Parallels Review

The go-to software for emulating Windows and Linux on Mac machines

Updated: June 02,2022

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Parallels Desktop is a PC emulation utility that lets you run Windows and Windows applications on your Apple Mac PC or laptop. The software lets you run essential Windows applications without buying a second computer.

Does it work? How well? Those are the questions behind our Parallels review. 

Price range:
$79.99 - $99.99
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  • Number of Devices Supported: One
  • Processing Power: Can use up to 128 GB of RAM and 32 virtual CPUs
  • Best price: $79.99 for a one-time purchase
  • Free Trial: Two weeks
pros thumb up Pros
  • Easy to set up, install, and operate
  • Excellent interface
  • Over 200,000 Windows apps that run on Mac
  • Live chat, phone, and email support
pros thumb down Cons
  • Prices can be confusing
  • Limited support for the Standard version

What Does Parallels Software Do?

If you’re wondering “What is Parallels for Mac?” you are not alone. This utility serves a distinctive purpose. It lets you run Windows programs on your Mac. Since there is plenty of Mac software for just about any purpose, most people don’t need Parallels.

But let’s say your company uses Microsoft’s configuration management tool, SCCM, to ensure that all your PCs are running the latest version of the operating system and applications. With Parallels Desktop, you can integrate the marketing department’s Mac laptops into the company’s overall configuration management system. That’s a big win.

Our Parallels for Mac review covers this contingency. Parallels Desktop can also be important for Mac users who must run internally developed applications that were written for Windows. You can use Mac applications for writing reports and editing memos, then switch to your in-house Windows accounting software in a Parallels window.

Of course, you can already run Windows on a Mac with Boot Camp, an Apple utility that ships with every Macintosh computer. Boot Camp lets you boot up your Macintosh computer into Windows or macOS. It’s free and reliable, and if all you need to do is run a Windows app now and then, it may be perfect for you.

Many Parallels Desktop reviews fail to note that Parallels and Boot Camp are quite different. With Parallels Desktop, you launch a Windows virtual machine that runs on your Mac while you are still running macOS and Macintosh apps. You run both kinds of software simultaneously on the same laptop or PC.

The Parallels team has worked hard to support better integration between Windows and macOS. For example, you can use drag-and-drop to transfer images from popular Mac applications into Windows apps or email files from the Mac Finder interface using your Windows email client.

Our Parallels virtual machine review will show you that in addition to running a Windows 10 session under macOS, you can also run earlier versions of Windows – or Unix or Linux if you prefer. You can even set up Parallels to run the copy of Windows you installed to work with Boot Camp.

The virtual machine approach is what makes it possible for Parallels to run Windows and macOS at the same time. With Boot Camp, you have to restart your Mac to run Windows. With Parallels, the second operating system runs in a window while macOS and Macintosh apps continue to run.

If that sounds useful to you, read on. We’ll explain the Parallels free trial and throw in a Parallels Toolbox review to tell you all about this innovative family of products.

Parallels Pricing

Before you sign up for a Parallels Desktop subscription you’ll naturally want to know: How much is Parallels?

The price of a license depends on which package you choose. The company offers three: Standard, Pro, and Business. The different editions have different licensing models.

The Standard edition, which is for home and student use, sells for a one-time price of $79.99. Telephone tech support is provided for 30 days, and you get another two years of support via email. The Standard edition does not include updates or upgrades according to our review of Parallels pricing policies.

The Pro and Business editions of Parallels Desktop are sold on an annual subscription basis. The Pro and Business editions cost $99.99 per year. Subscriptions renew automatically unless you take specific steps to cancel them.

Apple’s WWDC 2020 Announcement

Before you decide between a purchase and an ongoing subscription, you should have an idea of Parallels Desktop’s future. And in our judgment, that future became murky at the June 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, which was held online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Apple broke news at the conference that is relevant to all Parallels reviews.

Apple confirmed widespread rumors by announcing at the conference that future Macintosh PCs and laptops would use Apple’s own ARM-based CPUs instead of Intel processors. The first ARM-based Macs will be released during 2020, Apple said, with a full transition happening over a couple of years.

This is big news for Parallels because the current version of Parallels Desktop certainly will not work on ARM-based Macs. Developing Parallels was feasible in large part because both macOS and Windows run on the same Intel CPUs. Creating a version of Parallels Desktop that will run on ARM-based Macs is a much, much harder problem.

That’s big news for a review of Parallels for Mac.

In a June 22, 2020, blog post on the Parallels website, Parallels VP John Uppendahl said the company was working closely with Apple to continue supplying cross-platform solutions to Mac users. “We look forward to sharing more information about Parallels Desktop’s support for Mac with Apple silicon in the future,” he wrote. The blog post paints an optimistic picture of future “cross-platform solutions” to Macintosh users, but does not promise a version of Parallels Desktop for Apple’s new Macs.

