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What You Get

As well as Parallels Internet Security powered by Kaspersky, the suite includes Acronis True Image Home 2010 and Acronis Disk Director Suite 10.0.

System Requirements

  • Any Macintosh computer with an Intel processor (1.66 GHz or greater). To run 64-bit operating systems in virtual machines, an Intel Core 2 or later processor is required.
  • A minimum 1 GB of memory, 2 GB of memory is recommended.
  • About 450 MB of disk space on the boot volume for the Parallels Desktop for Mac installation.
  • About 15 GB of disk space for each virtual machine.
Software Requirements:
  • Mac OS X Tiger v10.4.11 or later, including Mac OS X Snow Leopard v10.6
To experience Windows Aero 3D graphics, you will need the following graphics hardware:
  • ATI Radeon x1600 or better
  • NVIDIA GeForce 7300M or better Intel graphics chipsets are not supported for Aero.

Parallels Desktop 5

By Monte Ferguson

Macs in the enterprise world today are a very small percentage of the computers used in business. A growing, but a minor player in the enterprise world to be sure. That means, at some point, a business Mac user will have to deal with a Microsoft dominated infrastructure. Most of the Microsoft/Windows enterprise tools, such as print servers, file servers or network authentication servers , do not support Mac clients. To get along, you have to play along. For many that means having to run Windows.

Apple has a solution, called Boot Camp, but it requires you shut down MacOS X and then boot directly into Windows. Not an elegant solution. Parallels takes a different approach. It, Parallels, acts as a middle layer. It presents itself as a standard PC to Windows. It also routes the Windows OS commands to the appropriate hardware on the Mac. Parallels allows you to run the MacOS and Windows at the same time. You can even copy/paste, as well as drag and drop between both operating systems transparently. More importantly, to many Mac users, it allows you to use as much or as little of Windows as you need.

Parallels 5 Desktop marks a major update to the virtualization program. These changes can be summed up as Faster, Smarter, and More Powerful

Faster
Under the hood improvement to the virtualization engine have resulted in a notable increase in performance, up to three times faster (according to testing from research company Crimson Consulting Group). This means that Windows runs faster, and therefore leaves more processor time for the MacOS to use. The upshot being that not only does Windows run faster it also runs more efficiently. On the MacOS X side of things that means you encounter few, if any, slow downs as you use Windows under Parallels. Parallels has also found some interesting ways to enhance performance, such as disabling non essential Windows features. A new video driver means that those who need to use Windows Vista or Windows 7 will have full support for the new graphics engine which will make those OS's run faster. Parallels has also added a new enhanced Compressor that allows you to fine tune the performance of your virtual machine. And for those who happen to have a MacPro they can assign up to 8 CPU's to Parallels.

Smarter
Calling Parallels Desktop 5 smarter may be a bit of a misnomer. Most of what the company touts as "smarter" has more to do with options relating to working with Windows. I prefer to think of it as letting you determine how much, or how little, of Windows you really need to see or deal with. But there are some definitely useful additions which allows you to use Windows, via Parallels 5, more efficiently and more intelligently.

Parallels has added yet another way of running apps without seeing Windows, called Crystal Mode. Crystal Mode moves the Windows Start Menu to the Apple tool bar and adds a Windows Apps folder to the Dock. Very handy if you just need to run an app but do not need to see the OS at all. Another new feature is a MacLook Theme. It makes Windows programs look like native Mac applications.(As well as changing icons on the Windows desktop to Mac equivalents.) MacLook is nice but there are other ways of skinning Windows. I also noticed it tended to slow down my virtual environment.

Of course you still have the option to use other modes such as: Coherence (Windows and Mac applications side-by-side); Window (run your Virtual Machine as a separate window alongside your Mac applications); Full Screen (Replace your Mac desktop with Windows 7, Vista, or XP); and Modality (View all your Virtual Machines and programs running in transparent windows working in Mac OS X.)

