Review: Parallels Desktop 8 – The Easiest Way Yet to Run Windows on Your Mac

Review: Parallels Desktop 8 – The Easiest Way Yet to Run Windows on Your Mac

As you may know, Parallels Desktop is a favorite around the MacTrast homestead. It allows you to run Windows on your Mac quickly and easily, allowing copy and paste, and drag and drop functionality between the two operating systems. While I don’t have a reason to use Windows much any more, it’s still nice to have it readily available when needed. With Parallels Desktop 8, the ease and convenience has been taken up a notch.



For those unfamiliar with Parallels Desktop 8, it’s an application you can run on your Mac that allows you to run Windows and various other operating systems alongside your Mac applications. (You will need an installation package and a valid license to install and run any Operating Systems inside Parallels Desktop.) It can be set up to run full screen or in a window, and can also run in what Parallels calls “Coherence” mode, where the Windows apps appear on your desktop just as native Mac apps would.

While Parallels has always done an excellent job of running Windows on your Mac, (I’ve used it ever since buying my first black MacBook back in 2007), the latest version, number 8, of the venerable software package contains numerous new and enhanced features.


First, let’s list some of the new features, and as we go along, I’ll mention my experiences with some of the features.

Mountain Lion integration:

  • Full screen support for Windows applications
  • Use of Launchpad for Windows apps
  • Mission Control support
  • Mountain Lion as a guest OS
  • Mountain Lion gestures support
  • Retina display support for Windows
  • Notification Center support for Parallels Desktop and Windows alerts

The new Presentation Wizard allows you to easily and beautifully show presentations from your Mac on any external monitor or projector.

The addition of an “Open in Internet Explorer button to Safari allows pages that done’t render well in Safari to be opened in Internet Explorer. This is a great help when a user encounters websites that still use Active X or Internet Explorer “enhanced” features. While websites of this type are dwindling in number every day, there are still plenty of them out there.

One such site, ( wouldn’t even load in Safari. I simply clicked the “Open in Internet Explorer” button in the Safari toolbar, and the site opened immediately in Internet Explorer in my virtual Windows 8 machine. (One caveat, you do need to have a Windows virtual machine currently loaded and running, as Parallels won’t load and run the virtual machine, and then load the website.)


Mountain Lion’s Dictation tool can now be used across both Windows and Mac applications. So, if you’ve gotten used to using Mountain Lion’s dictation features, you can use it in Windows apps such as Word and other editors. This feature worked great, and was just as smooth as it is in OS X native apps. A quick double-tap of the “fn” key and I was dictating a web address in Internet Explorer. It worked smoothly, despite the fact my MacBook Pro was 3 feet away from me, and I was using the MacBook’s built-in microphone.

Drag and Drop Enhancements for Outlook for Windows allows you to simply drag & drop files from the desktop onto the Outlook for Windows icon on the Dock in order to attach them to a new email. I was unable to try this feature, as I did not have Outlook for Windows installed in the virtual machine.

Windows notifications are now integrated into Mountain Lion’s Notification Center, so you’ll be able to stay updated on any notices from your Windows virtual machine such as alerts from Windows 8 Mail and Messenger apps. Notifications worked great, I received alerts from Windows 8 Mail in just the same manner as I usually do OS X notifications.

Using USB storage devices with virtual machines was effortless. I plugged in a USB drive to the MacBook, and Parallels simply asked, “do you want to use this with Mac or Windows 8?” Sweet.

One new feature sure to be a hit with parents is in parental controls. The same parental controls you set for your Mac OS X side will be enforced in the virtual machine.

I also enjoyed the “Full Screen on Demand” feature. This feature kicks in when a Windows app goes full screen. When this happens, the Mac Menu and Dock are hidden, and the Mac’s screensaver is also disabled. Nice for when you’re watching videos or presentations full screen.


While testing Parallels Desktop 8, I tried various operating systems. I loaded Ubuntu, Chrome, Windows 7, (both from a fresh DVD installation, and as an imported machine from the latest version of VMWare Fusion), and Windows 8, (again, from both a fresh DVD install, and as an imported machine.) Just for fun, I downloaded the Android 4 Experimental machine from the Parallels Convenience Store. While fun to play with, as you can imagine, it is limited in its usefulness.


Parallels Desktop 8 is a great update to an already excellent piece of software. Parallels has continued their past record of improving their software with every generation, and I would highly recommend upgrading to any current users of earlier versions of Parallels Desktop. If you’re a new Mac user just moving over from the PC world, or a Mac user who suddenly finds themselves needing to access the Windows side of things, I also highly recommend purchasing this software. If you are a current VMWare Fusion user, while I may recommend you comparing features between the two software packages, if you’re satisfied with Fusion, there may not be a compelling enough reason to make the move to Parallels.


Price: $79.99 for first time purchasers, $49.99 for upgraders. [DIRECT LINK] Note: Amazon is currently offering the full version of Parallels Desktop 8 for $58.10. [DIRECT LINK]

A 14-day free trial is available if you’d like to try before you buy. [DIRECT LINK]


  • The integration between the Mac side of things and the virtual Windows machines is even better than before.
  • Love the dictation feature. I’m just beginning to use this Mountain Lion feature, and the ability to use it in Office apps on the Windows side is a welcome sight.
  • I love the Parallels Convenience Store that allows you to download pre-configured virtual machines.
  • The improved drag & drop, and the Notification Center integration are welcome additions.
  • As I have an SSD in my MacBook, space can sometimes be at a premium. The new information displays make reclaiming unused virtual machine hard drive space much easier.


  • The processor did seem to work a bit harder while running Parallels than it does while running VMWare Fusion. However, not so much that it’s a huge drawback. The CPU seems to run just a few degrees hotter, and grab a bit more of the processor cycles. I was appreciative of the new feature in the Virtual Machine list that showed both CPU and memory utilization. Very handy.
  • Parallels does cost more than VMWare Fusion for first time users.