For as long as we can remember, Parallels has always been the best way to run Windows on a Mac and in this Parallels review, we take a look at why it’s still the best Windows on Mac solution for both Intel and M1/M2 Macs.
The latest version of Parallels 19 is also the only virtual machine that officially supports running Windows 11 on a Mac as it’s the only software that can emulate the physical TPM chip required by Windows 11.
At the moment, it’s also the easiest way to run Windows 11 on M1 and M2 Macs and was the first virtual machine to support the latest Apple Silicon M1 and subsequent M2 chip.
Parallels is also the only solution officially authorized by Microsoft to run Windows 11 on a Mac.
Parallels 19 For Mac is also optimized to make it faster and easier than ever to run Windows in macOS Sonoma, Ventura, Monterey and Big Sur.
Parallels 19 is also currently offering a 50% discount to students and teachers making it an excellent deal for those in education.
You May Also Like:
- 6 Best Ways To Run Windows on a Mac
- How To Install Windows on a Mac with Boot Camp
- How To Install Windows 10 for Free on a Mac
- How To Install Windows on M1 & M2 Macs
- How To Install Windows 11 on a Mac
- Best Virtual Machines For Mac
- What Is Parallels?
- Is Parallels Bad For Your Mac?
- Does Parallels Slow Down a Mac?
- Parallels 19 Review: Overview
- Can Parallels Run Windows 11 on a Mac?
- Setting Up Parallels
- How Parallels Works
- Gaming On Parallels
- Parallels M1 & M2 Mac Support
- Other Features In Parallels
- Parallels Pricing
- Parallels System Requirements
What Is Parallels?
Parallels is a virtual environment that allows you to conveniently run all those Windows only applications and games that don’t run on Mac.
In fact, it can run over 200,000 Windows only apps on a Mac according to Parallels.
You can even copy and paste files and documents between macOS and Windows as if they were one operating system.
Not only this but you can run just about any other operating system in it such as Linux and Android on it which allows you to play games such as Among Us which aren’t available for Mac.
We think it’s by far the most convenient way to get Windows on your Mac because it’s incredibly easy to setup, launches Windows apps or games quickly and allows you to switch between macOS and Windows instantly.
The last major update to Parallels was in Parallels 15 which was a big step-up from previous versions of Parallels because it finally supported DirectX 11 and Apple Metal API which allowed Mac users to play Windows only games such as FIFA, Age of Empires and Fallout.
It also allowed Mac users to use seriously graphic intensive apps such as Windows only CAD applications for the first time.
Parallels 16 and 16.5 brought significant speed improvements plus beta support for Apple Silicon M1 Macs.
Parallels 17 was another evolution in the product as it had to be re-engineered for some fundamental changes in macOS 11 Big Sur, Monterey and beyond into Apple Silicon.
Parallels became the first virtualization software to officially support Apple Silicon ARM M1 & M2 chip Macs although other virtual machines have beta versions that support it.
Parallels is also the only virtual solution to run Windows on a Mac that is officially endorsed by Microsoft.
And now finally in Parallels 19 has arrived with a cleaner user interface, even faster “two-click” installation of Windows 11 and closer integration with macOS including the latest version of macOS Sonoma.
Other nice touches in the latest version of Parallels include Touch ID support, OpenGL support to run Windows CAD software on Mac, and improved support for the latest M2 chip Macs such as the M2 MacBook Pro and M2 Mac Studio.
Is Parallels Bad For Your Mac?
Parallels runs in a virtual environment that doesn’t affect your Mac in the same way as the macOS operating system installed on your Mac.
This means that Parallels can’t actually harm your Mac in any way. Everything in Parallels is done in a sealed environment from macOS.
However, even in a virtual environment version of Windows, you could get a virus although it would be isolated to your virtual environment and Windows installation – it would not touch your Mac’s hard drive.
If a virus damaged Windows in Parallels, you could quite simply reinstall the copy of Windows and your Mac would be unscathed.
