Parallels Desktop for Mac through a VMware Fusion 3 user's eyes

Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMware Fusion 3 are two, popular ways to run Windows on a Mac. Their differences in features and presentation can affect your virtualization tasks.

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Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMware Fusion 3 are two popular ways to other desktop operating systems in Mac OS X. If you run VMware Fusion 3 for IT tasks, such as PowerShell or vSphere Client management, there may be some features in Parallels Desktop for Mac that will convince you to switch.

I’ve been a loyal VMware Fusion user since the first version came out in 2007. It has always been on my MacBook Pro, which I use for almost all of my work. I use VMware Fusion 3 to run several flavors of Windows and even a Linux distribution or two.

I’d heard of Parallels Desktop for Mac but never had an interest because Fusion has always worked for me. But I’d read reviews of both products and decided to take Parallels Desktop for Mac for a test drive. I wanted to know which product would be better at carrying out my virtualization administration tasks in the vSphere Client and command line.

Testing Parallels Desktop for Mac
After downloading the Parallels Desktop for Mac trial, I was quickly taken aback by the very short trial period: 14 days, compared to 30 days for VMware Fusion 3. I really dislike how some vendors give short trial windows. It appears that they have no idea what it takes to evaluate products. The Parallels Desktop for Mac installation is pretty painless, but I was also annoyed at the nagging trial period boxes that come up every time I start the program.

Anyway, I created a Windows XP virtual machine (VM) from an ISO, using the wizard interface. After booting it, I noticed a few interesting things not found in Fusion.

First, you can very easily customize the virtual network interfaces with a few clicks. In Fusion, it’s more difficult and requires scripts. Another big plus for Parallels is the ability to encrypt VMs, which is something Fusion should have had long ago. I have all my VMs on a portable drive, so this feature alone makes Parallels Desktop for Mac a serious contender.

Next, I imported one of my Fusion VMs. I wanted to see if there was a noticeable difference in the time it takes to import an established image. I also wanted to see if Parallels booted a VM faster. In Parallels, it took quite a bit longer to boot a VM the first time. After another reboot, however, the VM appeared to boot faster than Fusion.

I also went through all of the basic stuff, such as trying out options and menus, rebooting and suspending VMs, running apps and connecting to networks. In Parallels Desktop for Mac, having the VM’s applications in the dock is a nice touch, along with the ability to mount VMs from Finder, which is very useful for updates and file changes.

All in all, though, I really didn’t notice anything that would sway me from Fusion. When it gets down to it, you need the tools that are right for you and your job. For me, VMware Fusion 3 has met these needs very well over the last few years.

The great thing about these type-2 hypervisors is that you can always switch back to another one or run them together. For now, I’ll keep running and digging deeper into both products to see if something puts me over the edge -- or until the trial period ends, of course.

This was first published in July 2011

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