When Apple started the Intel transition, it opened the opportunity for Windows to run quickly and simultaneously on Mac OS X. Previously, the only option was a slow, clunky solution, Microsoft’s Virtual PC for Mac. I tried that on a modern, mid-range iMac (for the time, a 2.0 GHz PPC iMac with 1.5 GB of ram), and something as basic as a click would take time to occur in windows. I gave up on Virtual PC, and thought that I would never get a chance to run Windows alongside Mac OS X. Then Parallels came along.
Parallels Desktop 4.0 for Mac is a snappy easy-to-use Windows (or almost any other OS that will run on an Intel processor) virtualization solution. I ran Parallels 3 for Mac on my mid-range MacBook, a 2.16 GHz computer with 1GB of RAM, from 2007. Parallels made it possible to run Windows XP on that computer, but not enjoyable, since it was not the most responsive and sometimes had other troubles as well. Although I had those issues, a friend, who has a MacBook Pro, with 2GB of RAM, said that it was very responsive. An abundance of RAM is a must have when you are running two (or more) operating systems at the same time. Although Parallels requires 1GB of ram, 2GB should be the minimum requirement for anything more demanding than word-processing. I’ve found Parallels Desktop 4 for Mac a much needed and well-crafted update to the extremely useful, albeit sometimes slow Parallels 3.
The installation experience is very smooth for most people, and the software is able to install Windows for you, as a virtual machine, with little interaction from you. I ran into a problem with file permissions while I was migrating my virtual machine from version 3 to 4. I emailed technical support, who was extremely helpful and knowledgeable, and my issue was resolved quickly. My issue had not been seen by them before, so you will probably not run into my migration issue.
A feature that enhances the usability of Parallels to the point that you start to forget where Windows stops and where Mac OS X begins, is Coherence mode. In Coherence mode, Windows applications live in the Mac OS X dock, and what would have been in the Windows Taskbar, are in your menu bar. Parallels has gotten it right, making every windows application independent in the order of windows. For example, I could have my windows in this order (front to back): Finder, Google Chrome, Mail, Paint. The Windows “apps” feel like any other app, even with the drop shadows—illustrating Parallels’ amazing attention to detail.
The Mac integration is another key feature that sets Parallels apart from Boot Camp. Parallels allows you to access your Mac’s files and folders from Windows, either as a mounted volume, or by linking your windows Documents, Desktop, and media folders together. That allows you to work with the same files between the OSes. If I was trying to work on the design of a news letter in Indesign, a desktop publishing application, but I was making illustrations with Corel Paint Shop Pro, I could share the files in the same folder, while working across OSes.
I’d suggest Parallels Desktop 4 for Mac to anyone who needs to run Windows applications as well as Mac applications. It’s a good alternative to getting another computer, and far more affordable. It retails for $79.99, and can be purchased directly from Parallels, or from hundreds of other retailers through out the world. The choice to purchase Parallels Desktop 4 for Mac is a natural decision to anyone who needs to, or wants to run windows on their Mac.