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Windows on the Mac: VMware vs. Parallels
14 February 2014
Almost exactly five years ago my computer running Microsoft Windows XP suddenly died. Because I couldn't face the thought of using the dismal Windows Vista, and because I had really liked using the iMac I had bought for our homeschool kids a couple of years previously, I decided to switch to a Mac Pro (early 2009 model) instead — a decision which, five years later, I in no way regret.

However, even now I am not ready to completely abandon Microsoft Windows. I realize that it is sacrilege for a Mac user to make such a confession, but that's the reality! I've never found a satisfactory Mac replacement for the venerable HomeSite HTML editor (when it was still developed by Allaire). I've tried a LOT of HTML editors over the years, but HomeSite is still absolutely the BEST — in fact, I'm creating this article with it right now. ALL of my Web site development for all of my Web sites is centered around HomeSite.

Neither have I found a decent Mac replacement for Quicken (I tried the Mac version a few years back and it was really bad!), nor for Microsoft's Access database and Streets & Trips map programs. Therefore, ever since I got that first Mac Pro, I have been running MS Windows in a virtual machine (VM) within the Mac OS.

For most of these five years I had been using VMware Fusion for Windows virtualization and was satisfied with that software until the end of last year. After I upgraded to OS X Mavericks, and from VMware Fusion 5 to version 6, things started going downhill.

As a major part of my Web site development workflow, I do a lot of copying and pasting between Mac and Windows programs. Unfortunately, this vital functionality stopped working for me in VMware Fusion 6 running on the Mavericks OS. I contacted the VMware technical support on 2 November 2013, just over 30 days after I had installed the new and "improved" version of Fusion.

During the next month and a half I spent many hours on the phone with Janmajay — in India, I believe. Most of the time he was remote-controlling my computer, so he could try various attempts to fix the problem. Even after installing VMware again from scratch, nothing changed — copy and paste between Mac and Windows programs was still not functioning properly.

In mid-December, after I didn't reply promptly enough to one of Janmajay's tech support e-mails, he went ahead and closed my support ticket. Somehow the frustration of that, and the whole situation over the previous couple of months, led to the idea of trying VMware Fusion's competitor: Parallels Desktop. With their 14-day free trial, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

One reason I hesitated to make the change to new Windows virtualization software was the hassle — all the time and energy to install Windows into a new VM, configure Windows to my needs, and to install the handful of Windows programs I depend upon. So I was extremely impressed and delighted that Parallels Desktop was able to open the VMware virtual machine and import my complete Windows installation without having to reinstall anything! There were no glitches, and I was running my customized Windows environment in Parallels in a very short time. That sure made an awesome initial impression on me!

The first thing I noticed was that my Windows programs run MUCH faster in Parallels compared to VMware — the difference is astounding. The second thing I discovered was that copy and paste between Mac and Windows programs works perfectly. Within 48 hours of installation, I was completely won over by Parallels, so I went ahead and purchased a license.

There are a couple of other ways that Parallels bests VMware. First, the Parallels virtual machine starts up and shuts down much faster than VMware's. Second, in the past I had trouble dragging a Windows program from one monitor to the other — the Windows program would get stuck and I would have to force-quit it. Parallels has no such problem.

Of course, no program is perfect, so it's not all roses with Parallels. When using certain Windows shortcut-key combinations, in addition to performing that Windows command, Parallels types a character from the Mac keyboard layout — something which VMware did not do. Also, it is somewhat harder to manage the virtual drives from the Mac which Parallels sets up in Windows. But these are just minor issues. All in all, I am so VERY happy with Parallels I could not imagine going back to VMware. After five years of mediocre performance, VMware has failed me — as Darth Vader famously said — for the last time!

As part of my final farewell to VMware, I asked them if I could have a refund for the Fusion 6 upgrade I had purchased at the very end of September, but which had never functioned properly. Even though they might say "no," it couldn't hurt to ask. I was very pleased that they refunded the $70 I had paid. That completely covered the cost of switching to Parallels — because it was a competative upgrade from VMware, I paid only $50 instead of the usual $80! Cool!

As I reported in Setting Up My New Mac Pro, moving the Windows virtual machine over to my new Mac Pro was a piece of cake! There was no need to reinstall MS Windows or to reconfigure the virtual machine. Once I had installed Parallels Desktop, I simply copied the virtual machine file from my old Mac to the new, started Parallels and the virtual machine, and Windows was up and running!

It's interesting that when you look at the VMware and Parallels customer forums, there are lots of people who started with Parallels and had so many problems with it that they switched to VMware and are quite happy with it. There are also lots of people like me who had so many problems with VMware that they swear by Parallels. It just goes to show that there are no perfect solutions, and you have to find the one that works for you. As for me, extremely happy I made the switch to Parallels.
This article is 7th a series of articles on this Web site related to Technology and Computing which also includes (scroll to see the entire list):
26  Oct  2010
11  Jan  2014
29  Jan  2014
5  Feb  2014
7  Feb  2014
Windows on the Mac: VMware vs. Parallels
14  Feb  2014
15  Feb  2014
16  Feb  2014
17  Feb  2014
1  Nov  2014
12  Nov  2014
20  Nov  2014
22  Nov  2014
2  Dec  2014
6  Dec  2014
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