Parallels Desktop for Mac

Parallels Desktop for Mac

Not that we necessarily want to inflict a Windows OS on our Macs, but Parallels makes it painless.

 

The Mac and OS X rule, and Microsoft cranks out butt-ugly, bloated versions of Windows, years late and full of bugs. It's a regular laugh-riot for Mac purists - but not so funny if you need to use some specific Windows-only software for work or what-have-you. If you really need to run any flavor Windows from 3.1 to XP - with experimental support for the terminally tardy Vista (more on that later) - from the comfort of your Mac, without setting up the partitioned, dual-boot system required to run Apple's alternative, Boot Camp (free beta, www.apple.com/macosx/bootcamp), Parallels Desktop for Mac is the right-now choice, especially if you don't need snappy multithreaded processor support or hardware-accelerated 3D graphics for games or CAD.

 

If you've used Virtual PC, you'll find that Parallels Desktop provides similarly easy installation; our Parallels installation, including Windows, took all of 10 minutes - a fraction of the typical Windows installation. Unfortunately, however, Parallels also has VPC-like shortcomings in the video-emulation arena; hardware 3D acceleration isn't yet supported, so your high-test games and CAD apps will suffer under Parallels. But make no mistake: Parallels is a continual work in progress, unlike Virtual PC, which doesn't run on Intel-based Macs and is no longer being developed by Microsoft.

 

Build 1898 (the version of Parallels we tested) brings support for Apple's recently released Mac Pro - almost. At press time, Parallels uses software virtualization because the Mac Pro's hardware virtualization (VT) is disabled in the firmware. Parallels reps say they're waiting for Apple to fix the problem.

 

Parallels itself isn't multithreaded, so multithreaded apps such as Photoshop are actually threading through only one of the Core 2 Duo's cores, not both. As we said, Parallels isn't about performance - it's about convenience.

 

And what of Apple's Windows-running Boot Camp beta? The end result (a Windows OS running on your Mac) is similar, but the procedure is vastly different: Parallels runs as an application on your Mac (you're running Windows within Parallels, which is running on your Mac), while Boot Camp requires you to restart the Mac in pure Windows mode. Advantage, Parallels. Boot Camp comes out ahead of Parallels in the performance department, but we live in Mac OS, where Parallels' convenience trumps Boot Camp's performance - your mileage will vary according to your needs.

 

The bottom line. The Mac landscape is changing all the time. In a few months, Boot Camp support will come preinstalled with Mac OS 10.5, but nobody outside Cupertino knows quite how that'll pan out. In the meantime, if you need to use Windows software occasionally and you don't expect blistering-fast performance, Parallels is an excellent compromise.

 

COMPANY: Parallels
CONTACT: 425-282-6400, www.parallels.com
PRICE: $79.99
REQUIREMENTS: Any Mac with an Intel processor, Mac OS 10.4.6 or later, Windows 3.1 or later, 512MB RAM (1GB recommended), 30MB disk space (15GB recommended).
Use Windows without buying a Piece of Crap (PC). No disk partitioning or rebooting necessary.
It's still Windows. No hardware 3D acceleration. Assorted growing pains.

 

 

BONUS TIP: Virtual Vista?
As of build 1898, Parallels Desktop for Mac didn't support ActiveX, Windows' technology for sharing information between applications. Parallels reps say the company is working on ActiveX support, but savvy developers say it'll be an uphill battle that Parallels might never win. Meanwhile, the next version of Windows, called Vista, uses a new programming interface called WinFX. Word on the street is that it'll be a tough nut to crack, virtualization-wise.

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