Applications Product reviews Virtualization

Parallels 7 First Impressions

Currently, there are three options for desktop virtualization on the Mac. VirtualBox is free, but it lacks some of the ease-of-use and fancy integration features available in its commercial counterparts VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop. I have been running Fusion 3 for years, but I wanted to start running Lion as a guest OS. This is supported in Fusion 4 and Parallels 7. I bought the steeply discounted Mac SuperBundle, which included Parallels 7 and nine other applications.

While this post is not intended to be a full review of Parallels 7, I wanted to give you my first impressions. So far I’ve installed Lion and Windows 7 VMs. Installation of Windows 7 and Lion were painless. Lion can be installed using a Recovery Partition or the Install Mac OS X Lion app. The Windows 7 VM worked as expected. It seems that Parallels (the company) has refined its support of Windows over the many versions of Parallels Desktop.

Lion guest support seems more like beta functionality at this point. When switching between full-screen and windowed modes, two problems cropped up. One annoyance was that legacy full-screen mode (as opposed to Lion full-screen mode) sometimes used an odd resolution, resulting in a blurry image. This can be fixed though the Displays preferences panel. A more vexing problem was that mouse clicks sometimes didn’t align with the on-screen pointer. This occurred after I initially installed the Lion VM and once again after flipping between full-screen and windowed modes.

The most serious problem I found with Parallels 7 is that waking the host Mac from sleep mode usually results in a frozen Lion VM and runaway CPU usage. I called Parallels support for further information. Parallels is aware of the issue and working on a fix. For now, they suggest suspending the VM before putting the Mac to sleep. This is an inconvenient workaround. I’ll post an update after Parallels issues a fix.

On the plus side, suspending and resuming VMs on Parallels 7 is remarkably fast.

Update March 5, 2012: Parallels released an update today which adds “experimental support” for Mountain Lion. Unfortunately Lion guests still freeze when exiting sleep.

Update April 15, 2012: After another update the “freeze after sleep” problem has still not been fixed. Parallels is remaining silent about the bug on its support site. At this point, I cannot recommend Parallels for use with Lion guests. Fusion 4 has been working reliably for me.

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