Archive for Parallels Desktop

#Fail: Parallels Nags Users Who Bought Their Software With Ads

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 21, 2018 by itnerd

Last night I was trying to test something for a client when I had this ad pop up in Parallels Desktop for Mac:


Here’s why this is a #Fail:

  1. I have already bought Parallels Desktop. So why are they asking me to buy their product again to get all this other stuff?
  2. If I was running a freeware product, I could understand nagging ads like this. But this isn’t freeware. Thus I should never ever see ads like this.

And clearly I am not the only person who feels this way based on a quick look at Twitter:

I pinged Parallels via Twitter on this and this is what I got back from them:

Thanks for the offer to converse by private message. But I’ll pass.

Now while it is true that I can disable this pop up by checking the “do not show again” box, it shouldn’t be there in the first place. And I have to admit that my opinion of their software has really gone downhill because of this. Not to mention the fact that they don’t seem to offer mitigations for the threats posed by Spectre and Meltdown like their main competitor which is VMware Fusion does. Thus later this week I’ll be flipping over my virtual machine library from Parallels Desktop to VMware Fusion. It’s a bit of a shame as I have used Parallels Desktop for years. But I’m making this move because VMware Fusion has a great offering as I covered in my recent review. But more importantly, they don’t nag their users to buy stuff after you’ve already bought their stuff. I guess that VMware understands that when I want to use their software, I don’t want to be bombarded by ads. If only Parallels understood that.

UPDATE: It seems that checking the “do not show again” box will not ads like this from popping up in the future:

Another reason for me to switch to VMWare Fusion.

VMware Patches Spectre Vulnerability In VMware Fusion…. So, What About Parallels Desktop For Mac?

Posted in Commentary with tags , on January 29, 2018 by itnerd

If you run virtual machines on your Mac, you have two choices. You can run VMware Fusion or Parallels Desktop. In both cases, you have to worry about the fallout from the Spectre and Meltdown CPU issues. And in the case of VMware Fusion, they’ve addressed Spectre in their latest update. Specifically, they’ve addressed an attack vector that only appears on virtual machines. Plus VMware has provided specific instructions on how their users can secure themselves.

So, that leaves Parallels Desktop For Mac. What are they doing to protect their users? Well, the closest thing to advice that I have seen is these Tweets:


The problem with this response is that patching macOS and whatever operating systems that you’re using in your virtual machines isn’t enough as pointed out by VMware. Thus there has to be a patch for the virtual machine software. Now I tried to find any further communication from Parallels and I could not. Thus you have to wonder if Parallels is working on something, or are they ignoring this. I say that because in the absence of any info, people will wonder if the company actually cares. Thus if I were Parallels, I’d be putting out some sort of statement of Spectre and Meltdown ASAP, because VMware has beaten them to the punch and is drawing a pretty stark comparison between the two products that has VMware in control of the message on this issue.

UPDATE: Parallels released an update to Parallels Desktop For Mac. The release notes make no mention of Spectre and Meltdown fixes. So I pinged Parallels over Twitter. Here’s what I got back:

The release notes that is referenced in the Tweet is the same one that I looked at prior to pinging them on Twitter. Thus it doesn’t appear that they’ve done anything to mitigate Spectre and Meltdown despite the fact that their nemesis VMware Fusion has.

Review: Parallels Desktop For Mac 13

Posted in Products with tags on September 1, 2017 by itnerd

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I am a long time user of Parallels Desktop For Mac. Last year’s update to be frank underwhelmed me. But that strangely didn’t stop me from plunking down my cash to update to Version 13 which is shipping now.

One thing that this update does is introduce support for the touch bar which comes on the new MacBook Pros. I don’t have a touch bar Mac, so I borrowed one to see what it brings to the table. From what I can tell, it does two things:

  • You can now display a number of tools and features from within Windows virtual machines via the touch bar. You can also have a duplicate of the Windows Task Bar, plus you can display icons for pinned items such as Cortana or the File Explorer.
  • You can use the Touch Bar to control Windows apps inside Windows VMs. There’s a few predefined setups for Office apps, Cortana, and a few other apps and the tools are there to build your own for whatever app you have.

