How to run OpticStudio on an Intel-based Mac computer

OpticStudio can be run on all Intel-based Mac computers. You can either use Apple’s Boot Camp software or third-party virtualization software, such as Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion, to run Windows (and OpticStudio) on your Mac. This article explains what is required to run OpticStudio on an Intel-based Mac computer and the differences between the methods that can be used. It also provides performance comparisons between the alternate methods.

Authored By Akash Arora

Introduction

The latest releases of OpticStudio require a recent Windows-based operating system (OS) to run properly; see our system requirements for details. OpticStudio cannot run natively on the Mac OS, however, Mac hardware does allow users to run Windows on these computers.

How to run OpticStudio on an Intel-based Mac Computer

In 2006, Apple began installing Intel processors in their Mac computers. This switch allowed Macs to run native Windows-based operating systems without the need for emulation software, such as Microsoft's Virtual PC. With OS/X 10.5, Apple introduced its Boot Camp (dual boot) option. Other companies followed with virtualization software for running Windows in the Mac OS environment. The two most popular third-party virtualization software packages are Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion. Please note that Zemax LLC cannot provide support on installing Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion, or the Windows OS on your Mac computer.

Recommendations when setting up Bootcamp, your VM, or Parallels:

  • We recommend installing Windows 8 or 10 as it has better graphics support, drivers, and built-in prerequisites needed for Opticstudio. 
  • Allocate 512 MB or more video/graphics memory as a set size rather than any  "Automatic" setting.
  • Allocate a minimum of 2 GB RAM. If your MacBook has 16 GB or more RAM installed, you should be able to allocate 4-8 GB RAM for the VM without impacting overall performance too much.
  • if you have to specify a specific size of the Bootcamp partition or virtual hard drive for Windows, we recommend something like 100 GB or more to leave room for WIndows updates and Opticstudio's working files. 

Installing OpticStudio

Once you have set up Windows under Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, or VMware Fusion, you can install OpticStudio on your Mac using the normal installation procedure (see this article for single-user license installation instructions). If your Mac needs to reach a network license on a server, see this article in the "Client" section.  

Important note on Softkey licenses: ​Softkey licenses are not compatible with Bootcamp and should not be activated. Softkeys are supported if you using Parallels, VMware, or other VM software.
Note on USB licenses: If you are attempting to run OpticStudio using the Macbook Air, Parallels Desktop, and a BLACK USB license key, there is an additional step required; see the Tips and Tricks section of this article. If you have a red or green USB license, no additional steps are required. 

Below is an image of OpticStudio running on a Mac (OS X El Capitan) using Parallels Desktop with Window 10.

Mac Example

Boot Camp vs. Parallels Desktop/VMware Fusion

There are some differences between running Windows and OpticStudio under BootCamp versus Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion. The principal difference is that Boot Camp allows the user to boot into either the Windows OS or the Mac OS. Each operating system is installed on a different partition of the hard disk and the computer boots from one or the other. On the other hand Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion allow you to use Windows as if it were another program running in the Mac OS (virtualization). The user creates "virtual machines" that runs on top of the underlying Mac OS. This allows the user to boot directly in the Mac OS and use Windows and its programs simultaneously. 

All three options support multiple cores, but there are some limitations when using virtualization. Boot Camp is essentially a native Windows installation, so any available cores or memory (RAM) will be detected by Windows and utilized. Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion create "virtual machines" with certain system resources allocated to them. When using multi-core computers with virtualization software, you must specify the number of processors and memory (RAM) to allocate to the virtual machine during setup. Both Parallels and VMware allow the user to customize the settings of the virtual machine.

Note that the virtual machine is sharing the computer's resources with the host operating system. Generally, the host is given priority for system resources. Be cautious when running resource-intensive applications in the Mac OS while OpticStudio is running.