Parallels is therefore perfectly safe to use and will never be able to damage your Mac’s hard drive.
Does Parallels Slow Down a Mac?
Parallels will not slow down macOS or your Mac in anyway.
Parallels runs Windows and other operating systems simultaneously to macOS so any lag will be isolated to the virtual environment.
Unless you have less than 4GB of RAM, your Mac is more than equipped to handle running two operating systems at the same time although we recommend using at least 8GB of RAM and Parallels recommends 16GB of RAM for best results.
If you are experiencing any lag in Parallels itself, you can also allocate more of your Mac’s memory to it in the Hardware > Graphics settings.
However, it is possible that you will experience lag when using Windows on M1/M2 Macs in Parallels.
The reason for this is that Parallels only supports the ARM version of Windows not the Intel x86 version that most of us use.
The problem with this is that most apps are built for the Intel compatible version of Windows not Windows ARM.
Although almost all Intel Windows software will work in Windows ARM because Windows ARM “translates” them to work, this does require added processing power.
This may result in lag when using some Windows apps and software in Parallels on Apple Silicon M1/M2 Macs but it’s a Windows issue rather than a Parallels one.
With this in mind, here we take a closer look at the latest version of Parallels for Mac to see what’s new and how it performs.
Parallels 19 Review: Overview
Before we begin, here’s what’s new in the latest versions of Parallels 19.
- The biggest change in the latest version of Parallels 19 is the new and improved interface which is cleaner, easy to use and quicker than previous versions. The interface has been streamlined to fit the latest macOS aesthetic in macOS Sonoma making it look and feel refreshed including a new Dock icon.
- As with most new releases of Parallels, there’s also an improvement in speed. With each release Parallels gets a little bit faster. While using Windows in Parallels on an M1 or M2 Mac, it feels a lot snappier than before with less lag when using it to play Windows only games on a Mac.
- Parallels 19 now supports OpenGL 4.1 which will come as great news to those that use CAD software on a Mac and other graphic design software for 3D modelling. This means that Windows only CAD software such as VectorWorks or VeriCAD for CAD, DiaLux for lightening design and Samson for molecular modelling can now run on a Mac in Parallels.
- You can now print directly from Windows running in a Parallels via a new Internet Printing Protocol (IPP). This has been necessary due to changes in the printing protocol used by macOS Sonoma. This new IPP that Parallels uses also allow you to access and change many of your printer settings directly from Windows.
- For those that use TouchID to unlock their Mac, the good news is that Parallels now supports TouchID to unlock Windows and your Microsoft account for improved security. The Business version of Parallels also support corporate security solutions including Microsoft InTune.
- The Pro and Business versions of Parallels 19 now support Visual Studio Code allowing you to manage virtual machine containers more easily without the need to login and log-out again.
- Installation of Windows 11 is also now faster than ever with little more than two clicks needed to install Windows 11 on a Mac. The reality is there’s a few more clicks than this if you need to configure it specifically but it’s still by far the easiest and best way to install Windows on a Mac in 2023.
Can Parallels Run Windows 11 on a Mac?
Parallels was the first software to support running Windows 11 on a Mac because it’s the only virtual environment that can emulate the TPM module required by Windows 11.
Parallels is also the only virtual solution officially authorized by Microsoft to run Windows 11 on a Mac.
Although Parallels 19 still only supports Direct X 11 at the moment, it is working on adding Direct X 12 which is required by some games and applications in Windows 11.
However, it’s important to be aware that although Parallels can run the standard version of Windows 11 on Intel Macs, it can currently only run Insider Preview versions of Windows 11 for ARM on M1/M2 Macs.
You can find full instructions how to install Windows 11 on a Mac here.
You can also watch a version of Windows 11 running in Parallels on an Apple Silicon M1 Mac below.
Setting Up Parallels
The setup process for Parallels has become progressively easier over the years and its by far the most painless way to install Windows on a Mac.
