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ArcGIS Pro

Installing ArcGIS Pro on Mac

A step-by-step guide to installing ArcGIS Pro on Mac

Running ArcGIS Pro on a Mac requires using virtualization or dual-booting techniques since ArcGIS Pro is designed for Windows. Here’s a step-by-step guide to installing ArcGIS Pro on a Mac using virtualization with Parallels Desktop:

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Installing ArcGIS Pro on Mac using Parallels Desktop:

1. System Requirements Check:

  • Ensure your Mac meets the recommended system requirements for both Parallels Desktop and ArcGIS Pro.
  • Ensure you have a valid license or trial for ArcGIS Pro.

2. Install Parallels Desktop:

  • Visit the Parallels Desktop website and purchase/download the software.
  • Open the downloaded file and follow the on-screen instructions to install Parallels Desktop.

3. Set Up Windows on Parallels:

  • Once Parallels Desktop is installed, launch it.
  • Choose to install Windows. You can either install from a DVD or ISO file, or let Parallels download Windows for you.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the Windows installation.

4. Optimize Windows for ArcGIS Pro:

  • Allocate more RAM and CPU cores to your virtual machine if needed. This can be done in the Parallels settings for your virtual machine.
  • Ensure that the virtual machine is set to use DirectX 11 (if supported).

5. Install ArcGIS Pro on the Windows Virtual Machine:

  • Once Windows is set up, open your virtual machine and use the browser to navigate to the Esri website.
  • Download the ArcGIS Pro installer. You might need to log in with your Esri account.
  • Run the installer and follow the on-screen instructions to install ArcGIS Pro.

6. License Activation:

  • Launch ArcGIS Pro from within your Windows virtual machine.
  • Sign in with your Esri account or use a provided license key to activate the software.

7. Optimization Tips:

  • Ensure that both the Mac and the Windows virtual machine are updated for optimal performance.
  • Regularly backup your virtual machine to avoid data loss.
  • Allocate more resources (RAM, CPU) to the virtual machine if you’re working with large datasets in ArcGIS Pro.

8. Running ArcGIS Pro:

  • Whenever you want to use ArcGIS Pro, simply start Parallels Desktop, launch your Windows virtual machine, and then open ArcGIS Pro from within Windows.

9. Shutting Down:

  • When done, you can either shut down the Windows virtual machine or put it in a suspended state for quicker access next time.
  • Remember to also close Parallels Desktop to free up resources on your Mac.


This guide uses Parallels Desktop as the virtualization software, but there are other options like VMware Fusion or VirtualBox. The steps might vary slightly based on the software you choose.

Remember, while this method allows you to run ArcGIS Pro on your Mac, it’s essentially running within a Windows environment. Ensure you have adequate storage and memory to handle both operating systems and any data or projects you’ll be working on in ArcGIS Pro.

Virtualization is a powerful technology that allows you to run multiple operating systems on a single physical machine. Here’s a deeper dive into the concept:

What is Virtualization?

At its core, virtualization refers to the act of creating a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, including but not limited to a virtual computer hardware platform, storage device, or network resources.

Types of Virtualization:

  1. Hardware/Platform Virtualization: This is the most common form. It allows you to run multiple operating systems on a single physical machine. The primary OS on the machine is called the host, while the OSs running inside are called guests. Software called a hypervisor manages the distribution of physical resources (like CPU, memory, and storage) to the guest OSs.
  2. Software Virtualization: This involves running software on an abstracted layer, allowing the same application to run in different OS environments without modification.
  3. Memory Virtualization: Pools the physical memory from multiple servers to create a virtualized memory pool available to any server in the cluster.
  4. Storage Virtualization: Combines multiple network storage devices into what appears to be a single storage unit.
  5. Network Virtualization: Splits available bandwidth into independent channels that can be assigned to specific servers or devices.

How Does It Work?

