Parallels for Mac cozies up to Vista
Parallels for Desktop 3.0 improves on a good thing with 3D graphics acceleration, snapshots, and usability tweaksFollow @pvenezia
I installed Parallels Desktop 3.0 on my trusty 17-inch MacBook Pro with 2GB of RAM and the 5400 RPM 160GB disk. Because I had a previous version of Parallels installed, I was warned that updating would require updating my VMs too and that the VMs would no longer be compatible with older versions of Parallels Desktop. Otherwise, the installation was extremely fast.
Following the required reboot, I launched the new version and opened an existing Windows XP VM. The conversion process took only a few seconds, and then the VM booted. Immediately after logging in, the Parallels Tools installation wizard launched and installed all the necessary drivers in the VM. After that, the VM rebooted, and all was well. The new driver set is undoubtedly due to the new direct access graphics features of Parallels Desktop 3.0 as well as updates to the other drivers for the mouse, file sharing, and so on. From an end-user's standpoint, I noticed no difference in the way the Windows XP VM functioned, other than it seemed a bit speedier, and the boot time was reduced by roughly 20 percent. I do have to note that the simple drag-and-resize feature is extremely handy. Rather than mess around with screen resolution settings within the VM, simply dragging the edge of the VM window resizes the VM desktop on the fly -- very cool.
Snapshots are as simple as you would expect. Creating a snapshot of my 8GB Windows XP VM took 30 seconds, and the snapshot was immediately available. I took a few more snapshots and reverted to an older one. The process of reverting to a snapshot involves either opening the snapshot manager and selecting the snapshot, or simply clicking a button on the right-hand panel. Either way, reverting to a prior snapshot with minimal changes between snaps took only 25 seconds. The snapshot manager's layout is simple and shows images of the desktop appearance when the snapshot was taken to assist in snapshot identification. The whole process is simple and elegant.
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I was interested to note that although Microsoft recommends 1GB RAM for Vista, the default in Parallels is 512MB. My MacBook Pro has 2GB of RAM, and I would think that allocating 1GB to the VM would be appropriate here, especially given Vista's penchant to consume all available system resources.
The installation of Vista Ultimate took around 40 minutes from inserting the DVD to logging into the new VM. Following the first boot, Parallels automatically installs all necessary drivers, although they are unsigned and require manual confirmation at each step -- a minor annoyance. During the whole install process, the load on the MacBook Pro hovered around 1.25, which is actually remarkably good.