Other improvements include support for USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 which worked fine on the MacBook Pro that I tested on, as well as a Picture-In-Picture mode which allows you to view live previews of multiple VMs running onscreen simultaneously. That was kind of cool to try out. When the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update ships in a month or so, it will also support viewing contact info from the People Bar in the Macs Dock as I found out when I fired up a preview build to test with.

Parallels Desktop introduced a bundled suite of Mac utilities called Parallels Toolbox last year. This year there’s a Windows version as well. Some  tools that stood out included Airplane Mode, Clean Drive, and Find Duplicates. All of them do what they imply and are welcome on my Mac.

Owners of a Mac with a Retina display can either render the guest VM at full Retina resolution and rely on the guest operating system’s own scaling, or they can use a “scaled” mode, which presents a lower resolution to the guest VM and then rely’s on the host operating system to scale the image to a usable size. I tend to choose the latter myself because I find that to be far more useful, but it’s nice to have the ability to do either.

Finally, it is fully qualified for MacOS High Sierra which will ship from Apple sometime this month.

But let’s be honest, performance is what you care about. In other words, is this version of Parallels Desktop faster than last year’s version? The performance improvements will not blow you out of the water. But they do exist. While my VM’s don’t run any faster than they did before, they did start up a touch faster, the creation of snapshots was a touch faster, and using storage over USB (such as an external hard drive) was a touch faster.

So, should you drop $50 to upgrade or $80 for a brand new copy? The changes are incremental, not Earth shattering, but for the most part will be welcomed by most users. I say that if you need virtualization software, you should feel free to shell out the cash for this latest iteration of Parallels Desktop For Mac.

Parallels Desktop 13 for Mac Released

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 24, 2017 by itnerd

Parallels Desktop 13 for Mac was released earlier this week. Key features include:

  • macOS High Sierra support
  • Windows 10 Fall Creators Update support
  • Support for touch bar MacBook Pro models
  • Dynamic resolution support: Users can change the window size of their Windows session
  • Enhanced support for Retina displays
  • Faster booting and rebooting speeds
  • Picture-in-Picture mode
  • Up to a 47% speed boost over Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac

You can see a video that outlines all the key features here:

Parallels Desktop 13 for Mac costs $79.99 for a new license. Existing users of Parallels Desktop for Home and Student can upgrade to V13 for $49.99, with a time-limited offer enabling users of the Desktop Pro Edition to upgrade for the same price (usually $99.99). For more pricing details, see the Parallels website.

Review: Parallels Desktop For Mac 12

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 22, 2016 by itnerd

At about this time every year, Parallels releases their new version that promises compatibility with whatever upcoming version of the Mac operating system is coming in the next couple of months. This year is no different as Parallels Desktop For Mac 12 has just been released.

Here’s what this new update promises:

  • Get support for Windows 10 Xbox app, for streaming and playing all Xbox games on a Mac.
  • Control storage space used by VMs directly from the Optimized Storage in macOS Sierra.
  • Store Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer passwords in Mac Keychain.
  • Assign special behaviors to Windows apps, such as Always Open Full Screen or Always Hide
    Other Apps, so they play even better on your Mac.
  • Easily cancel time-consuming VM actions.
  • Open documents from SharePoint and Office 365 in Microsoft Office for Windows desktop
    applications directly from your favorite Mac browser.
  • Keep Windows ready in the background, instead of suspending the VM, to instantly open Windows applications and documents.
  • Outlook for Windows now features your recently accessed documents, both Mac and Windows, so they are conveniently available to select when you add attachments to your e-mails.
  • Improved Retina support for resizing Windows VMs.
  • Archive VMs to save space in the Pro Edition.
  • Up to 90 percent faster Snapshot creation.
  • Up to 60 percent faster suspend of VMs.
  • Up to 25 percent faster Shared Folders performance.
  • Compile Visual Studio projects on shared folders up to 25 percent faster.
  • Up to 10 percent battery life improvement for certain environments.
  • Improved VM responsiveness when your Mac is low on free memory.

