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Parallels Desktop 4.0 for the Mac

Tops in performance, excellent integration of guest operating systems and applications

By Thomas Henderson and Brendan Allen, Network World
July 13, 2009 12:04 AM ET

Network World - Of the three hypervisors tested for the Mac, Parallels was strongest in features and usability, and its 64-bit guest virtual machine support provides flexibility for developers. We could run Mac OS X Leopard client or server as a guest.

We were able to import VMware or Virtual Box files (guest VM snapshots, or rapidly mountable VM guest operating systems) easily and it should be possible to import older Parallels files, but we didn't test this.

There were a few minor hiccups after converting a Windows VMDK VM disk-based VM file to Parallels format. We initially had a little trouble setting up, but all we had to do was to remove the VMware tools and install the Parallels tools inside the VMDK file, then reboot.

Parallels Transporter let us convert other formats of VMs into the Parallels format (the .vhd disk file format used by VirtualBox and Hyper-V, and .vmx VMWare disk format).

We tried converting a few of our other VMs; a couple from Hyper-V and one from Fusion and Virtual Box. All worked except one SLES Linux Hyper-V VM. The Win2008 Hyper-V VM we converted worked just fine.

We found this to be a handy feature for developers and software testers although installing the feature took time. The auto-upgrade feature VM-file format reformation process can take a very long time. The problem we found is that it automatically upgrades, and if the conversion process hangs, there's no indication of this. We'd have preferred a manual install option instead.

Guest installation

Windows XP installed easily for us, with no interaction except for entering the username and product key. Parallels has preformatted settings for XP.

Another useful Parallels feature was the ability to mount a Windows VM guest's NTFS file system into the Apple MacOS 10.5 Finder application. We could access all the files directly like an external hard disk. We could easily drag and drop files and folders between Mac and XP VMs. It's even possible to have the Apple Spotlight application index the VM Windows guest drive, a feature that wasn't available in the other hypervisor products.

The Disk Sharing feature, which works with both Linux and Windows VMs, was also useful. Under Linux, disk sharing mounted the directories under the /media/psf directory (Parallels Shared Folders) and in Windows, it created a Parallels Shared Folders shortcut on the desktop for easy access.

When we inserted a USB flash drive, Parallels asked if we would like to mount it in the VM or Mac, if Smart Mount is enabled. VMware Fusion will automatically do it without asking, depending on whether Fusion was the active application or not. Parallels handled USB flash drive use more easily than VMware Fusion or VirtualBox for Mac.

Application sharing worked well too, but this feature is only available with Windows-based guests. We saw a list of applications with which to open files when we chose Open With from the right-click menu. Apple Finder and Windows Explorer listed both Mac and Windows applications to choose from.

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