Parallels puts Windows inside the Mac

Parallels Desktop for Mac could compel you to buy an Apple computer. This US$80 software package enables you to run Microsoft Windows--and the apps it supports--as a virtual machine on any Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.4.6 or higher. To get it to work you'll have to purchase a copy of Windows, but it's worth it.

Installing Parallels 1.0 was easy. A wizard and a downloadable PDF manual walk you through creating a new virtual machine. I ran across one problem during this process: The optical drive on a 2-GHz Intel Core Duo MacBook read one Windows XP Professional installation CD but not another, seemingly identical disc. A Parallels spokesperson says that the issue is rare, but that the company will refund your money for its software (not for Windows, however) if you have the same problem.

Running Windows via Parallels was smooth with 1GB of RAM. The OS appears within a fixed-width Finder window; clicking in it gives you access to Windows files, applications, and settings. You can toggle back to the Mac OS by pressing the - key combination. I had no trouble using Windows apps such as Adobe Reader, Internet Explorer, and Ulead PhotoImpact.

I obtained mixed results with some hardware and shortcut keys. A USB thumb drive worked, but a Philips MP3 player didn't. Using shortcut keys within Internet Explorer worked, but -clicking to eject a CD didn't. (A recent beta update has since improved USB and keyboard support.) Parallels doesn't support 3D accelerated graphics, so don't expect to play many Windows games; the company plans to add that feature later.

The best part about Parallels is that you don't have to dual-boot Windows as you do with Apple's free Boot Camp utility. I switched often between the OSs--the ideal setup for a Mac-loving PC user.

Parallels Desktop for Mac

This easy-to-use software lets you run Windows and its apps smoothly on an Intel-based Mac.

Price when reviewed: US$80

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