One new item is Parallels Toolbox. This is a separate product that is being sold separately for $10 a year, but now comes with Parallels Desktop 12. It allows you to easily do things like take a screenshot with a simple click, secure private files with a password, download a favorite video from YouTube or Facebook, easily record a screencast, or keep your Mac from sleeping with the push of a button. In my short time using it, I found it to be somewhat useful. I also tested it with my beta copy of macOS Sierra and I was able to confirm that Parallels did deliver on everything that they promised as it did work with all of macOS Sierra’s features. Having said that, Parallels 10 and 11 will be able to run virtual machines on Sierra. Another new item to me is the fact that they are now offering 500GB of storage through Acronis True Image. But I have to wonder how useful it would be to me seeing as I backup my Mac nightly which means that all my virtual machines are backed up. Though what Parallels is also offering is the ability to do incremental backups which would reduce the time to back up virtual machines. Finally, Parallels Desktop allows you to open Windows applications or documents up to three times faster according to the company, even if you’ve quit Parallels Desktop. This I admit was a cool feature. However, since I only use Parallels Desktop to test out client scenarios, it isn’t a feature that I would use frequently. But for those who rely on using Windows apps on their Mac, I can see how it would be handy. I also was able to test Office365 support in it and found that it worked as advertised as well. That’s where the good news ended for me. 

The bad news starts with the fact that my virtual machines were not any faster from what I could tell using my Windows 7 VM as a guide. This was further backed up by the fact that my overall Windows Experience overall score did not change. While I will admit that everything but the processor score improved slightly. Since the processor score was the lowest, the overall score did not change. Previous versions of Parallels Desktop would increase the Windows Experience score significantly across the board and the user experience would be noticeably faster which made this result with Parallels Desktop For Mac 12 disappointing. Though to be fair, they didn’t directly promise performance improvements on that front.

I also found that Parallels Desktop 12 is buggy. The biggest example of this that I found was when I tried my Windows Vista virtual machine and it wouldn’t start. It was stuck at a black screen. Through some trial and error, I discovered that the hypervisor was the problem. When I had the Parallels one selected, it would not work. But if I used the Apple one which from what I have researched is not as fast, optimized, or stable, it worked. My other virtual machines work fine with the Parallels hypervisor, which does imply that the Parallels hypervisor is likely problematic in some circumstances. This has been further confirmed by searching the Parallels forums as others are having similar issues. I found a bunch of other minor issues that weren’t as bad as the hypervisor issue, but were still annoying. All of which made me wonder if the product was QA’ed properly before release as previous Parallels Desktops releases tended to be much better than this.

What’s really missing from this upgrade is Direct X 11 support. While Parallels does promise improvements on the gaming front, particularly with the cool video game de jour which is Overwatch, the fact that they still don’t have Direct X 11 support is a #fail in this day and age. One wonders when they will get on that bandwagon.

Given that those running Parallels Desktop For Mac 11 or 10 can expect it to work with macOS Sierra, the fact that there’s really no features that have had earth shattering improvements, or the fact that there’s no Direct X 11 support at all, I am really finding little reason to recommend an upgrade if you’re a Parallels Desktop For Mac user. The fact that it’s also buggy doesn’t help either. Hopefully a quick update will fix the bugs with the product. But I don’t know what will fix the fact that this new version of Parallels Desktop For Mac isn’t anything to get excited about. Parallels Desktop For Mac 12 goes for $49 as an upgrade for owners of previous versions, $79 for new users, $99 a year for pro and business subscriptions. But if I were you, I would save your money until Parallels shows to its users that this upgrade is worth it. Because as it currently stands, it is far from being worth it.

UPDATE: I utilized a workaround that is not easy to find on the Parallels knowledge base to fix the issue with my Windows Vista virtual machine. In the interest of making your life easier, if you have a virtual machine that boots to a black screen and nothing more, use this document to make things right.

Review: Parallels Desktop 11 For Mac

Posted in Products with tags on September 8, 2015 by itnerd

It’s late summer and the universe is expecting a new Apple OS to hit the streets. That means it must be time for Parallels to drop a new version of the visualization software Parallels Desktop for Mac onto the world. This year it’s Parallels Desktop 11 and as usual it brings a bunch of new features to the table.

