Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac
Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac is the latest version of the Parallels Desktop software that allows Mac users to run Windows simultaneously. It’s not the same as Apple’s own Boot Camp mind you. You see, Boot Camp allows you to install and run Windows on your Mac, but it exists in a separate partition on your hard drive and you must reboot your Mac in order to run Windows.
Parallels Desktop is a virtualization software that allows Mac users to run Windows within macOS. You can switch instantaneously from one OS to the next and even copy files and text from one OS to the other.
Parallels has always prided itself on its ease of use and interoperability, bringing the best of both worlds seamlessly together. In Parallels Desktop 12, you can use Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant to control macOS, and you can also use Siri to control Windows 10. Icons for Windows apps will also show up on your Mac dock and Launchpad. Likewise, you will find your Mac files in Windows’ File Explorer and you can work on them so long as you have compatible Windows apps. Windows apps can also be launched in fullscreen mode, just like your Mac apps; and Mac features like Mission Control and Notification Center will also fully support Windows apps.
While last year’s Parallels Desktop 11 was important because it supported the new Windows 10 operating system, this year’s Parallels Desktop 12 is more of an under-the-hood upgrade. Some key performance improvements that Parallels claim are 90% faster snapshot creation (a snapshot is a saved state of the virtual machine), 60% faster suspension of virtual machines, 25% faster shared folders performance, 10% battery life improvement, and better performance in low memory situations.
I didn’t have a Mac running Parallels Desktop 11 to test these comparisons, but Parallels Desktop 12 ran smoothly on my test machine, which is a 3-year old 13-inch MacBook Pro with very modest specifications - just a dual- core 2.6GHz Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of flash storage.
Speaking of powerful Mac machines, you’ll definitely want one of them if you decide to do any amount of gaming. Parallels Desktop 12 will support even more gaming features and one of them is the Xbox app on Windows 10, which allows users to stream games from their Xbox onto their Windows machine. On paper, it sounds like a cool feature because all of the heavy game processing duties will be handled on the Xbox, and all you need is a good connection to stream the game. Unfortunately, I didn’t have an Xbox to test out this feature. What you might be interested in though, is the fact that Parallels Desktop 12 will allow you to run Overwatch on your Mac. Even so, I won’t recommend Mac users to run out and get Parallels Desktop for the sole purpose of gaming; it’s more of a value add proposition and will serve in a pinch.
Parallels also has a new utility called Parallels Toolbox. It’s available as a standalone app, but it comes free with Parallels Desktop 12 and it has some handy features. For example, it allows you to download videos from video-sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo straight to your system. It’s also a screen recorder, allowing you to record a video of your desktop, active window or a designated area. It can even help you transcode videos so that you can upload them onto your iPhone and iPad.
Overall, the Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac does a good job of improving the Windows on Mac usage experience. But the biggest problem it faces today is that not many people require such services. With every new generation, Macs have been getting better compatibility and a good variety of apps to choose from. Web-based services and content are also more prevalent than ever, which means fewer reasons for the average Mac user to rely on traditional Windows apps.
What’s it ends up being really good at however, is running multiple virtual machines on a single system. Besides Windows, Parallels Desktop 12 supports other operating systems such as Chromium OS, Android, Linux, and even older versions of OS X. If you require running specialized apps, or have a penchant of testing software in a virtualized, sandboxed environment, then Parallels Desktop 12 is a lifesaver.
AT A GLANCE
macOS Sierra 10.12 or later, OS X El Capitan 10.11.5 or later, OS X Yosemite 10.10.5 or later
Windows 95, 98, 7, 8, 10 and more