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Run Windows on your Mac with Parallels Desktop 7

parallelsthumbPC on a mac

You love your Mac but sometimes you need to run some Windows applications. What do you do? Do you buy another computer?

No – you can stick with your Mac but, thanks to Parallels Desktop 7, users can run a virtual Windows computer on their Mac.

The latest version of Parallels has been optimised for Macs running the new Lion operating system. It proves the Mac can do a pretty good job at imitating a PC.  

And one of the many excellent features of the software is the ability to share files and documents between the Mac and the virtual PC.

Parallels Desktop 7 would appeal to people who may use a Mac at home but may need to run some Windows programs for work.

It’s also possible to play PC games using Parallels Desktop 7 on their Mac as well as use popular PC only software like Internet Explorer, OneNote or the Office suite of applications.

Parallels Desktop 7 can create a virtual Windows PC on your Mac

Maybe you’re new to the Mac and having Windows as well could be your security blanket until you’re ready to cut the umbilical.

Whatever the reason – with Parallels Desktop 7 you can basically create a Windows computer on your Mac.

And users don’t even have to reboot their Mac to start the Windows environment so they can get to work right away.

Installation is easy to follow thanks to step-by-step instructions. But what isn’t included is the copy of Windows to install on the virtual machine.

Users have the option of using  the physical Windows install disc or buying and downloading a copy of Windows through the Parallels desktop.

Another choice is how you want to use Windows on your Mac – like a Mac or like a PC.

Like a Mac means the Windows programs appear on the Mac desktop and the documents can intermingle with your Mac documents.

Windows Excel running right beside the Mac's iPhoto application with Parallels Desktop 7

We checked the “Like a PC” box which means the Windows desktop runs in its own window and is completely separate from the Mac side of the computer unless you choose to share files between the two systems.

Performance wise the virtual Windows machine we installed on our 27-inch iMac ran better and faster than it did on a native Windows PC.

What helps this zippy performance is the ability to allocate more RAM to the virtual machine. From the 8GB of RAM we had on our iMac we decided to put 2GB aside for whenever Windows was running.

This proved to be more than enough for basic software and surfing the net but for those who want to play the latest games it might be an idea to set aside a little more RAM to keep things moving along nicely.

It’s also fast enough to run graphics heavy software like AutoCAD which makes use of 2D and 3D graphics for designers and architects.

Part of the integration of some of Lion’s features includes the ability to run Windows in full screen and easily switch back and forth to the Mac.

The iMac’s built-in FaceTime camera can also be utilised from the Windows side.

A reference card that comes with the Parallels Desktop 7 software is a handy crib sheet to learn Windows terminology along with common keyboard shortcuts.

Inside the Windows environment, users can mount CDs and access USB drives as they would on a dedicated PC.

In fact the Windows virtual machine is so realistic users will still need to install internet security software to prevent virus and other malware despite the fact it is residing with a Mac – a system known for being slightly less vulnerable to infection.

Parallels Desktop 7 users can also download the Parallels Mobile app to access the Windows and Mac desptops remotely through the iPad and iPhone

Those who install Parallels Desktop 7 can also take advantage of the Parallels Mobile iPhone and iPad app which offers access and control of your Windows virtual system or the Mac itself.

While the app was handy for remote access and control of your desktop, we found it a little difficult to use.

Our mouse, our finger in this case, was often imprecise and we found ourselves missing the scroll bar or the link.

Parallels Desktop 7But one major appeal was the ability to view Flash sites and videos on your iPad or iPhone through the app – something your iPad and iPhone can’t do on their own.

The Parallels Mobile app is available for the introductory price of $5.99 – down from its usual $23.99 price tag.

Parallels Desktop 7 is priced at $89.95 with a student edition of the software available for $59.95.

Parallels Desktop 7

Price: $89.95, $59.95 (student edition)

Four stars (out of five)