The biggest piece of news is full support for Windows 10. That includes support for Cortana which is Microsoft’s virtual assistant that competes against Apple’s Siri. One cool thing is that you can run Windows 10 in Coherence mode which integrates Windows apps inside OS X so that they are seamless. That means you can run Cortana in OS X and it works perfectly. I’m sure that once some people at 1 Infinite Loop see this, they will make a concerted push to get Siri onto OS X sooner rather than later.

Next up are multiple editions of Parallels Desktop. You now get three versions to choose from. There’s a Parallels Desktop Pro Edition and a Business Edition that give you the ability to create a virtual machine with up to 64 GB virtual RAM and up to 16 virtual CPUs. That’s perfect for power users such as developers. Plus they support the Microsoft Visual Studio Plug-in as well as for popular development, design, and test tools including Docker, Jenkins, and Chef. Support for Business Cloud Services is also included in these editions. One thing that is unique to the Pro Edition is complimentary Parallels Access support which means that you can remotely access the virtual machine from anywhere. Finally, both the Pro Edition and Business Edition have unlimited licenses. However, while the “normal” Parallels Desktop which only lets you have five licenses is a one time fee. The other additions are yearly subscriptions.

What you really care about is performance. Here’s what Parallels promises along my thoughts:

  • For Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, boot time and shut down time can be as much as 50% faster: Part of my problem in terms of judging this is that I have recently moved to a MacBook Pro that has screaming fast storage. But I can see that starting and shutting down up my Windows 10 virtual machine is way faster than what it was before on this machine. But I cannot confirm that it is 50% faster:
  • Battery life is extended by up to 15%: There’s a new trick that Parallels has added called Travel mode that does extend battery life based on my testing. Again I cannot confirm that it does so by 15%. But you do notice it.
  • Virtual machines suspend up to 20% faster: This might sound familiar, but while I found that virtual machines do suspend faster than before, I cannot say that it is 20% faster.
  • Many tasks in Windows are up to 25% faster: I did find that Windows virtual machines were faster from my “seat of the pants” testing. But my Windows Experience scores on either my Windows 7 virtual machine or my Windows Vista virtual machine did not change so I am unable to quantify that.

Another thing that Parallels did add is the ability for virtual machines to get location services from OS X. It does prompt you when the requests happen so that you can make a choice about whether you want to provide that info or not. Finally, this version of Parallels Desktop is ready for Apple upcoming version of OS X which is El Capitan.

Oddities? I had my Windows 10 virtual machine crash a couple of times on boot after I first installed Parallels Desktop 10 which caused the application to send an error report to Parallels. Then it behaved normally. Bug? That’s possible. This version of Parallels Desktop has only been out for a few days so that’s possible. Temporary gremlin? That’s possible. I couldn’t tell you, but I thought I would mention it.

In terms of pricing, it depends on the version:

  • Parallels Desktop: $79.95 USD. Upgrade available for $49.95 USD.
  • Parallels Desktop Pro Edition: $99.95 per year USD. Upgrade available for $49.95 USD.
  • Parallels Desktop Business Edition: $99.95 per year.

Parallels Desktop 11 is a winner on all fronts. It is fast, it works, and it is a pain free way of running Windows on your Mac. Consider this a must get if you are in need of running Windows on your Mac.

Review: Parallels Desktop 10

Posted in Products with tags on November 29, 2014 by itnerd

Frequent readers of this blog will know that I depend on Parallels Desktop to run Windows and LINUX virtual machines on my MacBook Pro. Thus upgrading to Parallels Desktop 10 was guaranteed. The install was painless. Thus I’m able to move along to the new features in this release:

  • You can place Windows apps on the Mac Launchpad or Dock
  • You can use new features in Mac OS X Yosemite straight out of a Windows environment. For example, you can answer your iPhone in your Windows virtual machine. You can also use Handoff to and from your iOS devices, or use AirDrop. Notification center is also implemented as well.

I tested all of these in my Windows 7 and Windows 8 virtual machines and they all worked perfectly. I also didn’t notice any hit to performance at all. That’s very good.

