Parallels Desktop 17 Review | Tech Radar

Parallels is an American software company specializing in virtual machine software. It is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, and has offices in more than a dozen other countries in Europe and Asia. Since 2018, Parallels has been a subsidiary of Corel Corporation, a Canadian software giant.

Parallels’ best-known product is its “Parallels Desktop for Mac“Windows virtualization tool for Mac computers with Intel processors or Apple’s M1 processor. However, it also has a similar virtualization tool for Google Chromebooks running Chrome OS.

We’ve tested Parallels Desktop for Mac extensively to give you a detailed and unbiased review. Our review is based on specific criteria, including price, features, ease of use, customer support, and more.


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Packages and prices

There are four editions of Parallels Desktop for Mac:

Parallels also lets you upgrade from the Student edition to the Standard or Pro editions at any time for $49.99.

The main difference between the different editions is the amount of virtual random access memory (RAM) allocated and the number of virtual central processing units (CPUs) allowed. The Standard edition offers 8 GB of virtual RAM and four virtual processors; Pro Edition 128 GB of virtual RAM and 32 virtual processors; and Professional Edition 128 GB of RAM and 32 vCPUs.

Customer support also differs in different editions. The Standard edition offers phone and email support for 30 days, while the other editions offer unlimited phone and email support.

You can use a free 14-day trial period to test all editions before purchasing.

Mac M1 support

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The main function of Parallels Desktop for Mac is to install and run a virtual desktop environment on your Mac computer. It creates a virtual machine (VM), basically a virtual PC inside your Mac. You can then install macOS, Windows, or Linux on the virtual machine as you would on any regular computer.

Each virtual machine functions as a stand-alone computer, with virtually all the functionality of a physical computer. Using Parallels Desktop, you can run up to 32 virtual machines on a single Mac PC. You no longer have to choose between Windows, Linux or Mac.


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There are several ways to install virtual machines on Parallels Desktop. You can install it via optical disc image, USB drive, CD, DVD, or the app. The application allows you to buy, download and install the Windows operating system with just a few clicks.

Notable features included in Parallels Desktop for Mac include;

You can open Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint documents from the Safari browser in their native Windows Office application.

Instant access

You can launch and access Windows applications directly from the macOS Dock after installing a Windows virtual machine. You can also do the reverse; open macOS applications from a Windows virtual machine.

Parallels Desktop lets you automatically use all your Mac’s keyboard layouts in Windows. You can also customize keyboard shortcuts for each virtual machine.

Another notable feature is that you can easily switch between macOS and Windows virtual machines with a simple mouse scroll. This feature makes managing multiple VMs simultaneously as easy as possible.

Parallels Desktop lets you use Apple’s Retina Display technology on the Windows operating system. Retina Display is a marketing term coined by Apple representing its technology that allows the display to show more detail than traditional screens. This means that the pixel density is so high that the human eye cannot distinguish individual pixels at an average viewing distance.

You can control Parallels Desktop through a provided command line interface. This interface is a nice addition to the GUI and is suitable for people who prefer to manage their PC this way.

You can create and manage virtual machines from the CLI, including their settings and configurations.

Parallels Desktop provides many features to secure the virtual machines you install on a Mac computer. You can encrypt a virtual machine with a password and restrict failover between virtual machines with a required administrator password. Instead of manual passwords, you can also use Apple’s “Touch ID” fingerprint lock system.

Another notable security feature is that you can prevent users from connecting specific USB devices to virtual machines. You can also create VMs that expire after a set time. After the virtual machine expires, your PC immediately reclaims disk space for use elsewhere.

One of the most popular use cases for virtualization tools like Parallels Desktop is software design and development. There are specific developer tools available exclusively for Mac, Linux, or Windows operating systems. Usually you’ll be limited to those of the operating system you’re running, but Parallels Desktop lets you access them all at once, thanks to virtual machines.

With Parallels Desktop, you can access different software development tools without limits. For example, you can use Microsoft’s native Visual Studio IDE directly on a Mac.

This feature is mainly for the Business edition which supports 32 vCPUs. The ideal use case for this high number of vCPUs is in a company where many people share the same computer and preferably have different virtual desktops (machines). You can manage all users as an administrator; upload a CSV list of users, promote admins, block users, send personalized messages to users, and more.

Parallels Access is a remote access tool included as a bonus feature for Parallels Desktop users. It lets you remotely access your Mac from any supported iOS device, Android device, or browser. You can access all your Mac files from other devices. Likewise, you can use all your Mac desktop apps as if they were native iPhone, iPad, or Android apps.

Parallels Access typically costs $20 per year, but it’s a free feature included in the Parallels Desktop app.

Parallels Toolbox

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Parallels Toolbox is another bonus feature included in Parallels Desktop for Mac. It is a collection of tools to help you keep your Mac or Windows PC running smoothly, as well as lots of utility tools like a screen recorder and sleep timer. Its notable features include an app uninstaller, hidden file finder, and duplicate file finder.

Parallels Toolbox usually costs $20 for an annual subscription, but it’s a free feature in the Parallels Desktop app.


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Interface and in use

Downloading and installing Parallels Desktop for Mac is easy. The tricky part is setting it up for initial use.

To download the installation file, go to the official website. You can buy a license immediately or get the free trial and upgrade later.

After downloading the installation file, run it and the installation begins. It takes a few minutes at most. Next, setting up Parallels Desktop and its virtual machines is tricky. As it is a complex software tool, you may be overwhelmed with the number of options and parameters required. However, Parallels provides a comprehensive knowledge base on their website which would be of great help.


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Parallels provides 24/7 customer support via phone, email, chat, and social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook. There is also an online support forum where other Parallels Desktop users respond to common queries.

Parallels’ extensive customer support options give it an edge over its competitors.

The competition

Parallels Desktop has many rivals, including AnyDesk, TeamViewer, and VMware Fusion. These alternatives are significantly more expensive than Parallels Desktop.

final verdict

Parallels Desktop is a top notch hardware virtualization tool. It allows you to efficiently run multiple virtual machines on a Mac computer, whether with macOS, Windows, or Linux. It’s perfect for juggling multiple tasks on a single PC and managing them productively. However, we noticed some downsides with the product, including its difficult initial setup and lack of a native Windows build.

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