Performance: Boot Camp vs Parallels Desktop vs VMware Fusion

As described previously, partitioning versus virtualization is two very different methods for running Windows on a Mac computer. One might reasonably expect a performance difference when running OpticStudio as a result. To answer this question, we compared a Macbook Air (Intel Core i5 1.4 GHz, 2 GB RAM) with Windows 10 installed under Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop, and VMware Fusion. Although no comparable PC laptop was available at the time of the test, all else being equal, performance should be similar to running Windows with Boot Camp.

The two tests performed were designed to gauge the speed of sequential and non-sequential raytracing under each setup. The table below summarizes performance results. The results provided were obtained by averaging four runs.

Sequential raytracing was compared using Setup...Diagnostics...Performance with the file "Samples\Sequential\Objectives\Double Gauss 28 degree field". The criteria were ray surfaces per second (RSS) and larger values indicate better performance.

Non-sequential raytracing was compared using Analyze...Trace Rays...Ray Trace with the file "Samples\Non-sequential\Geometry Creation\Boolean Example 3 - a diffractive scattering boolean object". The criteria were raytrace execution time and smaller values indicate better performance.

  Boot Camp 6.0 with Windows 10 Parallels Desktop 11.0 with Windows 10 VMware Fusion 8.0 with Windows 10
Sequential Raytrace (RSS) 38 million 34 million 35 million
Non-Sequential Raytrace (Min) 1.72 1.65 1.8

 

One would expect virtualization to require some overhead and slow down raytracing, however it can be seen that the differences between the three setups are largely negligible.

Tips and tricks

Although we cannot provide support on Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop or VMware Fusion, we are happy to provide useful information as-is to help with any problems that are discovered. Please send any useful tips to Support@Zemax.com and we'll include them on this page.

Problems Finding a Black USB Key with MacBook Air and Parallels Desktop, but not MacBook Pro and other Mac Desktops.

This section applies for those with a black USB license for Opticstudio. If you have a Green or Red-colored Zemax USB license, this section does not apply to you.

After properly installing OpticStudio under Windows, you need to download the Apple OS/X version of the "Sentinel System Driver" (AKA SuperPro\UltraPro\SHK) from the Safenet website and install it under Mac OS. You cannot skip this step, otherwise, the key won’t be recognized no matter what you do with the MacBook Air!
If you encounter any issues launching OpticStudio, there may be an extension called “sentinel.kext” which can be found in Macintosh HD > System > Library > Extensions. This holds the key access only available under Mac OS. In order to use the key from Windows, you need to move the extension into the trash can to delete it. Once it is deleted, OpticStudio works wonderfully!

Using keyboard shortcuts on a Mac keyboard 

Below is a link to Apple's support page providing detailed information about using Mac keyboards with Windows. Many of the keys are different and if you are the type of person who likes to use keyboard shortcuts in OpticStudio, this information will be very helpful.

Linking the USB Hardkey with Parallels Desktop

On Parallels Desktop, when a peripheral such as a USB key is plugged in, you may need to specify whether to connect the device to the Mac OS or Windows in your virtual machine. 

New External Device Detected

You must select the virtual machine in order for OpticStudio to find the key.

Layout plot display blank in Parallels 11 or Fusion. 

On some (not all) computers, layout plots (2D, 3D, shaded model) do not display correctly (they typically are blank) when using Parallels v11. Newer releases of Parallels should not require this adjustment as they have better-integrated graphics support. There are several options that may help:

  • Option 1 - Allocate 512MB or more graphics memory (rather than "automatic") within the Parallels settings.
  • Option 2 - Disable both Use DirectX 11 options in OpticStudio located in Setup...Project Preferences...Graphics. Restart OpticStudio after changing this setting.
  • Option 3 - If this is in VMware and the above didn't help, ensure you have Windows 8.1 or 10 installed. Windows 7 does not have adequate graphics support for Opticstudio. See the workaround below. 

Workaround if none of the above help. Open Setup...Project Preferences...Graphics in Opticstudio. Check Enable Classic Mode and set Disable Modern Graphics to All Plots. Note this disables the Shaded Model option in Opticstudio as that feature depends on Modern graphics being enabled. 

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