Note that if you’re doing this on an M1 or M2 Mac, the setup process is slightly different as it used a different version of Windows called Windows 10 for ARM which is compatible with the new Apple Silicon M1 & M2 chips.
Check here to see how to setup Windows on an M1/M2 Mac using Parallels.
The setup Wizard makes it easy to install any kind of operating system on a Mac especially Windows and Linux distros.
To install Windows, you simply select “Get Windows 10 from Microsoft” which automatically downloads it for the installation.
You can use Windows 10 for free without activating it as you only need to get an activation code from Microsoft if you want to customize it.
Alternatively if you’ve already installed Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp, Parallels can cleverly import Windows from that installation.
We also like how Parallels optimizes your Windows installation based on how you plan to use it. For example, the setup can be customized for gaming, productivity, software development, software testing or design.
How Parallels Works
Once you’ve installed Windows, Parallels makes it incredibly seamless to switch between Windows and macOS.
You can use Windows and macOS side by side with no restart or reboot required (unlike with Boot Camp where you must choose to boot in either macOS or Windows when you start your machine).
Parallels is able to run even the most graphic intensive applications within Windows on your Mac including Adobe Photoshop, Visual Studio and powerful CAD software such as SketchUp and AutoCAD.
You can choose how Windows appears on your Mac too. For example Coherence Mode allows you to simply launch applications from the Dock as if they were installed on your Mac.
Or if you prefer more separation between your macOS and Windows install, you can run Windows in windowed mode which runs Windows and its apps inside a separate window.
Parallels also supports USB devices such as external drives, drawing pads and printers. This includes support for USB 3.1 devices and SSD drives such as the Samsung T7 Touch and Pro Elite Portable SSDs.
Gaming On Parallels
One of the most common reasons Mac users install Parallels is to play PC only games on a Mac.
For many games, we recommend Parallels as the best way to play Windows only games on a Mac and support for gaming has come a long on Parallels including on M1 and M2 Macs.
However, there are a few things to be aware of before using Parallels for gaming.
- For best performance, you need a Mac that’s got at least 16GB of RAM. Games will still work in Parallels with 8GB of RAM but performance can be slow and laggy depending on how demanding the game is. You can check how much RAM your Mac has by going to the Apple logo in the top left corner, select About This Mac… and the amount of RAM will be listed under Memory.
- Parallels supports DirectX 11 but doesn’t support DirectX 12 if the game you want to play requires DirectX 12 (such as FIFA for example), you’re out of luck.
- Games that use anti-cheat software such as Vanguard, EasyAntiCheat and Denuvo won’t work in Parallels. As the name suggest anti-cheat software is a type of DRM protection to prevent people cheating in games and games that are protected by it will not work in Parallels. Examples include Hogwarts Legacy, Fortnite and Genshin Impact.
You can check which games work on Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Macs in Parallels here.
For those games that do work, Parallels is remarkably effective considering the games are running in a virtual environment.
When you first setup Parallels, you can optimize it for gaming which configures the best settings for Parallels to run games on your Mac.
It also enters games into full screen mode for a better experience and toggles the mouse or trackpad for better compatibility with games.
You will notice that some games are laggy or are virtually unplayable at times and we recommend the following tweaks to improve the performance of games in Parallels.
A few extra tweaks that you can use to improve the performance of games in Parallels are:
- Games usually launch in Parallels in their maximum resolution which is very demanding on your Mac’s graphics card when running a virtual machine. Try lowering the resolution to 1920 x 1200 Full HD or lower, this usually helps improve graphics performance.
- Parallels Desktop requires around 30% of your Mac’s RAM just for running Windows alone. If you use the Parallels the gaming profile that increases to almost half of your Mac’s resources. If the system requirements for the game you want to play require 3GB of graphics memory, you need to have at least 6GB of RAM assigned to Windows in Parallels. To increase the amount of RAM assigned to Windows, shut down Windows in Parallels and go to Configuration > Hardware > CPU & Memory. You can also try assigning at least 6 CPU cores to Windows for better gaming performance.
