Migrating a PC onto a Mac with Parallels

23 Feb 2012
Mac Book Air

Run Windows on a Mac with our step-by-step instructions for Parallels virtualisation software

Running Windows on a Mac is easy with virutalisation - and unlike dual-booting, you can access applications via both OSes without a restart.

There are multiple software options to choose from, the free VirtualBox as well as a pair of commercial products, Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion. Here, we show you how to move a PC onto your Mac using Parallels.

Parallels Transporter Agent

Parallels Transporter Agent

Start by downloading the Parallels Transporter Agent from the website and running it on your PC. (VMware offers a similar tool called the Migration Agent, but we’ll focus on Parallels.) If you’ve invested in a transfer cable, connect it between your PC and your Mac; otherwise, you’ll need to connect an external hard disk.

Moving data

Moving data

You’ll be asked for your password so that Parallels can back up protected files. You’ll also be asked to confirm you’re authorised to move the software between computers – OEM Windows licences don’t permit you to move the OS from one machine to another. The transfer can take hours, so consider leaving it running overnight.

Mac installation

Mac installation

Now install the main software on your Mac. Click through until you’re prompted to create a new virtual machine. Select “Migrate Windows from a PC” and click Continue. If you’ve created an image on an external disk, connect the disk to your Mac and click Open to import it. If you’re using a cable, follow the onscreen instructions.

Like a Mac or PC

Like a Mac or PC

The process is now the same as setting up a new virtual installation. You’ll be asked whether you want to use your new virtual machine “Like a Mac” – with Coherence mode enabled by default – or “Like a PC”, in which case Windows will start up in its own window. You can change these view settings at any time.

Coherence mode

Coherence mode

Before long, Windows will be up and running. In Coherence mode, the Start menu is at the right-hand side of the menu bar, accessible via a red “ditto mark” icon. Start menu items can also be found in a folder in the Dock. File associations still work, so you can double-click on a document to open it in the appropriate application.

Running together

Running together

Windows applications will now run happily on your Mac desktop, alongside native applications. Virtualised applications have Windows-style borders, but you can switch to a Mac style: then, the only indicator that an application isn’t running natively is Parallels’ red “ditto mark” logo on each application’s Dock icon.

Mac Book Air

Mac Book Air

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Tutorials