Installing and Upgrading to Parallels Desktop 6

| How-To

The Parallels Desktop virtual machine environment for Macs just keeps getting better and better. Incremental refinements make it easier to install, more intuitive and always a little faster. Here’s my report on upgrading to version 6.

Parallels Desktop version 6 for Macintosh (PD6) was released on September 14. TMO covered the news, and the story has the upgrade details. I received a briefing from Parallels and an upgrade to PD6 at that time and have been testing it, mostly with Windows 7 Ultimate, provided by the friendly people at Microsoft. This first blush look will focus on my installation experience.

PD6 briefing

Parallels New Features from the TMO briefing (See below for larger view)

When I first upgraded from PD5 to PD6, I didn’t have a complete set of screen shots, so I decided to go back and re-install, thinking that would be a good test as well. The first install deleted PD5, and I wondered if there would be difficulties installing PD6 a second time. In fact, it was no problem at all, and my license info remained intact.

I should mention here that I have a first generation Unibody MacBook Pro (2.4 GHz with 4 GB of RAM and two graphics processors.) I normally work with the NVIDIA GeForce 9400M because the Mac runs cooler. However, before one starts with Parallels, it’s a very good idea to switch to the NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT. This model Mac has 256 MB of video RAM, and I really wish I had selected the next model up (2.53 GHz) with 512 MB of VRAM because then I could give Parallels a full 256 MB and support advanced graphics features. That was a purchase mistake, and, hence, a word to the wise planning to run Parallels on a MacBook. [UPDATE: further discussion with Parallels revealed that one can give Parallels the full 256 MB of VRAM without impact. VRAM isn’t strictly partitioned the way we had supposed. So there’s no penalty for maxing out the VRAM given to a VM.]

PD6 DMG

The DMG contents

The contents of the DMG file are shown above. There’s a warm place in my heart for any developer who includes an uninstall script. One never knows when it might be necessary to start over, or generally get back to a cleaner Mac configuration, and an uninstall script is very handy. Also included is a Getting Started PDF that covers the essentials. This 34 page document introduces the user to the concept behind virtual machines, key technical terms, how to get help and provide feedback, and how to get started creating a virtual machine. What’s not covered is the list of supported guest operating systems, but that list isn’t too hard to find. at the Parallels Website. My target OS was Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit version, and that’s supported in PD6.

PD6 stack

The VM stack: how PD works

I’ll say more about the Windows installation in the next installment, but I want to mention that I was very impressed when, during the Win 7 install, PD6 caught the fact that a Time Machine backup had just started. It didn’t do anything except note that things would slow down considerably during the backup. I elected to abort the TM backup and come back to it later.

PD6 TM

Time Machine Warning

If I were to suggest a checklist for the PD6 upgrade it would start like this.

  1. Check disk integrity with Disk Utility, Repair Disk function.
  2. Force a current Time Machine Backup.
  3. Turn off Time Machine.
  4. Switch to high performance graphics if available.

The installation process only takes a few minutes, and when you’re done, there will be an updated Parallels directory in /Applications. However, to avoid hiding the PD6 application itself, Parallels drops the application itself in the root of /Applications. I like that.

An Easy Install or Upgrade

Below is a series of screen shots that show how the installation goes - with a few screen skipped.  It’s very Mac-like and will be comfortable for any experienced Mac user. There are no secondary files to fuss with, so after the installation, you just double-click the app and go.

PD6-5

PD6-6

PD6-7

PD6-8

Finally, just launch the application like any other Mac app and you’ll see a very pleasant welcome page that clearly suggests what you can do next — including watch a video tutorial. At this point, you’ll enter your new license key for PD6.

PD6-9

Summary

When you hit the splash screen above, you’re ready to install a guest operating system as a virtual machine, and take advantage of the new features in PD6. You do that by simply inserting the install DVD for that OS.  I’ll cover that, Parallels Mobile and life in Windows 7 in the next installment.

PD6-9

Product: Parallels Desktop 6 for Macintosh

Company: Parallels

List Price: US$79.99 (upgrade: $49.99)

Pros:

About 40% faster, according to Parallels, running WIndows, can launch Windows apps from Mac OS X Dock, cross-compatibility with Windows keyboard shortcuts, parental controls, Spotlight integration with Windows, Time Machine alert during install.

Cons:

None noted at this point.

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Comments

Tiger

I ran the install on my Mac Pro Quad Core Nehalem and was back in business in under 10 minutes after it updated Parallels Tools in the Windows environment. Shutting down the Windows environment before the upgrade is a mandatory. If you have ever had a partition corrupt, you know why. There was no recovery the one time it tried to update on a previous version with a suspended windows session.

I find P6 is very fast, though there is a Windows quirk I would warn users about. If you have Automatic Updates turned on, or even your antivirus set to auto update, and you’re running in Coherence mode, the reboots are visually distracting…and annoying. I’d put it back into Windowed mode before rebooting.

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