- Close any open Mac applications to devote as many resources as possible to Parallels.
- You can also connect an external graphic processing unit (eGPU) to your Mac which Parallels will recognize so that your Mac can run games better in Windows.
One other great thing about recent versions of Parallels is that it now recognizes Xbox and Playstation controllers connected to your Mac via Bluetooth.
This is very simple to setup as you can see below.
Parallels M1 & M2 Mac Support
One of the biggest innovations in Parallels in recent years was the addition of support for installing Windows on Apple Silicon M1 Macs and the more recent M2 Macs.
The M1 & M2 chips are based on Apple’s own Silicon technology and the same kind of chip you get in iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones.
Parallels has a very close relationship with Apple and even as far back as the Apple WWDC 2020, Parallels demonstrated Linux running in Parallels on a Mac with Apple Silicon.
In April 2021, Parallels 16.5 was released which allows you to install Windows on M1 Macs and from Parallels 17 onwards this support for M-series Macs was official.
Parallels is also the only method of running Windows on a Mac on M-series Macs that is authorized by Microsoft.
The previous version of Parallels 18 also improved support for the M1 Ultra chip in the Mac Studio for even faster running of Windows 11 on ARM especially on ProMotion Displays.
Parallels was the first virtual machine to do this and shows how committed they are to keeping up with not only the latest versions of macOS but the latest changes in Mac technology too.
Parallels does this by using an M1/M2 chip compatible version of Windows known as Windows 11 for ARM which isn’t exactly the same as the normal version of Windows that’s installed on all PCs.
You can find full details and instructions here on how to install Windows on M1 & M2 MacBooks and Mac Minis using Parallels.
Other Features In Parallels
There are far too many features in Parallels to go into details on every one but here are some of the other tools and features in Parallels worth highlighting.
- An energy saving Travel Mode for when you’re on the move and using your Mac’s battery. This gives an energy saving of 10% compared to the previous version of Parallels.
- Windows 11 can recognize your macOS battery status in Parallels and activate on low power saving mode when your Mac runs low on battery.
- You can automatically reclaim cached disk space taken by Parallels when it puts the virtual machine to sleep.
- You can zoom in and rotate Windows apps with your Mac Trackpad and there’s Touch Bar support to control Windows applications.
- Parallels has a Do Not Disturb Mode when you’re using Windows to prevent distractions from notifications while you’re working.
- Lots of print options from Windows including different paper sizes from A0 to envelopes, double sided printing and support for remote printing on networks.
- Apple Pencil and Sidecar support in Windows using Parallels so that you can now use your drawing tablet connected to your Mac within Windows apps too.
- Support for faster refresh rates on ProMotion Displays in Apple Silicon Macs and external displays such as the Apple Studio Display and Apple Pro XDR.
- Support for connecting Xbox and DualShock Bluetooth game controllers in Windows 11 on a Mac. Note that this doesn’t work on Apple Silicon Macs yet so you can’t connect an Xbox or Playstation controller to an M1/M2 Mac in Parallels.
- USB 3.0 support for live streaming to devices such as the Elgato HD60 and Startech USB 3.0 Video Capture.
- One of the most useful touches in recent versions of Parallels has been the improved drag and drop support which now allows you to easily drag and drop text and images into macOS Quick Note from Windows apps.
- Shared printing from Windows is available meaning if your Mac is connected to an office network, you can print to any printer.
- Parallels can also reclaiming disk space used on your Mac by Parallels when it puts a virtual machine to sleep.
- Disk space control so you can clearly see how much space your Windows installations are consuming. Parallels will also evaluate how much RAM and other resources your Mac is using to run Windows and re-allocate where necessary.
- Shift+Option+Command+V support to paste unformatted text from macOS into Windows
- Ability to use the Mac Option key to work at AltGr in Windows 10
- In the Pro and Business Editions of Parallels, you can also create an independent virtual machine from a linked clone
- The Pro and Business Edition support Visual Studio 19 on M1/M2 Macs
- Business admins can also provision pre-configured Windows machines to M1/M2 Macs
- For Linux users, Parallels also allows you to enjoy multichannel sound support with sound jack detection. It also dynamically updates the resolution when you resize a Linux window now.
