Parallels Desktop 11
Get Cortana on your Mac today
Parallels Desktop allows you to run alternative operating systems within OS X. It’s far more flexible than free rival VirtualBox, and version 11 continues to improve performance while adding handy new features.
A key reason to get it is El Capitan and Windows 10 support – the latter runs in Parallels 10, but it’s neither officially supported nor optimised. Parallels 11 sweetens the deal by using its standout Coherence mode to integrate key Windows 10 apps and features directly into your OS X desktop, most notably the new Notification Centre, which closely resembles OS X’s own, and the Cortana search assistant – useful until Siri makes its way into OS X.
Parallels 11 also makes one of OS X’s underrated features available to your virtual machines. Quick Look isn’t available in Windows, but by enabling ‘Access Windows folders from Mac’ under Settings > Sharing, you can press the spacebar within your VM to preview a file in OS X.
On a MacBook, Travel Mode promises to cut power consumption by VMs to prevent them quickly draining your battery. It’s enabled in each VM’s settings.
As with previous releases, Parallels 11 promises improved performance. The best improvements are in processor usage, particularly when using multiple cores, but aside from when booting a Windows 10 VM it’s not obvious. Still, the gap between virtual and native performance gets that bit narrower – with one notable exception: Parallels 11 is stuck using DirectX 10 technology, which means graphics performance is no better
Coherence mode integrates key Windows 10 features – notably the Cortana search assistant – into OS X
than in Parallels 10. Ultimately this translates to one key thing: hardcore gamers are better off using Boot Camp, but for everyone else, Parallels makes everyday computing a breeze, so long as you have the CPU, RAM and drive space to spare.
The new subscription-based Pro edition has a consequence for regular users. Each VM is now limited to four processor cores and 8GB RAM. This won’t affect most people, but power users should take note.
Parallels Desktop continues to evolve gracefully – it’s a no-brainer for anyone wanting to run Windows on their Mac for the first time, but version 10 users can probably hold off this year’s upgrade, unless you’re desperate for those Windows 10 enhancements. Nick Peers
Parallels Desktop 11 adds official support and optimisations for Windows 10.
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