Parallels recently released version 4 of their Parallels Desktop for Mac. I’ve been running Parallels 3 on my iMac and have three virtual machines configured. The first is Windows Vista Ultimate, the second is Ubuntu 8.04 Server and the third is a little used Windows XP Home virtual machine.
I purchased the upgrade and just completed converting the Vista and Ubuntu VMs. The upgrade wasn’t problem free. The Vista upgrade ended up being successful but required some manual intervention. The Ubuntu Server upgrade resulted in a VM that can’t talk on the network and a fix still eludes me.
The installation of Parallels 4 itself when well. I downloaded the DMG disk image file from Parallels, mounted it and ran the installer. The install warns that Parallels 3 will be removed but that’s the only difference between this upgrade and a standard Mac install. It only took a couple of minutes on my iMac.
Then I started the Vista Ultimate VM and was prompted to backup before upgrading. Even though I had my usual backup I decided to let it make a backup that wouldn’t get overwritten tonight. It’s just a file copy so times will vary but my backup took about 30 minutes. After the backup the actual conversion kicked off. It almost immediately told me I had to logon the the VM to continue. Once I logged on it immediately popped back to the wizard and showed the progress of the conversion. Fifty minutes later I was told I needed to manually complete the upgrade. I suspect it failed long before and there was a long delay until it timed out. So I logged back onto the VM and ran setup.exe from the CD. It had told me to ignore any Windows messages. Upon and upon logging in I cancelled a couple new hardware found messages.
During the install there were numerous “unsigned driver warnings” which I allowed to install and there was a reboot at the end. After the reboot there wasn’t a Parallels Tools icon in the system tray or a menu item but that seems to be normal with this version. The tool processes do show in task manager.
So far things seem fine with the Vista VM but it’s only been a few hours and a few test reboots. There could still be some problems lurking in the shadows.
The Ubuntu Server VM upgrade when quickly since it was small and didn’t have the tools installed. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to get it on the network since the upgrade, no matter what network mode I try. It had been working just before the upgrade. The network seems properly configured within Ubuntu itself but it’s unable to find the ethernet adapter.
Parallels says there’s a 50% speed improvement. I’ll have to take their word for it. I never stressed Parallels in the past and haven’t seen a difference for what I do. I have noticed some rumblings online that people have seen a degradation in the performance of their windows VMs but it’s impossible to judge how common it is.
Video support is improved. Up to 256MB can be allocated to video memory and DirectX 9 and OpenGL 2 are supported. There’s a large list of 3D games and applications that are supported.
Overall there doesn’t seem to be much here for a paid upgrade. I realize Parallels needs to make money but VMware Fusion hasn’t had a paid upgrade since their initial release and the difference between Fusion 1 and Fusion 2 where about the same as between Parallels 3 and Parallels 4. If you’ve already got Parallels then you should probably upgrade during the discount period. If your still shopping then VMware Fusion may be a lower cost option.