It is important to take this information into account when deciding whether to commit your company to a cross-platform architecture that relies upon running Windows apps on Mac PCs. Our Parallels 15 review will soon be obsolete.

One other data point: Apple said that the new architecture would mean the end of its Boot Camp utility. That could open up opportunities for current and future Parallels products.

Parallels Pricing Plans

Parallels Desktop Standard sells for $79.99. During our review period, it was marked down to $69.99. The standard package gives you 8 GB of virtual RAM to work with as well as four virtual CPUs. According to our review, Parallels 15 Standard is an excellent, cost-effective solution for home users, students, and small businesses. It even lets you download and install Windows 10 with a single click – a nice touch.

Parallels Desktop Pro ($99.99 per year) provides greater processing capacity plus features for business. It allocates as much as 128 GB of RAM for each virtual machine, and assigns each as many as 32 virtual CPUs. The Pro version also integrates with Chef, Ohai, and Docker. It has a network conditioner tool to speed data transfers and a Visual Studio plug-in for Windows apps that rely on it. Our Mac Parallels review confirms that the Pro version includes 24/7 premium customer support via telephone and email.

Priced at $99.99 per year, Parallels Desktop Business Edition adds centralized administration and asset management to the mix, plus a unified volume license key for mass deployment.

Those are the formal pricing plans for Parallel Desktop. However, the company understands that spec sheets and price lists are sometimes insufficient when a business is deciding whether to commit to a cross-platform technology. That’s why the company created a 14-day free Parallels trial that lets you review Parallels for yourself.

You don’t even need to enter any banking details, and there is no need to remember to cancel before the 14 days are up. Once you’ve installed your Parallels free trial and tested it under real-world loads, you’ll be able to judge for yourself whether it is the best software to meet your needs.

Installation Process

The next step in conducting a real-world evaluation of this innovative utility is actually setting up Parallels, so we’ll give you a quick how-to-install Parallels 15 review.

To get started on Parallels, select the “try out” option on the home page. The web site will invite you to install Windows 10 on your Mac. Windows 10 is 5.25 GB of software, which took us about 15 minutes to download. That could be a faster or slower process for you depending on the speed of your internet connections.

You can also transfer Windows from a USB or use an existing Windows installation you have used with Boot Camp.

parallels instalation

Parallels gives you ample instructions on how to install Parallels on Mac and review it quickly. Even if you’re not the most tech-savvy person in the world, you shouldn’t have any trouble loading it onto your Mac device. Once it has been installed, you’ll notice that there is now quick access to Parallels from your Mac’s toolbar, signified by two red lines. Click on the icon on your toolbar to open Parallels Desktop.

parallels interface

At this point you’ll need to sign in to your Microsoft account. Once you do, you’ll have access to all of your documents and files through your OneDrive account. 

That’s how easy it is to get a Parallels Desktop trial version up and running. You’ll have access to Windows, Windows programs, and your Windows data within minutes.

Parallels Features

Our Parallels Desktop 15 review covers the latest version of the product and its features. Our goal is to help you decide whether this is a program that is worth your money. 

Performance is always a concern when software runs in a virtual machine. Many of the newest features of Parallels Desktop 15 are intended to make non-native operating systems run faster in virtual machines on the Mac.

In our tests, we tested performance by attempting to run computer games. Nothing tests interrupts, video, and overall responsiveness like a fast-paced video game. The Parallels Desktop for Mac Pro edition we review here not only did a great job with Windows games but allowed us to play Xbox Play Anywhere games too.

We also tested a Sidecar feature that allows you to use an iPad as a second screen for a Mac system running Parallels Desktop. We found it handy to run macOS and Mac software on one screen while the other was reserved for Windows and Windows apps. This allows you to optimize your work time and fully take advantage of the Parallels system. 

parallels dual screens

We’ll also share a quick review of the Parallels Toolbox. This is one of the best features of Parallels. It is included at no extra cost with Parallels Pro and Business. Users of Parallels Standard can buy it for $19.99.

Parallels Toolbox appears at the bottom right of your Windows screen. When you click on it, you’ll be given quick and easy access to various functions on your Mac, such as its camera, screen recording, and hide-the-desktop features. This streamlines your ability to move data quickly back and forth between the Mac and the Windows virtual PC. We find it a handy utility, so our Parallels Toolbox for Mac review gives it a stamp of approval.

How Does Parallels Compare to Other Products? 

This section of our review describes how Parallels compare to other similar products. We choose two software products, VMware and VirtualBox, install them on our computer and check their functionalities. They are similar to Parallels yer there are some important differences that we need to highlight.

Parallels vs VMware

Like Parallels, VMWare Fusion allows you to create and use a virtual machine that runs on your Mac computer, meaning that you can install and use Windows apps and programs and use them through your Mac computer.

Although the basic functionality is the same for both software products, Parallels is the less complicated software to use. Designed for IT professionals and developers, VMware is commonly used in large companies and businesses that rely on robust software systems.