Speaking of performance, the company claims that battery life is 30 percent better on portable Macs. I could not quantify if it was 30%, but my battery life was longer while running Windows 7 than it typically is. It also promises faster overall performance and I can confirm that is the case. My virtual machines were faster when I started apps and used them. But strangely, that is not borne out in using the Windows Experience Index. Starting with Windows Vista:

  • Parallels Desktop 9: 5.0
  • Parallels Desktop 10: 5.0

This is what I got with Windows 7:

  • Parallels Desktop 9: 5.1
  • Parallels Desktop 10: 5.3

Not earth shattering by any means.

Now when I dug into this, I discovered that Parallels Desktop 10 has a wizard that helps you to optimize your virtual machines to get the best performance out of them regardless of what you do. Simply choose whether you’re using them for games, general office apps, design, or software development, and the app does the rest. Though, I found that I did have to tweak the memory settings to increase the amount of memory that each virtual machine had access to. For example, the Windows Vista and Windows 7 virtual machines were set to 1GB or RAM. I changed that to 4GB as I have 16GB of RAM in my MacBook Pro to play with. I then re-ran the Windows Experience tests and got these results:

  • Windows Vista: 5.7
  • Windows 7: 6.0

The take home message is that you’ll get a bit of a speed boost simply by installing Parallels Desktop 10. However, to get the most out of it, you should let it tweak your settings and you’ll get much more of a speed boost. But make sure to check its handiwork.

Parallels Desktop is $80 or $50 a upgrade if you are a previous user. If you need to run Windows apps on your Mac, it’s the only game in town as far as I am concerned.



A Follow Up To My Parallels Desktop Privacy Story

Posted in Commentary with tags , on December 11, 2013 by itnerd

Between the time I wrote this story on some potential privacy related concerns with Parallels Desktop 9 and now, I’ve had the chance to experiment a bit. The first thing that I experimented with was the fact that Parallels Desktop 9 puts my iCloud folder along with accessing Dropbox without me telling it to. I’ve found two things out since I first wrote this story. This feature is on by default. The option in question can by found by following the instructions in this note from the Parallels knowledge base. The second thing is that it looks like it inherits Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud from what’s on my Mac. I figured that out by removing Dropbox from my Mac along with unlinking the computer in the Dropbox software and starting a virtual machine. When I did that, it was not in the virtual machine. Now that does make me feel better because (a) Parallels already does this to a degree with volumes that the Mac has access to and (b) no user information such as usernames and passwords are being used to do this. Still, it would have been nice if this was not on by default and you were asked if you wanted this feature enabled. But be that as it may, I am comfortable enough with this to give Parallels a pass on this.

What I will not give Parallels a pass on is the fact that they appear to be collecting info on me via a opt out method. Meaning that unless you opt out, they can do what they want. Now, Parallels does have a privacy policy that’s online and there’s a link to it in the software. Here’s one thing that caught my eye:

If you choose to participate, we will be automatically collecting information about your hardware configuration and the way you use Parallels products. We will not collect any personal data, like your name, address, phone number, or keyboard input.

The program is voluntary and aims at making Parallels products better fit your needs.

That’s fine. Except that I never chose to participate. This option was on by default and I make a rule of never participating in these programs. Thus if I am every asked if I want to participate (which by the way is something that previous versions of Parallels did), I would say no. And I know that I said no when I installed version 9. Now I don’t know if this was just a glitch or if there’s something more sinister going on here. But I know that I am not a fan. As I type this, I have not heard back from the company and I would really like to as I’d like them to explain this. However if I do, I will update this story.

Parallels Desktop 9 – Some Privacy Issues Perhaps? [UPDATED]

Posted in Commentary with tags , on December 3, 2013 by itnerd

I’ve been a long time user of Parallels Desktop and their latest version got a very positive review from me recently. But in the last few days, I tripped over something that really, really bothers me.