What stood out to me as truly "smart" features were things which are present on the Mac, yet lacking on Windows, that Parallels enables. One of those features is multi-touch gestures. Microsoft has not implemented this in Windows itself. Yet Parallels Desktop 5 enables it as an option. Another welcome feature is multi-monitor support. Just plug in a second monitor and Parallels automatically detects it. Even better you can choose to put Windows on the second screen and MacOS X on the main screen. No need to fiddle with monitor settings in Windows. Just manage monitors as usual via the MacOS.

More Powerful
Their most touted, and most visible improvement, related to raw performance is in the area of 3D graphics and gaming. Parallels 5 has a new graphics driver that allows enables all of the visual effects, the so called Aero theme, in Windows Vista and Windows 7 virtual machines. Parallels also offers support for OpenGL 2.1, and Shader Model 3 for DirectX 9c/9Ex for Windows Vista/7. What that means is you can play modern PC games and they play much faster. Professional users can also run demanding 3d programs like AutoCad.

Parallels also supports powerful new tools for IT folks who need to manage virtual machines. Parallels 5 supports; Smart Card readers, virtual Local Area Networks, and virtual machine lockdown. (Locking down a virtual machine ensures extra protection. An administrator could choose to require an administrator password to change a virtual machine or set it so that average users can not add or remove programs. Administrators could even turn off all MacOS integration features thereby isolating the virtual environment.)

Other handy features include; The ability to compress change the size of the virtual hard disk on the fly from the interface itself, and an enhanced Parallels Transporter makes converting other virtual machines, as well as virtualizing a PC, a relatively painless process.

Pros
The things I noticed most about Parallels 5 was how it made the whole Windows management much easier than on a native PC. You'll notice it right away. Installing Windows is a task that usually requires several dialog boxes and a good chunk of time. Parallels presents one dialog box and fills in the rest for you. Even the installation itself was faster than on a native PC in my tests. I had a working system in under 40 min total, including installation of Parallels itself.

After the install there are lots of thoughtful Mac touches that makes your life easier when using Windows. Things that we take for granted, such as drag and drop files (between operating systems and within Windows), copy and paste (between operating systems), and true plug and play. (Plug in a device and Parallels asks you if you want to use it in the virtual machine or MacOS X.) If you want to avoid Windows altogether Parallels sets up a Windows Applications folder in your Dock. Just click on the Folder and it lists all of the apps in the Windows Start menu. It also creates a virtual hard disk that you can navigate via the Finder.

You don't have to learn Windows keyboard shortcuts. Parallels converts Mac keyboard shortcuts into their Windows equivalents transparently. You just use the familiar Mac keyboard commands and Parallels will tell Windows to use the equivalent key commands. You can set a file to open with a Windows app or a Mac app. There are more helpful features but the end result is you get to work faster and do not have to remember two ways of doing things.

To my mind it also lets you choose to use the tools that are best for the job at hand. You can choose to use a Mac or a PC app.

Cons
I ran into a problem when I initially setup Parallels at my workplace, on a LAN using DHCP. I could connect to the internet but not to our internal Windows Domain, basically locking me out of the internal network. We, myself an IT tech, eventually tracked down the problem. We had to manually enable the WINS Server settings. For some reason it did not automatically detect the WINS Server. Thankfully that was the only issue I have had with the program.

I have run into a minor irritation and it revolves around the use of snap shots. Using snap shots, basically restoration points, for the virtual machine is not compatible with Parallels' hard disk management features. Specifically you can't optimize or compress the virtual machine’s hard drive. A definite disappointment.

Conclusion
Parallels goes beyond the utilitarian task of running Windows. It works hard to integrate the two operating systems closer together. The result being that Windows actually works better, at least from a Mac users perspective.You spend less time managing Windows and more time getting things done. Most of the time the program is just running in the background. You tend to forget about it. For existing owners of previous versions the speed improvements alone justify the cost of the upgrade.

If you need to run Windows, especially if you need to run Windows as well as MacOS X, check out Parallels Desktop. The program is straight forward to use. It is flexible enough to let you work the way YOU want to work. Best of all it eases the process of running and using Windows and Windows apps. That is no small feat.

Posted: Sunday, June 20th, 2010


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