Parallels Desktop for Mac is easy to install and set up. For less tech-savvy users, this is the main reason for choosing Parallels over VMware.

However, if you feel ready to use more complicated systems that require IT skills, you should try VMware. There’s a free plan for both personal and business users. Although limited to basic features, it is still a good option, especially if you want to test the software before purchasing.

For the purpose of our review, we tried both products, checking their compatibility, features, and performances. Overall, our impression is that Parallels is a faster and more intuitive software than VMware, but not as powerful. It is also cheaper compared to the paid versions of VMware, which start at $149 for the VMware Fusion 12 Player and $199 for the VMware Fusion 12 Pro.

VirtualBox vs Parallels

Oracle VM VirtualBox is an open-source visualization software that allows you to run Windows or Linux on your Mac computer. While both VirtualBox and Parallels are used for the same purpose, each product has its own specialty, making it more or less suitable for a specific user.

First off, we checked each product’s user-friendliness. Our opinion is that VirtualBox is designed for more experienced users, developers, or anyone willing to spend some time on setting up the software. Parallels for Mac is less complicated to install and use. There’s also a setup wizard that will walk you through the setup process, so you practically don’t need any experience with similar software to get started.

Secondly, there’s is a difference in software usage. While Parallels is mainly installed on Mac devices for running Windows OS, VirtualBox runs on several operating systems, including Windows and Linux.

Parallels Recent Upgrades

The company has recently released a new version for macOS Monterey. Regardless of the pricing option you choose, Parallels Standard vs Pro, the new Parallels Desktop 17 will be available to you. In addition to an even smoother Windows interface, you will enjoy much better performance when you use apps or play games.

During our test of the new version, we spotted that Windows resume time is now faster. According to the Parallels website, the time needed to start using your Windows apps is now 38% faster, and it definitely shows in everyday usage.

Parallels Customer Service

Parallels offers 2.47 customer support with live chat, email, and phone support that you can access as soon as you start using one of the software’s pricing plans. Depending on how much you decide to pay, you will get either a lifetime or limited-time support.

With Pro and Business versions of Parallels Desktop, you will get unlimited customer support. For these plans, you pay an annual subscription, and they are pricier than the Standard Plan.

With a perpetual license, live chat and phone support will be available for you for up to 30 days. You can continue using email support for up to two years after the release date of the software version you purchase.

When choosing between Parallels Desktop Standard vs Pro or Business, the simple rule of thumb is this: more expensive and subscription-based plans get more support options.

Parallels Review – Bottom Line

In today’s working world, speed and convenience mean everything. They’re really the only reason we have computers in the first place. If you want to work effectively, then you need to optimize your hardware and software so that they function smoothly and allow you to work in a way that brings out the best in you. For many of us, this means finding a smooth way to transition gradually from Windows PCs to Macs. Parallels Desktop is perfect for this.

We hope our Parallels 15 review helps you make an assessment as to whether it would be a useful tool for you. We loved using it and having access to Windows software on our Mac laptops. 

The installation process is very straightforward, and you can have access to all of your Windows data on your Mac within minutes. 

You must conduct a Parallels review of your own to see if the product is worth the price for you. It really depends on what your requirements are. If running Windows on your Mac is a convenience but not a necessity, then Parallels probably is not worth the price. But if you work in a field like web development or you need the latest software to work effectively on two platforms, then you could find Parallels Desktop a great value.

Is Parallels for Mac good?

Parallels for Mac is an excellent piece of software if you require Windows features on your Mac. The Parallels software we reviewed fits Windows seamlessly into the Mac environment, giving us easy access to programs and data. It is simple to install and operate. If you’re not sure about it, download the Parallels Desktop free trial to see if it’s the right software for you.

Is Parallels bad for your Mac?

No. Running Parallels Desktop can’t hurt your Mac. Running a second operating system in a virtual machine will consume resources and make your Mac apps run more slowly, but you’ll get all your speed back when you shut down the Windows session.

How much does Parallels for Mac cost?

Parallels Desktop Standard costs $79.99. Parallels Desktop Pro is licensed by the year at $99.99, and Parallels Desktop for Business costs $119.99 per year. 

How much RAM do I need to run Parallels?

You’ll need at least 8 GB of RAM to run Parallels, and the more memory you have, the better it will run.

Is Boot Camp or Parallels better?

When looking at Bootcamp vs Parallels you must understand that they run in different ways. With Boot Camp, you power up your Mac as a Windows PC. When you want to run macOS and Mac apps again, you must reboot. Then reboot again for Windows. With Parallels Desktop, the two operating systems run inside. The native macOS is the host, while Windows (or Linux or Unix) runs in a virtual machine.

Where to buy Parallels for Mac?

Parallels Desktop is available on the Parallels website. You’ll find instructions on how to install the program, tips for using it, and details about different versions so you can choose the one that’s best for you. Our Parallels review team believes you can’t go wrong with any version of the software if the cross-platform features it offers are important to you or your business.