There are plenty of different solutions for running Windows on your Mac. You could have a seperate installation in Boot Camp, try a free solution such as VirtualBox, or try one of several other solutions.
Buy why would anyone run Windows alongside the best OS in the planet? Gaming and web development/testing are two major reasons. With its latest release, Parallels 6.0 claims to be faster than any other virtualization program and that it supports enhanced 3D graphics with 5.1 surround sound. It’s time to test their claims!
Setting Up Parallels 6
Our virtual journey (or the journey towards virtualization) begins with snagging a free trail version of Parallels from their homepage. The fully featured trial version is valid for 14 days and later on if you choose to buy the app, you can do so by forking out $79.99. If you are a student or upgrading from an older version, Parallels comes with a steep discount.
You will have to sign up for downloading the trial version and the activation code will be emailed to your account. Once the download is complete, you can begin the installation since you will not be needing the activation code until much later.
The installation is similar to that of a typical Mac app, except for the fact that it asks to check if there is a latest version of the app available. Considering the fact that we downloaded the file straight from the Parallels server, this is a pointless exercise in our particular case.
When launching the app post-installation, you will be prompted to enter the activation key. You can either enter the code here or skip it until we have set up the virtual machine.
The start up screen offers us three options – create a new Windows installation, migrate from an old Windows installation or use your virtual machine. The first option lets you create a Windows machine using a DVD or an ISO file, whereas the second option lets you migrate from an existing Windows installation from a PC. And using the third option, you can run the virtual machines you have created earlier.
Creating a New Windows Installation
For the purpose of this review, let us go ahead with creating a new Windows installation using a DVD. Parallels offers another option of installing directly from an ISO (CD/DVD image) file from the hard disk.
Pop the disk into the drive and click continue to enter the license key information of the Windows installation. If you have got an OEM disk, you can uncheck the option to proceed ahead.
Mac Integration Options
Parallels allows two ways of Windows app integration with your Mac. First, you can choose them to behave the same way like other Mac apps, in their own windows. With this option, Windows apps can have access to files from your Mac and you can copy text between Mac and Windows apps.
On the other hand, the second option allows you to run all the Windows apps in a single environment restricting the ability of data access by Windows apps. Copying and pasting of text will still work though.
If you are planning to have multiple virtual machines, you can rename the installation accordingly and you can also choose if other users of the Mac will have access to this Windows installation.
Time to allocate system resources for the Windows installation. You can select the number of cores of processing power and RAM to be made available and it is better to check the system requirements of the operating system being installed before proceeding.
There are more customization options available for fine tuning the virtual machine and for those non tech savvy, the default options are sufficient for a successful installation. So just click ahead.
Beginning the Installation
When you are sure that everything is in place, click inside the Parallels screen to kick off the installation. For those who have installed Windows on a PC before, they will notice that the process is just the same – boot screens, file loading pages, installation steps – except that everything happens inside a small window.
I found the installation time of Windows 7 to be more or less the same when I installed it on my PC. Rebooting the Windows installation is turbo charged and happens in just a few seconds.
The Virtual Machine
Since we have selected a Mac like integration for this virtual machine, we have split controls or the Coherence mode. Windows Start Menu can be accessed by clicking on the Parallels icon on the dock. Notifications, battery indicator, volume control and status icons are available on the top along with rest of the OS X icons.
Running Windows apps is such a breeze and I did not find any lag or sluggishness while using the apps. I ran Safari and Internet Explorer side by side and could hardly notice any difference in performance between the native Mac app and the virtualized Windows app.
You can exit the Coherence mode anytime you want and all the open Windows apps will be moved to an unified environment in a snap.
Installing new Windows software is simple too. Use a CD/DVD, download from Internet and install the .exe file the same way you do on a PC. Since Parallels offers full USB support, apps can be installed from a thumb drive too.
Parallels virtual machines can now be encrypted with AES algorithm to keep data on the virtual machine secure. Access controls are automatically inherited from the Mac and applied to the virtual machines. Meaning, whatever restrictions you have set up in the Mac, you can be sure the virtual machine has them too.
I have tried Virtualbox and VMware on Windows, and I found Parallels to be the most user friendly. While other virtualization apps demand allocating hard disk space and force an intimidating settings page on the user, Parallels takes the alternate route and remains unimposing.
New Mac users and “non geeks” won’t be confused with screens informing them that the virtual hard disk will be formatted if they just follow the flow of the app.
Using the Parallels app for iPhone and iPad, all virtual machines can be accessed and controlled remotely. Right from your Mac to mobile, Parallels offers a compelling all-in-one virtualization solution and I highly recommend the app for multi OS goodness.