Parallels Desktop 10 for Mac
Tight integration with OS X Yosemite
Performance hit compared to Boot Camp
Parallels’ virtualisation software mimics PC hardware, letting you trick Microsoft Windows into thinking it’s running on a stand-alone computer when it’s actually running in an application on your Mac. You can even run several versions of Windows, OS X and Linux simultaneously if your Mac has the grunt to cope.
Keep in mind that Parallels is just a hardware emulator and you still need to supply your own copy of the operating systems. Using Parallels is different to Apple’s Boot Camp, which involves booting into Windows instead of OS X. You can set Parallels to run Windows from your Boot Camp partition, although it may not run as smoothly because you’re still running OS X underneath.
The strength of Parallels Desktop is that it lets OS X and Windows talk to each other, which makes life easier if you’re regularly switching between the two. This goes far beyond the ability to cut and paste text. Parallels Desktop 10 lets you access iCloud Drive and Photo Library from Windows, plus you can use the Yosemite Continuity features such as right-clicking on a number in Internet Explorer to call with your iPhone. There’s also integration with the email, cloud storage and social media accounts already configured in OS X. If you use two-factor authentication you’ll need to set it up again on the virtual machine, because it’s considered a separate device.
Of course, pretending to be more than one computer at a time has a performance impact. Parallels Desktop 10 brings promises to launch Microsoft Office applications up to 50 percent faster, while taking less of a toll on your battery life. There are new one-click optimisation options depending on whether you’re focused on productivity, gaming, design or software development.
You can run Microsoft Windows in a window on your Mac, or perhaps full-screen on a separate desktop, but one of Parallels’ most useful features is Coherence mode. This lets you hide the virtual machine and just run Windows applications straight from the dock, so they look like they’re actually running on your Mac.
If you’re using Parallels for software testing on various platforms, you’ll benefit from the new Parallels Control Center, which makes it easy to manage all your virtual machines and their configuration settings from a single place. The new linked clone feature lets you run several versions of the same Windows machine side-by-side, so you can see the impact of any changes you make.
Installing Parallels Desktop 10 is very straightforward and if you’ve got an older version of Parallels Desktop installed it will update while leaving your virtual machines untouched, so you won’t have to install Windows again. Install a fresh version of Windows 8 and you can set your optimisation preferences and whether you want it to boot to the desktop or the Modern UI tiles.
With a Core i7 processor and 8GB of RAM in our MacBook Pro, we had Windows 8 Pro happily running window without a major performance hit, although firing up extra machines took its toll. The ‘Start screen as Launchpad’ is impressive, using Coherence mode to run the Windows 8 tiles over the OS X desktop. Meanwhile, the ability to open files in Coherence mode simply by dropping them on the Windows icon in the dock certainly makes life easier.
Even when you allow for the cost of a copy of Windows, running it in Parallels on your Mac is obviously more cost-effective and convenient than buying a separate PC, which often sits idle. Coherence mode lets you get on with the job without wrestling with Windows, while tight integration with OS X Yosemite is the icing on the cake.