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 18 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 18 For Mac is also optimized to make it faster and easier than ever to run Windows and macOS Ventura, Monterey and Big Sur.
Parallels 18 is also currently offering a 50% discount to students and teachers making it an excellent deal for those in education.
- What Is Parallels?
- Is Parallels Bad For Your Mac?
- Does Parallels Slow Down a Mac?
- Parallels Review: Overview
- Can Parallels Run Windows 11 on a Mac?
- Setting Up Parallels
- How Parallels Works
- Parallels 18 Improvements
- Gaming On Parallels
- Parallels M1 & M2 Mac Support
- 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 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 only virtualization software to officially support Apple Silicon ARM M1 & M2 chip Macs although other virtual machines have beta versions that support it.
Parallels is however the only virtual solution to run Windows on a Mac officially endorsed by Microsoft.
Parallels 18 has extended this support to take full advantage of the M1 Ultra chip in the Mac Studio making it possible to run Windows 11 96% faster than before according to Parallels.
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.
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
Parallels Review: Overview
Before we begin, here’s what’s new in the latest versions of Parallels.
- The biggest change is official support for Apple Silicon M1 & M2 Macs. You can now run Windows seamlessly on M1 and M2 Macs with Parallels and switch between Windows and macOS 11 instantly. In fact Parallels is the only solution officially endorsed by Microsoft to run Windows on Apple Silicon M-series Macs.
- As with most new releases of Parallels, there’s also an improvement in speed. With each release Parallels gets a little bit faster and Parallels launches Windows noticeably faster due to a re-engineering effort because of fundamental changes in macOS Big Sur, Monterey, Ventura and the M1/M2 chip. While using Windows on an M1 or M2 Mac, it feels a lot snappier than before with less lag when using big apps or games. In fact Parallels claims that Windows starts-up 33% faster on an M1/M2 Mac, performs 20% better at handling Windows 10 disk space, 25% faster 2D graphics handling and 28% faster DirectX processing which improves the speed and responsiveness of Windows games on a Mac. Support for the M1 Ultra chip in Parallels 18 means that it runs Windows 11 98% faster than previous versions according to Parallels.
- On both Intel and M1/M2 chip Macs, Parallels claims there’s a 38% increase in speed resuming a paused or shut down Windows session on a Mac.
- Drag and drop support for text and images between windows including for Quick Notes in macOS.
- Parallels takes up less space on your hard drive than previous versions. It now takes up to around 16GB which is mainly for Windows 10 or Windows 11.
- M1/M2 chip Macs users can now use BitLocker and Secure Boot due to a virtualized TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip in Parallels.
- There’s a new 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 10 can now 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 now zoom and rotate in Windows apps with your Mac Trackpad as well as enhanced Touch Bar support to control Windows applications.
- A new Do No Disturb Mode when you’re using Windows to prevent distractions from notifications while you’re working.
- Far more print options from Windows including different paper sizes from A0 to envelopes and support for remote printing on networks.
- Support for OpenGL 3.2 which means Parallels now allows Mac users to run tools like DiaLux for lightening design and Samson for molecular modelling.
- 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.
- Parallels 18 also improves support for faster refresh rates ProMotion Displays in the latest M1 Macs and external displays such as the Apple Studio Display and Apple Pro XDR.
- Support for installing Windows 11 on ARM has also been improved with an easier installation process on M1 Macs.
- 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.
- Apple Silicon M1 and M2 Mac can now enjoy better compatibility with Intel (x86) only apps and games when running Windows 11 on ARM in Parallels.
- Improved USB 3.0 support for live streaming to devices such as the Elgato HD60 and Startech USB 3.0 Video Capture.
Can Parallels Run Windows 11 on a Mac?
Parallels is the only software that supports 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 only supports Direct X 11 at the moment, it will also soon add Direct X 12 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 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 of course run Microsoft Office applications too including Windows only apps such as Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Visio.
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 18 Improvements
Parallels had to significantly re-engineer the last few versions of Parallels because Apple ditched what are known as “kexts” in macOS 11 Big Sur.
Kexts are basically traditional kernel extensions which allow apps like Parallels to run other operating systems within macOS.
