Parallels Desktop’s annual upgrades are usually simple, with few challengers to its position as the main virtualization program for Mac users who want to run Windows on their Mac. This year, though, offers a new threat in the form of Microsoft, which has just released Windows 365, a cloud-based service that effectively runs Windows as a “virtual PC.”
However, much to Parallels’ relief, Windows 365 appears to be geared toward larger businesses and enterprises, and its monthly subscription fees make it significantly more expensive than Parallels Desktop. Nonetheless, Parallels has some new competition to fight with, so it’s critical that the 2021 upgrade proves its worth.
Parallels Desktop 17 is now a ‘universal’ tool that operates natively on Macs with both Intel and Apple’s own M1 CPUs, thanks to major upgrades on both the Mac and Windows sides of the fence. It’s also been thoroughly tested with the beta versions of Windows 11 and MacOS Monterey, ensuring compatibility — or at the very least a quick update — when the final versions arrive later this year. If you don’t want to risk running Monterey as your primary operating system on your Mac, you can run it as a ‘guest’ in a virtual machine.
Some Parallels users have expressed concern over Windows 11’s usage of TPM 2.0, but Parallels points out that prior versions had a ‘virtual TPM chip,’ which has already been updated to accommodate Windows 11.
When running Windows, or any other OS, as a virtual machine (VM) on your Mac, performance is critical, and Parallels claims that Parallels Desktop 17 features a new display driver that boosts 2D graphics performance by up to 25%. M1 Macs enhance performance for VMs running Windows 10 on ARM by roughly 30%, while Intel Mac VMs benefit from quicker network connections. Improvements in 3D graphics using OpenGL are also noticeable, however Parallels cautioned that specific data are difficult to come by because this varies widely from one application to the next.
A new Resource Manager tool keeps track of how your virtual machines are being used and can automatically assign resources from the host Mac, including as memory and processing cores, to improve performance. Monitoring and managing the disk space utilized by your VMs, including saved’snapshots,’ has never been easier (which I know from my own experience can get a bit out of hand at times). There’s also better integration between the Mac’host’ and Windows’guest’ virtual machines, with improved text and graphic copy and paste across Windows and Mac apps, as well as support for Monterey’s new Quick Note function.
If you want to test Windows 11 with Parallels 17 on M1 Mac, you can follow this guide.