Parallels Desktop 14 for Mac review: Testing the new virtual machine

Virtualization software like Parallels is usually associated with running Windows on a Mac, but virtualization can be used to also run other versions of macOS. I’ve been able to safely tinker with Apple’s latest developer or public beta by using virtualization to run them right inside the current stable release of macOS. I also keep older operating systems around to occasionally run software like Final Cut Pro 7, which was orphaned with last year’s macOS 10.13 High Sierra.

Parallels Desktop 14 for Mac is now available and is fully optimized for macOS Mojave. Version 14 focuses less on whiz-bang new features and instead wisely focuses on where it counts: Under-the-hood performance improvements. You’ll notice the difference each and every time you launch the application, which is the fastest it’s ever been by as much as 80 percent, according to the company’s marketing claims. In this case, they have good reason to boast—on my Mac, the software launches in under five seconds flat.

Since Mac owners do rely on Parallels Desktop to run one or more flavors of Windows on their preferred OS, a lot of energy this time around has been devoted to enhancements on this front. Windows VMs now start up to 35 percent faster, as do applications that run inside them. The results are quite remarkable; as a longtime Parallels user, this is the closest to running Windows 10 on actual PC hardware I’ve ever seen.

Parallels

Forget Boot Camp or a dual-boot partition. Parallels Desktop 14 allows Mac users to run Windows, Linux, and even Android side-by-side with macOS.

At least some of this improvement can be attributed to the way Parallels Desktop 14 automatically adjusts video memory usage for best performance. Rather than guess how much you might need or accepting the recommended settings, the software now dynamically balances between what’s available and what’s needed. Sadly, the automatic setting only works with recent flavors of Microsoft’s OS—Windows 10 and 8.1 worked for me, but not Windows 7 or XP, nor any VMs running macOS, Linux, or Android.

Keep it clean

Another step in the right direction with Parallels Desktop 14 is the new Free Up Disk Space feature. While the software has been able to manually reclaim valuable storage space from individual virtual machines (VMs) for some time now, this option has been incorporated into a new window that also consolidate snapshots (which now take up 15 percent less space) and resume/shut down tasks, as well as the ability for Pro Edition subscribers to archive lesser-used VMs for even more savings.

parallels desktop 14 free up disk space Parallels

The new Free Up Disk Space wizard consolidates four features into a single window, making it a snap to reclaim lost space from your virtual machines.

Having everything in one place is not only convenient, it makes a lot of sense for those of us juggling multiple open VMs at any one time. Such users will also be happy to know PD14 introduces a Resource Monitor window, which keeps real-time tabs on CPU and RAM usage for your Mac as well as all running VMs. Now you’ll no longer be left in the dark about which virtual machines are consuming precious system resources.

MacBook owners will appreciate enhanced Touch Bar support for popular Windows apps like OneNote, AutoCAD, and SketchUp, and these and others also benefit from OpenGL improvements that deliver impressive graphics performance. I really love the way PD14 handles multiple monitors in full-screen mode on Windows 10; in true Mac style, there’s no fudging around with settings, it just works. (I just wish this were possible while running macOS virtual machines, too.)

parallels desktop 14 windows full screen settings Parallels

With one option checked, Parallels Desktop 14 allows Windows 10 to take advantage of multiple displays just as elegantly as the Mac does.

Whether buying Parallels Desktop 14 for Mac for the first time or taking the annual upgrade plunge, I wouldn’t hesitate to install this version. You’re even likely to reclaim a little internal storage space. The application size has been reduced by about 150MB (courtesy of support documentation moving to the web), but automatic disk monitoring could save as much as 20GB for those who have multiple VMs. In my case, I regained a few gigabytes, which I was all too happy to have back.

Bottom line

Saving valuable disk space and delivering real-world performance enhancements make this a must-have upgrade—and you’ll need it to run on the latest macOS Mojave.

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Parallels Desktop 14 for Mac review: Testing the new virtual machine

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