Apple ditched them in the newest generation of Macs built from late 2020 onwards however on security grounds. Moving to an Apple only internal hardware system also gives Apple much more control over the performance of Macs and macOS.
As a result, the latest Parallels is noticeably the fastest Parallels ever with Windows apps launching extremely quickly.
It’s also much quicker to wake a virtual machine from sleep when you’re not using it.
Shared printing from Windows is now available for the first time meaning if your Mac is connected to an office network, you can print to any printer.
Parallels is also far more efficient at reclaiming disk space used by Parallels when it puts a virtual machine to sleep.
Parallels was also the first virtual machine to be updated for macOS Monterey and macOS Ventura.
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 Monterey Quick Note from Windows apps.
For Linux users, Parallels has also updated so that you can enjoy multichannel sound support with sound jack detection. It also dynamically updates the resolution when you resize a Linux window now.
The latest version of Parallels also features much better support for 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.
Other improvements include:
- Better disk space control so you can clearly see how much space your Windows installations are consuming. Parallels will also better 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 also have better support for Visual Studio 19 on M1/M2 Macs
- Business admins can also provision pre-configured Windows machines to M1/M2 Macs
Parallels 18 was a far more subtle update with greater support for the M1 Ultra chip in the Mac Studio for running Windows 11.
Other improvements in Parallels included:
- Improved support for faster refresh rates ProMotion Displays in the latest M1 Macs and external displays such as the Apple Studio Display and Apple Pro XDR.
- An easier installation process for Windows 11 on ARM on M1 Macs and support for Xbox and DualShock Bluetooth game controllers in Windows 11 on a Mac.
- M1 and M2 Mac now enjoy better compatibility with Intel (x86) only apps and games when running Windows 11 on ARM in Parallels.
- Better USB 3.0 support for live streaming to devices such as the Elgato HD60 and Startech USB 3.0 Video Capture.
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, 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.
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.
Parallels 18 has 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.
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.
Parallels 18 offers 3 different versions:
All prices have increased slightly in Parallels 18 vs Parallels 17.
The Home & Student version is the one that most general users need and is also available as a one-off purchase instead of a subscription like the other plans.
Parallels 18 is also offering a 50% discount to students and teachers as part of a new academic promotion.
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.
As an incentive to go for the subscription model, Parallels are also offering Parallels Toolbox and Parallels Access for free with new subscription purchases of Parallels 18.
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 18 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
- macOS Ventura 13.0
- macOS Monterey 12.0
- macOS Big Sur 11.0
- macOS Catalina 10.15
- macOS Mojave 10.14
- macOS High Sierra 10.13
- DirectX 11 requires at least macOS Mojave 10.14, but works best on macOS 10.15.3 Catalina or newer.
It doesn’t even support DirectX 12.
Hi, thanks for all your information! I wonder of you could help me out. I’ve just started out for myself, and as you can imagine, I do not have enormous amounts of cash at my disposal. Yet. 😁
I do need to buy a new laptop and since almost all software i use runs on Mac I really want it to be a MacBook again. But.
I really need to run Dialux Evo. Can you tell me, with this new Parallels version, if this is possible and maybe tell me what MacBook version (Intel or M) would be the best choice?
For me it means the difference between having to buy one (Mac) or two (Mac and Windows) laptops… And i would really like it to be just one as you probably understand. 😉
Thank you for reading, and for helping me decide what’s best!
In the case of Dialux Evo you’d definitely need an Intel Mac. Dialux Evo does run on Intel Macs using Windows in Parallels. However, M chip Macs can only run Windows ARM in a virtual environment and there is no Windows ARM version of Dialux Evo.
Parallel cannot slow down your mac. False! Significant lag (like 1994 slow) when running Parallels. I shut down the mac and do not reopen parallels and the mac is just fine. But when I use Parallels, the mac will significantly lag and slow. I have an M1 Mac with not much installed on it , 8gb RAM and plenty of HD space.
Parallels recommends at least 16GB of RAM for optimum performance but the issue may be with the Windows app you are using. Is it a native Windows ARM software? If it’s an Intel x86 or x64 app, you will experience lag because Windows ARM has to translate Intel apps to work in it. This added translation layer incurs added processing time and will probably be causing the lag you are experiencing. It’s basically a Windows issue rather than a Parallels one.