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Parallels Desktop 9 Review – run Windows 8.1 or Android on Mac

The popular virtualisation software gets an upgrade, but is it any good? We took it for a test

mainKey features • Intel Core 2 Duo processor or higher • 2GB RAM • 700MB for installation • Copy of Windows (not included)

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Price: £64.99/$79.99

If you’ve recently moved from a Windows machine to a Mac, or if you just want to see what Windows 8 has to offer, Parallels could be right for you. The app enables you to run Windows either as a full virtualisation of Windows, with the new Metro interface and a standard desktop, or by opening Windows apps on your Mac as if they were native.

Parallels 9 with the Windows 8.1 Metro interface on Mac
You can run a Windows setup in full-screen, or run individual apps inside your OS X desktop

In version 9, the developers have improved the performance, and while the difference is only slight on the surface, the results are faster boots into your virtual machine, and speedier shutdowns when you’re finished with it. You’ll find your Mac slowing down with two operating systems running, and there can be a lag when switching between apps or systems, but for the most part everything runs smoothly. The more RAM your Mac has, the better Parallels will run. Setting up Parallels for the first time is straightforward thanks to the new installer. You can choose from a range of operating systems, from Android to Linux, which can be installed with a click. We took the Windows 8.1 option, and installation was quick and easy. The installer lets you set up the OS how you want it, offering controls to restore the classic Start menu and run the modern apps in windowed modes if you wish.

We set up in Compatibility mode first of all, and tested the windowed versions of apps in a standard Mac desktop. It worked nicely enough, be we much preferred the standard desktop mode, which allowed us to place Windows 8.1 as a full-screen app that we could switch to with a swipe. Thanks to support for iCloud and Thunderbolt drives, we were able to integrate Parallels into our workflow with little effort.

With Parallels 9, users also get six months subscription to Parallels Access, a service that enables you to use the apps from both Mac and Windows on your iPad as if they were native apps. It works quite nicely, although it’s still rather fiddly and doesn’t quite offer the iOS-like control we were promised.

Annotated image of Parallels 9 running on Mac OS X
Click image to enlarge

Aside from small speed increases, some bug fixes and a new iOS app, Parallels 9 doesn’t offer a huge number of new features, but with a simpler setup and better Mavericks integration, the upgrade offers enough to warrant a purchase.

Buy now?

Pros Simple setup, performance boosts and better compatibility

Cons Doesn’t offer a huge step up from Parallels 8

Orange 4 Stars