This article was first published on 2007-07-02. Due to the age of this article, it is included here for archive purposes only.
You just switched to a Mac, so why would you want to go back? Well, no matter how much we hate it, there are just some pieces of software that are Windows-only. A relatively new solution on the market, made possible by the Intel processor on the new Macs, is the user-friendly virtual machine. So far there are several programs out there that will let you run Windows, Linux and any other number of operating systems on your Mac.
How It Works: Nova Development’s Parallels Desktop (version 3, $66.99 on Amazon.com) is one of them. Without getting into the lingo, the program creates a fake, mini computer. You can install Windows on this “computer” and access it whenever you want through the Parallels program. Whether you open it in a window or full-screen, there is a Windows desktop staring back at you. It’s downright shocking the first few times.
How It Measures Up: Parallels is relatively new but has been wildly popular. Most people love it. Some have had horrible experiences. It really comes down to what you want to do with your Windows virtual machine. If you’ve got a few programs that you need to use, that’s fine. However, if you’re a gamer extraordinaire, you may want to look elsewhere, namely BootCamp. Here’s the pro and cons breakdown.
Pros: Parallels is easy to install, from the software itself to the Windows OS you’ll be installing on your dummy virtual machine. From my experience running it on two different Macs, Windows runs near-native speed and does everything real Windows is supposed to do. I’ve never had a glitch with it.
Cons: It’s an investment. You need to purchase the $70 software, the $190 version of Windows and some extra RAM for your machine if you need it. If you do have less than 1GB of RAM, the program will run excruciatingly slow. Customer service is, from many reviews, horrible and parts of the manual have gotten lost in translation. Graphic-intensive programs and games slow the machine down.
I use Parallels because I need one or two Windows programs on a regular basis, and I know that people love using Parallels for programs like Quicken. It was a splurge for me but I’m very happy with my purchases. It took a couple tries to install Windows and I solved the problem by increasing the memory for my virtual machine.
My only real complaint is that the first moments after I start Parallels and boot up my Windows XP, the process slows both my computer and the virtual machine down.
If you’re dying to play good old Spider Solitaire on your MacBook Pro right now, give Parallels a try. If you can wait, the technology is only going to get better. Nova has just released Version 3.0 with over 50 fixes and upgrades. Whether you try Parallels now or later, you may want to buy your copy of Windows XP now, before Vista forces it off the shelves.
Mary Kolesnikova writes a website for newbies (women) to blogging. You can find her at girlcapitalist.com.