Parallels is a good way to run Windows, Linux and any other x86 operating systems on a Mac.
Parallels was the first available when Apple switched to Intel processors six years ago and remains one of the fastest and most fully featured programs out there.
The new version of Parallels Desktop for Mac provides running improvements to performance and the interface, along with some compelling new features.
Running Windows on the Mac
The easiest way to run Windows on a Mac is BootCamp. The Boot Camp utility included in OS X automates most stages of the installation process and includes a simple program that installs all the necessay drivers.
The advantage of a virtual machine setup is to enable another OS to run at the same time as the original OS, removing the need for annoying reboots. It also adds the benefit of being able to restore your entire OS to a fully working state in a few simple clicks if anything goes wrong.
Parallels has also invested in graphics, providing enough performance that you can even play some Windows games, virtualised. The new version feels even faster than older versions.
Using Parallels you can now use a MacBook’s integrated webcam from inside Windows! It even supports Microsoft’s DirectX up to version 9.0c/9Ex.
Miscellaneous improvements include support for digital audio up to 192kHz sample frequency, 7.1-channel surround sound, and better integration with new UI features in Lion, such as full-screen mode, LaunchPad and Mission Control.
The full-screen user interface changes are significant. Parallels previously used hot corners to enable a page-curl graphic, revealing the host OS below. While fine in theory, it could clash with other hot corners you had arranged and there was no other easy way to interact with the host, other than to avoid full-screen mode entirely.
The Coherence feature means that It’s still possible to run Windows programs in a Windows-less environment, so that those programs appear mingled with regular OS X apps. Its still in it’s early days yet, as the Aero translucency is lost and the corner of Windows programs’ windows are squared off rather than rounded. That said, these Windows windows do integrate well with Lion’s Mission Control interface.
Seeing as it’s primary selling point is it’s Windows-on-Mac functionality, this is where Parallels still does best; it excels in speed. It’s so fast that you can no longer tell the difference between running Windows on Parallels or through Boot Camp most of the time.
And for gamers, this virtualisation solution is still the app of choice; in some cases it even exceeds obtained from running Windows natively! This speed comes at the expense of stability though. Of the many programs we run on the Mac platform, Parallels Desktop for Mac is the only one that still sporadically gives us kernel panics.
Other times, when a Windows app seizes up within Windows, we find our whole computer freezes to the point of requiring a forced reboot.