Product Listing

Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac review: Run Windows as if it were a Mac app

By Kenny Yeo - 11 Feb 2017

Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac review: Run Windows as if it were a Mac app

Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac is optimized for macOS Sierra and Windows 10. (Image source: Parallels)

Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac is the latest version of the Parallels Desktop software that allows Mac users to run Windows simultaneously. It’s not the same as Apple’s own Boot Camp software. You see, Boot Camp allows you to install and run Windows on your Mac, but it exists in a separate partition on your hard drive and you must reboot your Mac in order to run Windows. And when it is running Windows, it can be difficult to access files that exist on the macOS in your Mac. 

Parallels Desktop 12 is different. Essentially, it is a virtualization software, and what it does is that it allows Mac users to run Windows within macOS. Think of it as running both macOS and Windows operating systems concurrently on the same device. You can switch instantaneously from one OS to the next, and even copy files and text from one OS to the other. 

Parallels Desktop 12 doesn't only work with Windows. Mac users can also install Android and Linux.

Parallels has always prided itself on its ease of use and interoperability, and the latest Parallels Desktop 12 is no different. You can use Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant to control macOS, and you can also use Siri to control Windows 10. Icons for Windows app will also show up on your Mac dock and Launchpad you can launch them directly from there. Likewise, you will find your Mac files in Windows’ File Explorer and you can work on them so long as you have compatible Windows apps. Windows apps can also be launched in fullscreen mode, just like your Mac apps; and Mac features like Mission Control and Notification Center will also fully support Windows apps.

While last year’s Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac was important because it supported the new Windows 10 operating system, this year’s Parallels Desktop 12 is more of a light upgrade. That said, Parallels promised numerous performance improvements.

Some key performance improvements that Parallels claim are 90% faster snapshot creation (a snapshot is a saved state of the virtual machine), 60% faster suspension of virtual machines, 25% faster shared folders performance, 10% battery life improvement, and better performance in low memory situations.

The major draw of Parallels' virtualization software is that it lets Mac users run Windows app as if it were another Mac app.

I didn’t have a Mac running Parallels Desktop 11 to test these claims but Parallels Desktop 12 ran smoothly on my test machine, which is a 3-year old 13-inch MacBook Pro with very modest specifications - just a dual-core 2.6GHz Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, and 256GB of flash storage.

Speaking of powerful Mac machines, you’ll definitely want one of them if you decide to do any amount of gaming. Although Mac now has many great apps, gaming is still almost exclusively limited to PC. Parallels Desktop 12 will support even more gaming features and one of them is the Xbox app on Windows 10, which allows users to stream games from their Xbox onto their Windows machine. On paper, it sounds like a cool feature because all of the heavy game processing duties will be handled on the Xbox, and all you need is a good connection to stream the game. Unfortunately, I don’t have an Xbox to test out this feature, but Parallels claims it is good enough to play even the latest games like Overwatch. Even so, I won’t recommend any Mac users to run out there and get Parallels for the sole purpose of playing games, a PC or a gaming console like the Xbox or PlayStation is still going to do a much better job.

Parallels Toolbox includes some nifty tools for Mac users, like enabling quick downloads of videos from video-sharing sites like YouTube.

Alongside Parallels Desktop 12, Parallels also has a new utility called Parallels Toolbox. It is available as a standalone app, but it comes free with Parallels Desktop 12 and it has some handy features. For example, it allows you to download videos from video-sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo straight to your system. It’s also a screen recorder, allowing you to record a video of your desktop, active window or a designated area. It can even help you transcode videos so that you can upload them onto your iPhone and iPad. 

Overall, the Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac does a good job of improving the Windows on Mac usage experience. But the biggest problem it faces is that not many people will require such a niche application. Macs have a good variety of apps to choose from, and web-based apps are more prevalent than ever, which means there are fewer reasons for Mac users to want to hold onto their Windows app.

Besides Windows, Parallels Desktop 12 can also support other operating systems such as Chromium OS, Android, Linux, and even older versions of OS X. The bundled Parallels Toolbox utility is also handy. Overall, if you find yourself requiring to run specialized Windows apps, then the new Parallels Desktop 12 is a lifesaver.

Join HWZ's Telegram channel here and catch all the latest tech news!
Our articles may contain affiliate links. If you buy through these links, we may earn a small commission.