On a performance level, Parallels will still only allocate 8GB of virtual RAM (vRAM) in the Standard Edition and 128GB of Virtual RAM in the Business and Pro edition to each VM installation.
Although the 128GB in the Business and Pro versions is enough for most needs, the Home and Student edition limit of 8GB becomes a problem if you’re running more than a few apps or a graphic intensive program.
On M1 & M2 Macs, Parallels can only install Windows 11 for ARM which isn’t compatible with all Windows software either but as Microsoft improves the x86 emulation in Windows 11 for ARM (which allows it to run 64 bit Intel only games and apps) this should become less of an issue.
You can no longer install Windows 10 on ARM on M1 or M2 Macs with Parallels as Microsoft is no longer supporting development of Windows 10 on ARM as it is focusing on Windows 11.
If you want to connect a PlayStation Dualshock or an Xbox controller to Parallels on Apple Silicon Macs, you’re also out of luck. Although this works on Intel Macs, it still doesn’t work in Parallels 19 which is an unresolved issue from Parallels 18.
Parallels 19 offers 3 different versions:
- Home & Student ($99.99/£89.99 per year)
- Desktop Pro ($119.99/£104.99 per year)
- Desktop Business ($149.99/£119.99 per year)
All plans include free updates to the product as long as you maintain a subscription.
Parallels 19 is also offering a 50% discount to students and teachers as part of a new academic promotion.
Prices have not increased in Parallels 19 since Parallels 18 although Parallels 18 increased by $20 per product compared to Parallels 17.
The Home & Student version is the one that most general users need and is also available as a one-off purchase for $129.99 instead of a subscription like the other plans.
However, we don’t recommend this option as you’ll have to pay almost the same again to upgrade it eventually so that it supports the latest version of macOS and get any new features that are added.
The Business Version of Parallels is aimed at large enterprises that need to manage multiple licenses of Parallels in an office environment.
The Pro version of Parallels is aimed at developers of apps and games that need debugging tools such as support for Microsoft Visual Studio.
For all versions, you can choose between a standalone version and a subscription version. The Home & Student versions costs ($99.99) but with the standalone version, you’ll eventually need to upgrade it which costs $69.99.
If you choose the $99.99 subscription model, all upgrades are included and since each new release of macOS requires Parallels to be updated, this makes much more sense.
If you buy direct from Parallels, there’s also a 30 day money back guarantee although this doesn’t apply if you buy it from another retailer.
There’s also a 50% Educational Discount for educators and students from the Standard Edition.
Parallels Toolbox offers some useful utilities to smooth integration between Windows and macOS (such as file sharing, drag and dropping, printer sharing etc).
Parallels Access is a remote desktop solution which allows you to access a Windows installation on your Mac from your iOS and Android device.
You can also try a free 14 day trial of Parallels 19 to test it for yourself first.
Parallels System Requirements
- A Mac computer with an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, Core i9, Intel Core M , Xeon processor or M1/M2 chip
- Minimum 4 GB of memory, 16 GB is recommended
- 600 MB for Parallels Desktop application installation
- Additional disk space for the guest operating system (at least 16 GB is required for Windows 11)
- SSD drive is recommended for better performance
- Internet connection for product activation and select features
Parallels recommends using at least one of the last 3 versions of macOS for optimal performance but it works on all of the following versions of macOS. Note that macOS High Sierra 10.13 is not supported in Parallels 19.
- macOS Sonoma 14.0
- macOS Ventura 13.0
- macOS Monterey 12.0
- macOS Big Sur 11.0
- macOS Catalina 10.15
- macOS Mojave 10.14
- DirectX 11 requires at least macOS Mojave 10.14, but works best on macOS 10.15.3 Catalina or newer.