For starters, I noted that inside my virtual machines it will automatically mount my iCloud folder as a network share. The only thing is that I didn’t tell it to do that. Nor did I ever hand over my Apple ID to allow it to do that. I also noted that it does the same thing with my DropBox account. That kinds of concerns me as they clearly have some sort of method to get these user IDs and passwords. But what concerns me more is the fact that there’s an option in Preferences and Advanced that allows the software to collect information about your computer and its software and periodically send this data back to the company under the guise of helping “to improve Parallels products and services.” It was on by default. That’s a fail as I truly believe that this should be an opt-in option rather than an opt-out option.

I would really like Parallels to explain why they think that the above is a good idea. In my mind, it won’t stop me from using the software, but it will influence me as to whether I get Parallels Desktop 10 or not.

So Parallels, if you want to explain this to me, feel free to leave a comment or drop me an e-mail.

UPDATE: Someone e-mailed me to ask me to show what I was talking about. So here we go. This is a picture of the “Customer Experience Program” option which sends info on your computer and software by default. You can get to it by going to Preferences and Advanced:



This is what should be an opt-in option rather than being an opt-out option. Now here’s what Computer looks like in my Windows 7 virtual machine:



You’ll notice on the left hand side that Dropbox as well as my iCloud stuff is clearly available. Not only that, it’s also listed as a network location. Though it never asked me if I wanted to do that. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the feature, I just want to be asked first. I also would be interested to know how they pulled that off.

Review: Parallels Desktop 9

Posted in Products with tags on September 23, 2013 by itnerd

I’ve been a long time Parallels Desktop user. But I have to admit that I have been running version 7 for a long time now. I skipped version 8 but I figured that I should update to the latest version which is Parallels Desktop 9 as the the main motivation is that version 7 won’t work under OS X Mavericks according to Parallels.

For starters, I was able to buy it using PayPal unlike the last couple times that I tried (but to be fair, VMWare had issues on this front as well). That means this review starts off on a positive note. The upgrade process from 7 was painless. It uninstalled the previous version and installed the new version with minimal interaction from me. Once installed, I simply had to start each of my VMs which allowed the drivers that they needed to run to update. Again that was painless and automatic.

The key new features in this release are:

  • Parallels Desktop 9 has support for cloud storage services like iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft’s SkyDrive, and more. This way you can sync files between your Mac and your Windows virtual machines without having the files duplicated. That will save you disk space. I tried it and it worked well.
  • There’s a single security center that allows you to install security software for your Mac and for your VMs. In my case, I prefer to stick with the software that I’m using right now, but those who don’t have security software for the Mac or the VMs, this will be useful.
  • There’s support for Mountain Lion’s Power Nap feature on MacBook Pro Retina and MacBook Air. This lets you keep your Windows virtual machine’s apps up-to-date when your computer is sleeping. I couldn’t test this as I don’t own either MacBook.
  • There’s support for Windows 8 and 8.1.
  • LINUX VMs have better support.
  • Mountain Lion Dictionary gesture works in Windows applications.
  • Thunderbolt and Firewire devices are supported in VMs. Simply plug and play like a USB device. Nice!

As usual, the biggest feature is speed. Here’s what they promise:

  • 40% better disk performance
  • Virtual machines shut down up to 25% faster
  • Virtual machines suspend up to 20% faster
  • 3D graphics and web browsing is 15% faster

Do they deliver on that? Let me give you my Windows Experience Index scores from my Microsoft Windows Vista and Windows 7 VMs:

  • Microsoft Windows Vista: Before the upgrade it was 4.5. After it was 4.5. No change there.
  • Microsoft Windows 7: Before the upgrade it was 5.1. After it was 5.1. No change there.

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The VMs did feel like they started up and shut down faster. Ditto for suspending them as well. They also felt slightly faster overall. The other thing that I did notice is that the overall feel of my computer while running a VM has improved. I can only conclude that the speed increases won’t show up on a benchmark like Windows Experience Index, but in the product overall. That’s good as far as I am concerned.

So would I recommend this upgrade? If you’ve been running version 7 or earlier, upgrading to Parallels Desktop 9 is a no brainer. I did not run version 8 so I can’t say how it compares to version 9. But there’s enough that’s new here to make it worth your while to look at it. If you’re upgrading from version 7 or 8, expect to pay $50. New users can expect to pay $80. Either way, it’s a great way to run Windows on your Mac.