Running the BBC’s iPlayer on a Mac using Parallels

After finding out the BBC’s iPlayer only worked on Windows XP I wondered if you could run it on a Mac using Parallels or perhaps under Windows Vista (which iPlayer also doesn’t support) using VMware or some other virtualization product.

To test this I used an Intel Mac Pro with 2Gigs of memory running Parallels 3.0. Using Parallels I built Windows from an XP install CD, updated to SP2 and various other security updates and then installed Microsoft’s Media Player 11 (which iPlayer seems to require to work properly).  I gave the Virtual Machine 1Gig of memory which seems to allow XP Service Pack 2 to install properly and to increase Windows performance (you might be able to use less memory but I had lots of problems with SP2 until I increased it from the Parallels default).

After getting an iPlayer Beta account from the BBC I logged into iPlayer website and attempted to download the Saturday night episode of Jekyll. Since I was running iPlayer for the first time it downloaded the iPlayer library. This is some software which is installed locally on the PC.  After that the peer-to-peer aspect of iPlayer seemed to work fine (it was a little slow downloading until I realised I had Azureus running on the Mac… AHEM!) Below you can see iPlayer downloading content running under Parallels in Coherence mode which allows you to have a unified Mac / Windows desktop.

iPlayer downloading on a Mac

After Jekyll had downloaded I tried running the downloaded Windows Media File which I noticed was protected by Windows DRM. I was slightly surprised to see that it worked correctly. You can see the results below running as before in Coherence mode.

BBC iPlayer running on a Mac

I haven’t watched a complete episode of anything on the iPlayer yet but performance seemed fine and there did not appear to be any playback problems. I also briefly ran in full screen mode and again I was surprised to see this worked. However, I was using a pretty high-end Mac with lots of memory so your mileage may vary. Good luck.