Parallels Desktop for Mac is one of the most popular tools for running Windows on Apple’s Mac hardware and operating system. This year’s release brings the software to version 13 and promises full compatibility with Microsoft’s Windows 10 Fall Creator update as well as Apple’s High Sierra operating system when these OS launch.
Parallels Desktop 13 for Mac supports Apple’s latest hardware additions, specifically the TouchBar on the company’s latest MacBook Pro models as well as up to 32 virtual CPU cores and up to 128 GB of vRAM per virtual machine on the powerful iMac Pro hardware when it becomes available b. In my preview of Parallels Desktop 13 for Mac in San Francisco, California, I found that Windows 10 runs fluidly and swiftly on Apple’s MacBook Pro 15-inch and MacBook Pro 13-inch with TouchBar, and full support for the iMac Pro’s hardware could mean that Parallels could be one of the fastest Windows 10 experiences.
Parallels is making getting Windows on to a Mac as frictionless as possible, and with Parallels Desktop 13 through the built-in Installation Assistant. The wizard offers several ways to load Windows onto your Mac, including using a free trial version, connecting directly with Microsoft’s servers to obtain a Windows key and pre-fill that key when you’re installing Windows—no more having to copy and paste or type in the Windows serial number yourself—or if you already have a Windows 10 license, it can help you migrate that license, along with all your files, settings and documents, to a virtual machine partition that you set up on your Mac.
Parallels representatives in San Francisco would not confirm if the automatic Windows 10 migration tool would work with a pre-installed copy of Windows, like what you get when you purchase a new PC, and told me that users should check with the licensing agreements with Microsoft. If you had purchased an actual license that didn’t come pre-installed with a purchase of a new PC, that license should migrate fine, and the process takes a few hours. Migration of data can be done over a wired connection, like a USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable or wirelessly over your Wi-Fi network.
In addition to Windows 10, the installation guide can help you install other editions of Microsoft’s OS along with other free operating systems, including Linux and even Android.
When Windows is loaded, there are several ways you can run Windows on your Mac. You can have Parallels load up as an app, and Windows 10 can be confined to a window on your desktop, or you can operate Coherence mode, which makes Windows 10 virtually invisible on your Mac. In Coherence mode, for example, you won’t see a Windows window. Instead, you can just launch any of your Windows 10 apps or programs, and they’ll appear on your Mac like a native Mac app.
If you choose, however, to confine Windows 10 to its own window, you can resize the window and Windows 10’s resolution dynamically change to adjust to the new window size. This year, with version 13, Parallels reps told me that the refresh to adjust the windows size is instantaneous and much quicker. In my experience with prior versions, resizing a Windows window cause the screen to temporarily flicker before the new resolution was applied, but this was not the case on Parallels Desktop 13.
Additionally, scaling has also been improved to smoothen out how Windows and Windows apps appear on Apple’s Retina Display. Text, icons and images are now smoothened to appear less pixelated.
A third way to run Windows is to use Picture-in-Picture mode. Similar to how PiP allows videos to remain on top, you can have your Windows virtual machine always on top, even if you’re running a Mac app in full screen mode. The PiP window will constantly refresh so you’ll always see any changes or updates inside the Windows environment.
With Windows on a Mac, Parallels is also delivering TouchBar support. You’ll have access to dynamic TouchBar controls whenever you launch a Windows application or program, and out of the box, Parallels Desktop 13 for Mac offers TouchBar integration for Office 2016, Windows Start Menu and Desktop, Cortana, File Explorer and a variety of different browsers.
If you use other apps on Windows and want to enable TouchBar support, you can use Parallels’s TouchBar Wizard to configure specific actions on the MacBook Pro’s TouchBar.
With the Fall Creator Update, Microsoft is bringing a new People Bar experience, which allows you see your contact’s information as well as a shortcut to send them messages or email. The People Bar will also get a home on OS X’s dock, if you wish.
There are plenty of under the hood changes as well, and Parallels promises that there is a 100 percent improvement when connecting an external Thunderbolt SSD, allowing for near-native performance. Overall, working with Windows files is now 47 percent faster and USB devices gain a 40 percent improvement with Parallels Desktop 13.
Parallels also supports more OpenGL apps this year. Now, users of the DIALUx evo professional lighting design suite and strategy guard Northgard can benefit from OpenGL support when running these Windows apps on Parallels on their Mac.
With the subscription edition of Parallels, you’ll have access to Parallels Toolbox for Mac and Parallels Toolbox for Windows. Designed to mimic the look of Windows 10’s Action Center, Toolbox gives your Mac and PC environments added utility, with quick access to functions like capturing a screen recording, muting your microphone and performing a screengrab. You can even download web videos, convert audio and videos and find duplicate files.
Parallels Desktop for Mac starts at $79.99 for a perpetual license, while new customers can sign up for a subscription plan, which delivers continual updates to Parallels Desktop 13, Parallels Toolbox for Mac and Toolbox for WIndows for $99.99 per year. There is also a Business Edition for business users, and the software can be obtained as a download from Parallels site or through Apple retail channels.