Parallels updates its Windows and Linux desktop virtualization application

The renamed app runs eight times faster than the previous version and adds a number of tools from the Desktop for Mac product

Parallels Inc., perhaps best known for its Mac-based virtualization software, recently renamed and updated its desktop virtualization application for Windows and Linux users. The company claims this new version should be able to run some applications as much as eight times faster than its previous version.

Parallels Desktop 4 for Windows and Linux was released shortly after the company announced a special bundle of Parallels Desktop 4 for Mac, which was aimed at helping customers make the switch from a Windows PC to an OS X Mac computer. This latest version of the Windows and Linux virtualization product takes a lot of the technology and lessons learned from its Mac sibling.

[ Parallels new Mac bundle is designed to help PC Windows users make the transition over to Mac OS X | Parallels Workstation Extreme offers individual graphics cards to multiple virtual machines ]

The new product is an upgrade from the nearly three-year-old Parallels Workstation 2.2. It offers a host of new features that should prove interesting to both personal and small-business PC users. All told, Parallels said there are nearly 70 new features in this release -- what with nearly three years to make up for in the realm of technology, the new product can now make use of some of the latest PC hardware technology on the market. Desktop 4 supports up to eight CPU cores and up to 8GB of memory. As a result, it should be able to handle virtual machines running resource-hungry applications. The new solution also supports advanced Intel virtualization technologies such as EPT, Flex Priority, and VPIDs.

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Other new enhancements include:

  • A configuration and management GUI that simplifies the process of creating new virtual machines
  • Support for the Parallels Transporter tool, which automatically captures physical environments or imports third-party virtual machines
  • Parallels Compressor, a utility that automatically cleans up unused space on the virtual hard disk to compact and optimize the virtual machine
  • Parallels Image Tool, a tool designed to help change the size, type, or properties of a virtual hard disk
  • The ability to run 64-bit guests on top of 32-bit hardware
  • A large list of supported guest operating systems such as Microsoft Windows (from Windows 2000 to Windows 7) and pretty much any Linux distro (such as Debian, Fedora, Mandriva, Open Suse, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Suse Linux Enterprise Server, and Ubuntu)

The product's release seems to be perfectly timed for Parallels. The company is hoping that Windows 7 users who want to run Windows XP applications will opt for something a little more powerful and more advanced than the Windows XP Mode that Microsoft has added into its Windows 7 operating system. Parallels Desktop 4 for Windows is said to run much faster than virtual XP Mode, and it supports many more guest operating systems.

An upgrade from the older version of Parallels Workstation 2.2 seems likely, though no price or option has been yet mentioned. Desktop 4 for Windows and Linux is available today at a price of $79.99. While more expensive than the previous version, it does add quite a bit more in functionality and additional tools. Though still cheaper than VMware's Workstation product, it is a bit more expensive than Sun's (Oracle's) VirtualBox, which has been getting a lot of good reviews lately. There is certainly no lack of choice to virtualization users, but Parallels has stepped up the game with its latest Windows and Linux offering.