallels seem to work, but the newer version has done a lot to stabilize performance. In previous versions I would run a benchmark three times and almost every test would show 10-20% differences between each run. In the current build of Parallels I get the same 1-2 seconds of variance that running native Windows offers.

    Both Autodesk and Parallels have known about the problem for some time, so hopefully they get it sorted soon. With 2011 a new version of Parallels soon after Revit shipped solved the previous ambient shadows problems.

    That said, I have the same setup but with the older version of the i7, and it works really well. Very happy with the setup, especially with an iPad as secondary screen. I am Parallels only at this point. I don't do anything that requires the dedicated power of running BootCamp, and I much prefer a world where windows is little more than a bad program window, and the rest of the OS is buried and out of sight.

    Looking forward to a report on performance with the new i7!

    Gordon

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