Parallels Desktop is virtualization software for macOS. It lets you run multiple operating systems like Windows 10, Linux, and macOS inside virtual installations on your Mac.
While it might not be as fast as a local installation, using a VM is the convenient way to run Windows and its software on a Mac. There’s no need for a dedicated Boot Camp partition and you don’t need to restart your Mac every time you want to switch.
Parallels Desktop can have your Windows 10 installation up and running in under 10 seconds.
Download: Parallels Desktop 13
Ideal for Beginners and Power Users
The best thing about Parallels is that its seamless user experience scales from beginner all the way to a professional level. When you first install it, Parallels doesn’t ask you to configure the VM environment at all. There’s no need to decide what resources to dedicate to the VM, or how much hard drive space to block off for the new Windows installation.
If you’ve ever used a VM app on Mac, you know that this is not a trivial thing.
In under an hour, I went from downloading the Parallels app from their website to booting into a fresh Windows 10 installation. And all the while, I just hit “Next” a couple of times and I was able to continue my work in other apps.
Once the Windows 10 install is up and running, you’re free to go in and mess about. Click on Settings, go to Hardware, and you can change the amount of RAM and GPU Parallels Desktop can use.
Parallels Desktop Features You Should Know About
The app is filled with features that will make your VM experience pain-free.
Copy and Paste or Drag and Drop
Because Windows is virtualized on your Mac, you can just copy and paste content between macOS apps and Windows apps. You can even drag and drop files between the two. And your macOS Desktop will show up as the Windows Desktop as well.
Run Windows Apps Alongside Mac Apps
Parallels has a special Coherence mode. In which, the Windows environment disappears and the Windows app shows up as an independent app. This means you can put a Mac app next to a Windows app and work in both environments seamlessly.
If you only need to use a couple of Windows apps for work, put Parallels in this mode and you won’t have to interact with Windows OS at all.
Full Screen and Keyboard Shortcuts
Click on the Parallels menu bar icon, go to View and select Enter Full Screen. Windows 10 will take up a whole new Space in macOS and you’re now basically running a Windows OS inside a Mac.
From Preferences, you can change keyboard shortcuts for common Windows actions. You can change the preset to macOS or Linux shortcuts.
Pin Windows Apps in the Dock
Active Windows apps will show up in the Dock and the App Switcher. This makes it really easy to jump between apps across both OS.
External Hard Drives and Simple Backups
If all your friends and coworkers use Windows, sometimes it can be hard to exchange data. They’ll give you an external hard drive that’s formatted in NTFS. macOS just won’t let you copy files to it. And in some situations, you can’t format the drive to macOS friendly formats like FAT.
In times like these, Parallels Desktop can help. Boot up Windows 10 and open the hard drive from Windows 10’s File Explorer.
Snapshots in Parallels are a virtual machine equivalent of Time Machine, but they happen on the device. You’ll see the option in the Parallels dropdown in the menu bar. When you click on it, Parallels will save your virtual machine in the state it was in. You can choose to revert back to a snapshot at a later point.
What’s New in Parallels Desktop 13?
macOS High Sierra introduces a new file format: APFS. As Parallels Desktop 13 comes with High Sierra support out of the box, you won’t have to worry about your VM’s compatibility. Similarly, when Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update ships, it will be supported by Parallels Desktop 13.
Version 13 also brings Windows 10’s People Bar to the Mac. You can now interact with the People Bar right from macOS’s Spotlight search and the Dock. The other major new feature in Parallels Desktop 13 is Touch Bar support. And it’s not just for Windows 10, but also for Microsoft Office apps like Windows, Excel, and more.
Finally, Picture in Picture mode puts your Windows 10 VM into a floating window on top of everything in macOS. This way, you can monitor what’s happening in the Windows 10 installation, while continuing your work in macOS. When you focus on any other application in macOS, the floating window becomes translucent.
Is Parallels Desktop for You?
I’ve been using Parallels Desktop 13 on my MacBook Pro with the default configuration which is 2GB of RAM and 256MB shared graphics. I haven’t faced any issues jumping between macOS and Windows 10. Interacting with Windows apps and browsing the web in Microsoft Edge have all been smooth.
That said if you’re going to be running professional apps, you might want to increase the RAM limit to 4GB.
Parallels Desktop’s chief competitor is VMware Fusion. Both apps have a healthy competition and it leads to better updates every year. For the past couple of years, Parallels Desktop has taken the clear lead when it comes to user experience and ease of use.
If you’re in a corporate or IT environment where you need to roll out virtual machines by the hundreds, VMware Fusion has a clear advantage. But for everyone from beginners to independent professionals, Parallels will offer a better, faster experience (especially for Windows 10).
Parallels Desktop 13 costs $80. If you’ve used Parallels 11 or 12, you can upgrade for $50. If you’re a professional or a business user, you should look into their Parallels Desktop Business plan that starts at $100/year. If you’re okay with configuring and managing your own VM, VirtualBox is a good free alternative to Parallels Desktop.
Try Parallels for Free
You can try Parallels Desktop for 14 days before deciding if you want to jump in. That’s enough time to setup your Windows environment and test it in a work environment, before deciding whether or not to take the plunge.
Will you be buying Parallels Desktop for Mac? What is your Windows 10 VM setup like? Share with us in the comments below.