Parallels Desktop has become the standard bearer for running multiple platforms on your Mac desktop or notebook computer. If you need to run both Windows apps and Mac apps, but don’t want two separate computers, Parallels may be the software solution you’re looking for. With new models and features, this is the most integrated Parallels software available yet.
In Coherence mode, Parallels Desktop 9 allows the virtual and local operating systems to communicate with each other and behave like a single OS, rather than treating your operating systems like separate machines. A major advantage of running multiple operating systems simultaneously is having the ability to execute PC- or Mac-specific applications in the same environment—on the same screen. You can even launch Windows programs directly from your Mac OS X dock. With Parallels Desktop 9, you can share local and cloud storage, connected peripherals like printers, or even drag and drop files between your Windows and Mac environments. You can also delete files across your virtual machines by dragging them to your Trash on the Mac OS X desktop; this saves time by providing a single place for deleting all of your data.
With every new version of Parallels there has been a focus on improving usability and system performance, with the new features like Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks and Windows 8.1 support—Parallels Desktop 9 is no different in this regard. Simplicity also remains a core component, whether you’re purchasing and installing a new full version of a Windows OS or upgrading from an older version of Parallels. Installation and operation are designed to get you up and running in a matter of minutes. Users of older versions of Parallels will be happy to see that this latest version is engineered for faster disk performance, faster shutdown and suspension of virtual machines, and faster web browsing and 3D graphics performance.
Users of Intel®-based Macs are likely familiar with the Boot Camp feature that comes built into the Mac OS. This feature allows you to install a full version of the Windows operating system to a fixed partition on your Mac hard drive. Upon booting your system, you can then select which OS you would like to run. With Boot Camp installed, the two operating systems behave like independent environments, requiring you to reboot your computer to operate in either Windows or Mac modes. Parallels Desktop 9 expands upon Boot Camp by allowing you to run and share data between multiple operating systems without rebooting your computer.
Parallels Desktop 9 doesn’t limit you to just two virtual machines. Because this software does not occupy a fixed partition on your hard drive, you can select how much of your system’s resources are dedicated to your virtual machines, allowing you to run as many operating systems as your RAM and processor can handle.
When you're running more than one OS on the same computer, Parallels provides a solution that allocates your Mac’s resources to each OS to take advantage of your Mac’s CPU cycles and RAM needed for each workload.
Parallels Desktop 9 also supports Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks and allows you to create a Mavericks virtual machine using the “install OS X Mavericks” app in the Mac app store. If you use more than one screen, you will also be happy to see that Mavericks multiple display support also works in your Windows environments, so each screen has its own menu bar and dock. To keep your tabbed web pages organized and indexed, the Mavericks OS X Tabs Finder functionality also works with your Windows applications.
When Windows 8 launched, many users were disappointed to see that Microsoft decided to omit the “Start” button from the Windows taskbar. This button allowed Windows users to quickly find installed programs, access the Windows Control Panel, and power down their computer. When Windows 8.1 became available, the Start button made a reappearance, but not with the same functionality faithful Windows users were accustomed to. Like Windows 8, Windows 8.1 relies on the Charm Bar and its universal search functionality to find programs and access system settings. Parallels Desktop 9 features a Windows 7 mode that brings back the legacy Windows Start button and associated menu. When engaged, Windows 8 and 8.1 users can find programs and system settings just like they did in Windows 7.
Another feature added in the release of Windows 8 and 8.1 was the implementation of Modern apps and their tile layout on the Windows desktop. These apps allow you to access content quickly in the same way our smartphones and tablets do. When selected, these apps open in full screen, not leaving much room for multi-tasking. Parallels Desktop 9 is designed for productivity and allows you to run Modern apps in smaller windows so you can continue running other applications.
Keep in mind that while Windows 8 and 8.1 incorporate native touchscreen capabilities, Mac systems do not currently support this functionality. Navigating the Windows user interface on a Mac is done solely via the trackpad and keyboard.
Parallels Desktop 9 runs on any Intel-based Mac with an Intel Core2 Duo processor or higher. You also want to make sure your system has at least 2GB of memory; 4GB or more is recommended for optimal performance. For storage, you’ll need 700MB of hard disk space for the Installation of Parallels Desktop 9, plus additional space to allocate your virtual machine. On the software side, Parallels is compatible with Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks, 10.8.4 Mountain Lion or later, 10.7.5 Lion or later, and 10.6.8 Snow Leopard or later. For your virtual environments, you will also need a full version of the operating system you wish to virtualize, e.g. Windows 7. After launching Parallels Desktop 9, a virtual machine creation wizard is launched automatically assisting you through the creation process.
