I'm currently using ArcGIS 10 on a Windows 7 64 bit Macbook Pro (2.53 Ghz and 8GB of RAM) using VMWare. However, when I am using ArcGIS I find it quite slow even with Windows 7 (64-bit) optimized for performance (no shiny graphics). My work involves making some python scripts and testing them, and whenever I run them, that is also slow, but even opening ArcMap and adding a small shapefile takes a long time (30s to 1 minute).

Is it possible to make my python program in OSX, import the ArcPy module and somehow run them from the Mac side? I realize that ArcGIS runs on Windows, but I was not sure whether any of the ArcPy part can be run separately. Or, could it be quicker to use the 'Unity' feature on Vmware to run these scripts?

I would also appreciate any tips on how much memory/processors to allocate for the virtual machine. At the moment it is 1 processor, and ~4gb of RAM and I would expect it to be quite a bit quicker.

  • I hope that this question is not too far removed from gis.se but I am only using windows for ArcGIS (and Eclipse with Python).
    – djq
    Dec 2, 2010 at 15:03
  • 3
    With respect to what standard is ArcGIS "quite slow"? Have you witnessed it running substantially faster on any other system? It could be you don't have a problem at all. Or rather, ArcGIS does, you don't. ;-)
    – whuber
    Dec 2, 2010 at 15:08
  • That is true, but I also have Win XP and ArcGIS 9.3 installed on the same computer and it is a lot faster. I also expected that with this computer it would run at a comparable speed to other older Windows machines, and this is not the case. I agree though, perhaps it is more how ArcGIS works and I just need to be more patient.
    – djq
    Dec 2, 2010 at 15:10
  • Have you compared the hardware requirements for Arc9 vs Arc10? You will see that the latest version is pretty demanding.
    – DavidF
    Dec 2, 2010 at 16:24
  • 1
    I ran the ArcGIS 9.4 beta, which was renamed to v10 for release, on VMWare under 64bit XP host. It was quite slow, which I chalked up to running under a VM. However we've since installed v10 natively on 3 of the 4 machines in our unit, running a mix of XP and Win7, and 2 of the 3 are performing horribly, much worse than 9.3 on the same machines. The slowness you are seeing may have little or nothing to do with running in a VM. Dec 24, 2010 at 19:49

5 Answers 5


I run ArcGIS on OSX pretty much every day using VMWare. The only difference is that I do not have it installed in a Virtual Machine - it is a bootcamp partition - and let me explain to you why, IMHO, this has more advantages over a standard VM installation for ArcGIS.

First let's take VMWare out of the equation and talk about pure Bootcamp.

When you use Bootcamp, you are actually creating a separate partition for Windows on your disk. They are completely separate installations of Operating Systems. At boot time you can hold the option key and choose whether you boot to Windows or boot to OSX. As long as you have the proper bootcamp Windows drivers installed, this guarantees that it is the fastest way you can run Windows on that hardware since it is only running on Windows at that point. The disadvantage is clear - you need to pick what OS you are going to run at startup time and if you need to switch OS, well you have to reboot.

Yeah that sucks.

Welcome to VMWare Fusion. VMWare allows you to do two things with Bootcamp. One of them is import your bootcamp partition into a new virtual machine effectively creating a full clone of that bootcamp partition and dumping it in a VM inside OSX - do NOT do this.

The other thing that it allows you to do is to boot your Bootcamp partition from inside OSX by accessing that portion of the disk. This is cool and is what I use. Make sure that you do have the VMWare tools installed in your bootcamp partition when you run it from within OSX - otherwise things are slow.

What this configuration allows you to do is to choose how fast you want ArcGIS to run.

When you want the advantage of running both OSX and Windows, you can use VMWare Fusion and run your Bootcamp partition virtualized.

When you want maximum ArcGIS speed, reboot the machine and use it natively.

As far as how many resources to give Windows when running in inside OSX, I usually give it half of whatever I have (half memory, half CPUs) and this seems to work optimally. Since I have all the drivers installed for whatever mode I am running (bootcamp drivers and vmware fusion tools), it runs fine in either mode.

In regards to your question of ArcPy - don't get fooled by what Unity Mode in VMWare Fusion is doing. It is allowing you to make it seem like Windows and OSX are running as one because the individual windows looks the same - but they are still, mostly, isolated. Yes you have access to both file systems and network resources, but that's pretty much it. So you can your ArcPy from the windows environment just fine... but don't expect to be able to "import" any libraries that you have installed only on the OSX side and everything will work fine - those are two isolated python environments and if you wanted to have this work you are getting too greedy :)

  • What about the Arcpy portion of the question? Is it possible to make my python program in OSX, import the ArcPy module and somehow run them from the Mac side? I realize that ArcGIS runs on Windows, but I was not sure whether any of the ArcPy part can be run separately. Or, could it be quicker to use the 'Unity' feature on Vmware to run these scripts?
    – user2833
    Apr 30, 2011 at 4:58
  • That question is answered in my response :) May 1, 2011 at 16:55
  • This is the road I'd take. May 2, 2011 at 1:16
  • That 'but' is a HUGE one -- you've basically got two systems and can only use one at a time. May 2, 2011 at 2:33
  • Not even sort of, no. It'll be running in Windows' Python. May 2, 2011 at 2:34

I am running ArcGIS 10 on a VMWare virtual machine with Win XP Pro. Performance is as good as expected, and it runs as fast as my 9.3.1 on my laptop (also XP Pro). VMWare is installed on a well equipped server, which properly has something to say regarding performance on the virtual machines. I access the virtual machine via remote desktop. I know this answer isn't that helpful, but I am only trying to say that ArcGIS 10 can run fine in a virtual environment. If I were you, I would try it on a Win XP VM, if possible, as suggested before.

  • Thanks - I will give it a try. Do you use Win XP 32 bit or 64? I'm not sure whether the performance will matter hugely; just curious.
    – djq
    Dec 3, 2010 at 13:18
  • Hi again - I am using a 32 bit Windows XP. I am not sure, that you are able to take advantage of 64 bit in ArcGIS. Dec 6, 2010 at 19:46

For ArcGIS to work faster on a MAC ( arcgis is not that fast in the first place) in comparison to old arcview 3.2 on startup,geoprocessing & joins.

have successfully created a faster environment using parallels - which is tested against windows xp pro

http://www.parallels.com/products/desktop/ (a 30 days trial is available to prove your concept) is capable of using more than 4GB which xp is limited. Until there is a 64-bit version of ArcGIS products most are stuck with slow processing.


I think this is possible. I do not use the Arc tool suite, but I have other programs that I run in Linux and Windows virtual machines on my Mac.

I only run the Linux or Windows specific code in the VM. Even then, I have mounted my OS X box in the VM, and work in OS X folders. Anything which does not require the VM is run on OS X, in those same folders, but from the OS X machine.

This also allows me to keep everything non-critical on the OS X side of the machine, so it is backed up with everything else, and the VM is not backed up, as that would required 5-10GB for even a small file change in the VM.

  • Can you explain a little more about your setup? Do you have ArcGIS server installed on your mac? (I don't know whether this is possible or not)
    – djq
    Dec 3, 2010 at 13:16

You're going to need to stand up a Win XP or Win7 machine with ArcGIS installed. You're going to need to use that VM's Python to test the scripts. Unity will make ArcMap run seamlessly, but you're really just using Windows with OSX window borders.

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