With XP running, I tried installing ATI's Radeon Mobility X1600 drivers, but when the installer inspected the hardware configuration as presented by the VM, it decided my machine was not one supported by ATI. As it stands, Parallels' own video driver will not do 3D acceleration. The 3DMark 06 benchmark would not run, and neither would the 3D components of PCMark 05 so I couldn't get a full PCMark rating. For what it's worth, the CPU test yielded a score of 2,891 while the HDD benchmark results was 4,943 points.
You'd want to install the latest ATI drivers to maximise your machine's graphics performance under XP. But there are other limits. Even though XP correctly identifies the host processor, PD limits the guest OS to one of the Core Duo's two cores. In practice, XP and OS X both throttle back apps that are running but sitting in the background, so this is unlikely to hit mainstream applications hard, but it will hinder processor-hungry tools like Photoshop.
You can assign as much memory to the VM as you have physical memory on board, but PD suggests you leave enough for the host OS to run smoothly, and provides a recommendation. My MacBook Pro has 1.5GB, and I assigned the recommended maximum of 1.1GB to the VM, and there was a marked impact on Mac OS X performance. Even running the VM at 768MB, allocated all but 16MB of the physical RAM to other tasks, and that's with just Mac OS X, a handful of dashboard widgets, Activity Monitor and text editor, Text Wrangler, running alongside PD. Switch off PD, and the free memory shot up to 970MB.
Depending on what you plan to run under PD, then a memory upgrade may be in order, which adds to the product's overall cost, of course.
There are other issues. Parallels' routines for changing to full-screen mode needs some work. Out of the box, it messes around with the two OS' resolutions too much. Fortunately, you can tell PD not to change the Mac OS X screen resolution, and you can turn off the transition effects, but I repeatedly saw graphical oddities in XP - missing UI elements, wrong resolution messages and so on. There's no way, it seems, to flip seamlessly from full-screen Windows to full-screen Mac OS X as if you were sharing a monitor between two machines.
Even in full-screen mode, the VM essentially runs in a Window. That's handy in some ways - Apple's volume and brightness controls continue to work as before - but irritating on others, primarily the way Exposé's hot corners are retained. Push your mouse too far and suddenly Windows disappears entirely.
These are minor irritations and easily avoided. And they're a small price to pay for the flexibility of not having to reboot your Mac to change operating systems, or to be able to run multiple operating systems without having to re-partition your hard drive, with the risks that entails. Equally important is PD's ability to with other operating systems than Windows XP - which is all Apple's BootCamp officially supports. That makes PD the only choice for legacy operating systems, such as Windows 3.11. It also provides an easy way to trial Linux.
Parallels Desktop for Mac costs $80, but you may need to add some extra memory too and the cost of a copy of Windows. Fortunately, Parallels lets you try the software out for 15 days, which should give you a sense of the performance limitations and/or expanded memory requirements your chosen guest operating system(s) will require if you choose to stick with PD.
Next page: BootCamp
Sharing of Files?
Something I've been wondering for a while.. is it possible to share files (eg: Outlook mailbox, my documents, favourites, etc) across both operating systems?
What are the issues around such sharing of content? compatibility problems?
Being new to Mac, I dont know how shareable content is with Windows machines, and this is definitely somethign that is important to me should i make the switch to Mac (somethign i'm seriously considering now that i can still use Windows for development work.. i dont think you can get MS Visual Studio for Mac... or can u?)
Missing the Point
I really don't think the author of this article really understands the power of Parallels. As an IT specialist I routinely run multiple virtual machines simultaneously on my MacBook Pro. I've simulated/built LANs, compiled applications and tested on indiviual virtual machines or in groups of up to 4 simultaneously.
Yes host only networking is the default, but multiple host only machines can talk to each other when hosted on the same physical hardware. This is incredibly useful. I run a workstation dedicated to windows for things at work that OSX can't yet do, like run old crappy dos and win32 applications from the network (Darwine and Crossover are up and coming, but not there yet for me), and that one is set to "bridged". With bridged networking, the virtual machine appears to the outside as its own unique computer. And, yes, mulitple bridged machines can be run on the same physical hardware, visible to each other and the world.
As for boot camp, give me a UNIX kernel like OSX and parallels on top of it instead, for everything, anyday, always. The ONLY time I can foresee a need for bootcamp is for games, when 3D matters, and when a port isn't available yet for OSX natively. Given time, I see 3D added to Parallels as well. For now, the few games I care to play have been ported to OSX already. Ditto on high end graphics and video products.
As far as performance goes, think snappy. It is "near native", nothing at all like the Virtual PC days. The fact that the author discounts due to the fact 3D video isn't available has missed the boat entirely in my opinion. These macintel machines offer the best of everything when configured with Parallels desktop and sufficient RAM, and they are reasonably priced as well for the flexibility, performance, and security you get. I've stopped using my other PCs, Linux, BSD, and XP. I have access to as many as I want for free. The experience is that good.
Repair disk permissions
Quote from the article: "Reports from folk who've tried it already suggest that it's a good idea to verify your hard drive and repair file-access permissions before running BootCamp."
Of course they did. It's part of the Mac Voodoo, that. Anyone who wants to appear knowledgeable but has no clear idea of what they're talking about will recommend one or more of: repair permissions; clearing PRAM; installing software updaters via the combo rather than incremental package. It certainly wouldn't help in this situation and almost never does at any other time, but it's part and parcel of The Mac Experience ;-)
Parallels is an amazing piece of software, and unlike the reviewer I can recomment it wholeheartedly. It sounds, from the problems he had swtiching between full-screen Windows and OSX, that either he had an old, pre-release copy of Paralells, or he didn't bother to read the instructions properly, because full-screen switching is built-in.
In addition, in the months I have been using Parallels on my intel iMac, I have never had any problems with lagging mouse cursors, or disappearing GUI elements, and it sounds to me like - again - the reviewer failed to follow the instructions to install "Parallels Tools" once he had finished the Windows installation process.
Parallels has worked for me flawlessly. I have never, ever, had it crash, and I use it daily to run my stock trading software. Performance is excellent, and much faster (providing 3D graphics aren't required) than any Pentium-based PC. The machine takes full advantage of the Core Duo VT-mode (which again mistakenly the reviewer says might be something for future versions).
Unless you want to play hard core 3D games (in which case use Boot Camp), Parallels is the best of both worlds: instant switching between OSX and Windows, on the same machine, with virtually no loss of performance. On my iMac, Parallels running Windows 2000 and my stock trading software uses up just 21% of total CPU capacity, according to the Activity Monitor. That's pretty amazing.
In short, Boot Camp is a complete waste of time, unless you simply have to have access to 3D graphics. For the 90% of the rest of the world who don't Parallels is the absolute best solution - especially as you can cut and paste between the two OS environments and set-up shared folders. For $80 (and assuming you already have a copy of Windows from an old PC lying around) you can run Windows on your Mac, with virtually no sacrifices. The reviewer grossly underplayed the usefulness of Parallels, and overplayed its very few shortcomings IMO. Parallels beats the pants of VMware in terms of usability, stability, and resource requirements. Macs running OSX, hosting other OSs via Parallels, really are the most broadly compatible and versatile computers on the planet now.
Linux on MacOS
Maybe I'm missing something, but can anyone suggest a decent reason why anyone would want to run Linux on top of MacOS, which is itself based on a BSD back end??