Parallels Desktop 6 review
For regular switchers it's a slick way to run Windows on the Mac, with a few distinctive tricks
Review Date: 12 Oct 2010
Reviewed By: Darien Graham-Smith
Price when reviewed: £55 (£65 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Ease of Use
If you need to run Windows software on a Mac, the simplest option is to dual-boot with Apple's Boot Camp utility. But for everyday use, it's more practical to install an OS X virtualisation host such as Parallels Desktop (or its rival, VMware Fusion) to run multiple operating systems concurrently. Both let you hide the Windows desktop and run Mac and Windows applications side by side.
Parallels Desktop 6 brings a few new features that VMware can't match. The big one is a mobile application for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, allowing you to connect to virtual machines over the internet. We tested it on an iPad, and had no problem accessing our Windows installation through a firewall. Once we got the hang of touch controls the OS was responsive and usable, and you can even remotely power-on virtual machines via the mobile app - so long as the host Mac is turned on, of course. It's just a shame you can't access OS X the same way.
There are a few other additions too, including Spotlight support for Windows files and 5.1 surround sound for anyone watching movies or playing games on a virtual PC (although be warned that there's only support for DirectX 9). OS X parental controls are automatically applied to Windows applications, and keyboard shortcuts can be synchronised between operating systems to reduce confusion as you switch between platforms.
The real selling point for version 6, though, is speed. Performance is always an issue with virtualisation, thanks to the overheads of running two operating systems at once, but Parallels claims to give the smoothest Windows-on-OS X experience available.
To put this to the test, we tried it out using mid-range hardware: a 20in iMac with 2GB of RAM and a Core 2 Duo T7300 processor. Running Windows 7 natively in Boot Camp, this hardware achieved an overall score of 0.93 in our benchmarks.
We were pleased to see that Parallels was able to load Windows from our existing Boot Camp partition, although you can also install to a virtual disk file. If you're switching from a PC you can even use the supplied Windows tool to dump the OS and applications to a virtual disk file with a few clicks, and painlessly migrate it into Parallels: we tried a fairly clean Windows 7 installation occupying 30GB on disk, and found it took about an hour.
How about free
How do these compare with Oracle's Virtual Box which of course is free ?
By Jaberwocky on 13 Oct 2010
it mentions virtual box on the second page.
By TimoGunt on 13 Oct 2010
By Jaberwocky on 13 Oct 2010
VMWare Fusion has a rather hidden embedded VNC Server in it, so providing you are prepared to get your hands dirty you can do the control-your-VMs-remotely trick with that too. The way that VMWare's VM file format is the same for Fusion as it is for VMWare Player (on the PC) and some of the other hypervisors in the range, is a crucial advantage.
By Steve_Cassidy on 13 Oct 2010
This review is correct, but...
Installed PD 6 on several machines here and our results agree with yours. PD 6 is very nice for running Win7, and is faster then VMWare 3.1, but... support is lacking for this product. We have one iMac where it just won't install, and getting help is like pulling teeth. The PD KB site is outdated, and has no helpful information for PD6, but tons of problem info for older versions. The support forum is moderated from the initial post, and takes days to even get a community question posted. On the other hand, VMWare support is near instant, and the folks there are very good at troubleshooting. So the choice is better performance, or problem support. Heck of a choice!
By herojig on 14 Oct 2010
VirtualBox not quite so bad?
The manual suggest that VirtualBox can boot directly from a physical partition. See section 184.108.40.206. I don’t have a Mac, so can only go by what’s in that section. I have successfully used direct disc access with a Linux host, although it’s very user-unfriendly to set up.
You say that there’s no equivalent to Coherence or Unity, but doesn’t VirtualBox’s seamless mode provide the same basic functionality? Looking at the article’s gallery pictures, seamless mode isn’t as sophisticated. It doesn’t merge menu and task bars from the host and guest, but it does break the guest windows out from being trapped in a window on the host. If you want the host to see user files on the guest, you can place them somewhere the host can see them and make them accessible to the guest using shared folders. Again, this isn’t as elegant, but it does work.
I’m sure the criticisms are generally valid, though. VirtualBox didn’t start off on OS X, and, going by the change log, has always been playing catchup. Plus, the product isn’t specifically focused on single-user desktop use.
By pacid on 18 Oct 2010
- Sorry monkeys: you can't copyright your selfies
- Google: driverless car testers don't need to be "safe drivers"
- Microsoft to announce Windows 9 on 30 September
- Motorola Moto X+1 press photos leaked online
- Microsoft working on Miracast Dongle streaming hardware
- Diaspora: we can't stop spread of beheading videos
- Sony Xperia Z3 specs leak online
- iPhone 6 and iPhone 6L pictures leak online
- Bug hunters paid to target Oculus Rift
- Meet the "scarecrows" and "snipers" slaying Twitter spam
- 20 years of PC Pro: our greatest review mistakes
- 20 years of PC Pro: our first A-List
- Wikipedia's "right to be forgotten" protest hits the wrong note
- 3D printing hits the high street for plastic selfies
- 20 years of PC Pro: What amazed us in our first issue
- How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour
- Smartphone battery packs: can a USB power pack beat the festival battery blues?
- Windows Easy Transfer – not so "easy" in Windows 8.1
- Formula 1: what a difference virtualisation makes
- Office of the future: comfy chairs and tablets everywhere
- How to format a USB drive on a Mac or Windows
- What’s the best 4G network in the UK?
- How to set up a wireless hotspot for your business: give customers free or paid for internet access
- How to download YouTube videos: save YouTube videos to your iPhone, iPad, laptop or Android device
- How to access iCloud on a PC
- Nexus 5 vs Moto G 4G (2014 model)
- Chromecast vs Roku Streaming Stick vs Apple TV: what's the best TV streaming device?
- The 8 best small tablets of 2014: what's the best compact tablet?
- How to edit PDFs: make change to a PDF
- Building a patently better future
- 10 ways to make your business more secure
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office
- How to write your company's IT security policy