Fast, Powerful and Easy Whether you need to run Windows programs that don’t have Mac versions, or you are making the switch from PC to Mac and need to transfer your data, Parallels Desktop has you covered.
Near-effortless installation of Windows in OS X.
Lets you open Windows files in Mac apps or Mac files in Windows apps.
Deep integration options give Windows apps access to OS X folders.
Fastest performance of any virtual-machine software.
Minor stability issues.
Unless you turn off many options, the OS X interface gets cluttered with Windows icons.
Bottom Line Parallels Desktop is the first choice for beginners and non-technical users who want to run Windows apps under OS X. Parallels Desktop is the fastest and friendliest way to run Windows apps on a Mac for the majority of users who are likely to want to do so. IT pros may prefer VMware Fusion; expert users who want no-cost apps will prefer the open-source VirtualBox. Hardcore gamers may prefer Apple's Boot Camp, which lets users boot directly into Windows, with the added bonus of native graphics card support. For most ordinary Mac users who prefer Windows versions of apps like Microsoft Office or AutoCAD, however, or who use Windows-only apps like CorelDraw or WordPerfect Office, Parallels Desktop is the clear first choice for virtualization software.
Compared to VMware, Parallels starts up Windows at top speed in testing. On my vintage 2015 MacBook Pro, Parallels boots Windows 10 to the desktop in 35 seconds, compared to 60 seconds for VMware. VirtualBox matches Parallels' boot speed, but it performs far fewer integration tasks while booting up. For example, VirtualBox doesn't provide printer integration and the ability to open Windows files with Mac apps and vice versa.
One reason for Parallels' bootup speed advantage is that Parallels uses an emulated PC BIOS that supports the Fast Startup option, and the others don't. The speed difference isn't nearly as obvious when running Windows apps after the OS starts up, however. Parallels feels slightly faster than its rivals, but not drastically so. Fast as it is, Parallels won't satisfy hard-core gamers because Parallels, like VMware Fusion, only supports DirectX 10, while VirtualBox only supports DirectX 9. There's nothing that Parallels can do about this limitation, which is the result of the Mac's limited support for OpenGL (Open Graphics Library) features.
By default when Parallels runs a Windows system, any files on your Mac desktop will also appear on your Windows desktop. This may sound convenient, but it's a feature that I always to turn off in Parallels' settings dialog. One reason I turn it off is that it leaves the Windows desktop cluttered. Another is that much of what I keep on my Mac desktop—like folders and apps—simply won't work when I click on them in Parallels' Windows desktop. Parallels tends to go overboard with integration features, turning them on by default whether you want them or not
Parallels starts up with a menu for creating a new virtual machine or opening an existing one. This is where Parallels' focus on ordinary end users shines best. Unlike all other virtualization apps, Parallels doesn't expect you to have a Windows or Linux installer disk or disk image ready when you start it up, although it can use that image if you have one. Instead, Parallel's user-helpful menu lets you buy a Windows 10 download directly from Microsoft, or simply download a Windows 10 installer if you already have a license key.
Another set of options lets you install a Parallels system-export utility on your Windows PC, and export it to Parallels via a network (slowly) or an external drive. A scrolling list at the foot of the menu lets you download specific versions of Linux or Android, install a virtual copy of macOS from your Mac's hidden recovery partition, or install Windows from a Boot Camp partition if you have one.
Platforms and Pricing
Parallels Desktop supports all Windows versions since Windows 2000, all Intel-based macOS versions (with some exceptions for licensing reasons), many flavors of Linux, BSD, Solaris, and a few other OSes. VMware Fusion and VirtualBox are even more flexible, and can run historical curiosities like OS/2 and NeXTSTEP. Also, unlike Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion and VirtualBox have versions that run on Windows and Linux machines, while Parallels Desktop is Mac-only.
Office 365 Integration Allows Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents in Safari to open in their native Windows Office app.
Works with Boot Camp Reuse your existing Boot Camp installation. Converting a virtual machine from Boot Camp is easy, just follow our installation assistant at startup.
Retina Display Support Smart resizing and independent screen resolutions for separate displays.
One-Click Tuning Select productivity, games, design, software testing, or development and Parallels Desktop will optimize your VM settings and performance for you.
Instant Access Launch and access Windows applications right from the Mac Dock.
Save Disk Space Get the most out of your Mac with automatic Disk Space optimization.
Volume License Key Unified volume license key, centralized license management and advanced security features are available in Parallels Desktop Business Edition.
Travel Mode Extend battery life while away from a power source.
Parallels Toolbox Bonus with Subscription! Over 30 one-touch tools—clean your drive, take screenshots, download a video and more—all with just a single click.
Remote AccessBonus with Subscription! Remote access to your Mac from any iOS device, Android device or browser with Parallels Access®.
24/7 Support Premium 24/7 phone, email and social support after activation.