  • Hypervisor: This is the key component. It sits between the hardware and the operating system and allocates resources to the various guest operating systems. There are two types:
  • Type 1 (Bare Metal): Runs directly on the host’s hardware to control the hardware and manage guest operating systems. Examples: VMware vSphere/ESXi, Microsoft Hyper-V.
  • Type 2 (Hosted): Runs on a conventional operating system (the host OS) just like any other software application. Examples: VMware Workstation, Oracle VirtualBox, Parallels Desktop.

Benefits of Virtualization:

  1. Resource Efficiency: Multiple virtual machines can share the resources of a single physical computer, leading to better utilization of resources.
  2. Cost Savings: Reduces the need for physical hardware systems. Fewer systems mean reduced maintenance costs and lower power consumption.
  3. Flexibility: Virtual machines can be easily moved, copied, and allocated between hosts.
  4. Isolation: VMs are isolated from each other. If one crashes, it doesn’t affect others.
  5. Snapshot and Cloning: VMs can be snapshotted to capture their current state, allowing easy recovery. They can also be cloned for testing or deployment purposes.
  6. Rapid Deployment: New VMs can be spun up quickly, aiding in scalability and testing.


  1. Performance Overhead: Virtualization introduces a layer of abstraction that can lead to performance overhead. However, with modern hardware and optimized hypervisors, this overhead is often minimal.
  2. Complexity: Managing virtual environments can be complex, especially at scale. Proper tools and training are essential.
  3. Security Concerns: If not properly configured, hypervisors can introduce vulnerabilities. However, with proper security measures, virtualized environments can be as secure as physical ones.

In summary, virtualization is a transformative technology that has reshaped the IT landscape. It allows for better resource utilization, flexibility, and cost savings, but like all technologies, it requires proper management and understanding.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about running ArcGIS Pro on a Mac using virtualization:

Is ArcGIS Pro natively supported on macOS?

No, ArcGIS Pro is primarily designed for Windows and does not have a native macOS version.

What is virtualization, and why is it needed to run ArcGIS Pro on a Mac?

Virtualization allows you to run a separate operating system within your primary OS. In this context, it lets you run Windows on a Mac, which in turn allows you to install and use Windows-only software like ArcGIS Pro.

Are there other virtualization software options besides Parallels Desktop?

Yes, other popular options include VMware Fusion and VirtualBox. However, the performance and features may vary.

Does virtualization affect the performance of ArcGIS Pro?

Running software in a virtualized environment can sometimes be slower than running it natively. However, with powerful Mac hardware and proper virtual machine configurations, many users find the performance satisfactory.

Will any version of ArcGIS Pro work in this virtualized setup?

Not necessarily. Some versions might have issues. For instance, ArcGIS Pro 3.0 had problems opening in a Windows 11 ARM virtual machine, but version 2.9 worked fine.

How much disk space and RAM should I allocate to the virtual machine for optimal performance?

It’s recommended to allocate at least 4GB of RAM (or more if possible) and a minimum of 50GB of disk space for the virtual machine. However, the exact requirements might vary based on the tasks you’ll be performing in ArcGIS Pro.

Can I access files on my Mac from the virtualized Windows environment?

    Yes, software like Parallels Desktop allows seamless file sharing between the host (Mac) and the virtual machine (Windows).

    Do I need a separate Windows license to set up a virtual machine on my Mac?

    Yes, to run a legitimate copy of Windows in a virtualized environment, you’ll need a valid Windows license.

    Are there any alternatives to running ArcGIS Pro on a Mac without using Windows?

    While ArcGIS Pro itself is Windows-only, Esri offers other products like ArcGIS Online that are web-based and can be accessed from any platform. Additionally, there are third-party GIS software options available for macOS.

    Is the process different for Macs with M1 or M2 chips compared to Intel-based Macs?

    The general process remains the same, but there might be specific considerations, especially regarding the version of Windows to install (e.g., Windows 11 ARM for M1/M2 Macs).

    About the Author
    I'm Daniel O'Donohue, the voice and creator behind The MapScaping Podcast ( A podcast for the geospatial community ). With a professional background as a geospatial specialist, I've spent years harnessing the power of spatial to unravel the complexities of our world, one layer at a time.