Let’s explore some of the new features of Parallels Desktop 9 and examine how these features benefit the end user.
Thunderbolt and FireWire Support
Mac users rely on these high-speed interfaces for transferring large files at accelerated transfer rates. Parallels Desktop 9 supports both Thunderbolt and FireWire storage devices natively inside of your Windows virtual environment and provides switching of these devices between the Mac and the Windows operating systems. This saves the Mac users from having to purchase additional equipment to use in different environments.
If you’re an SSD-enabled Retina MacBook Pro or MacBook Air user, the Power Nap feature will extend to your virtual Windows environments as well. Power Nap allows your applications to update in the background while your computer is in a sleep state—keeping your apps and related information up to date. This feature is a great complement to the live tile apps in Windows 8; when your system resumes your Windows apps won’t display outdated information.
Parallels Desktop 9 is fully compatible with cloud services like iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive. You can use these services to sync data across all of your virtual machines without duplicating files. These cloud services will still occupy dedicated folders in your operating system but will treat all your environments as a central hub for all of your content. As cloud storage grows in popularity, Parallels Desktop 9 recognizes that users need to sync data easily across multiple environments without the worry of maintaining each operating system independently. If you have multiple files that support different file systems, you can now store them in a central location and easily switch to the virtual environment in which you would like to access them.
Parallels Desktop 9 allows you to use your trackpad to take advantage of Mountain Lion’s Dictionary lookup gesture in Windows applications. This feature literally puts the ability to look up a word, quickly, at your fingertips. Gestures provide convenient and simplified shortcuts that allow you to quickly find the things you’re looking for. Mac users won’t have to worry about their trackpad behaving differently when navigating the Windows OS.
PDF printer allows you to print from Windows applications to PDF and save the document on your Mac desktop for reviewing at your leisure. This feature is useful for content like articles and web pages. Parallels Desktop 9 makes this feature usable in every Windows application
s, regardless of whether or not the app natively supports PDF printing. This allows you to capture a screen shot from any Windows app for printing, sharing, or saving as needed.
When using Windows in Full Screen mode and connecting to an external monitor, Parallels Desktop 9 remembers your settings and puts the Windows virtual machine back to full screen mode on the newly connected display. This allows you to add an external monitor seamlessly without having to reconfigure your desktop settings.
Not just for Windows users, Parallels Desktop customers who use Linux can take advantage of enhanced integration with the Mac OS with features like shared applications and profile folders. Parallels Desktop 9 supports Linux operating systems including Fedora, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Suse, and many others.
Virtual Machine Wizard
Having great features is one thing, making it easy to use is another. Luckily, Parallels Desktop 9 enhanced Virtual Machine Wizard is engineered for ease of operation. The Wizard automatically locates operating systems on your hard drive for streamlined virtual machine setup. The Virtual Wizard not only recognizes Windows operating systems, but it also recognizes Linux, Chrome, and Mac OS X operating systems. This feature makes it simple to create virtual machines utilizing a wide variety of platforms. If you have the need to run multiple applications across multiple platforms, the Virtual Machine Wizard walks you through the process of creating new virtual environments and makes it simple to create the environments that you need.
The Parallels Security Center allows you to customize your antivirus configurations for your virtual environments. The Security Center includes trial versions of popular antivirus software applications like Norton and Kaspersky Internet Security. Please note that at the time of this article, some Windows 8.1 users may encounter compatibility issues when using Norton or Kaspersky Internet security products. This issue, however, is not due to the use of Parallels Desktop 9 software.
When exploring the features and implementation of Parallels Desktop 9, it’s clear that Parallels designed this software to be intuitive and inclusive. Parallels Desktop doesn’t just allow you to run multiple virtual environments on the same computer; it creates a platform for these virtual environments to co-exist simultaneously. If your setup is one that requires multiple workstations and intense data and graphics processing, running multiple networked computers does have performance benefits. But, for the majority of users, who are just looking to run a few virtual environments simply and efficiently, Parallels Desktop 9 gives you the tools to get your virtual environments installed and optimized with little effort.