Running Windows on Mac: Parallels Desktop 8 vs. VMware Fusion 5

“Running Windows 8 or Windows 7 on a Mac or a MacBook is simple with virtualisation software, so you need never have to reboot to switch operating systems again,” Andrew Harrison reports for PC Advisor. “There are three clear options: the open-source and free but limited VirtualBox, or one of the two commercial packages, Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac or VMware Fusion.”

“Either of the latter are easier to work with than VirtualBox, with broadly similar qualities and very decent performance,” Harrison reports. “In performance terms, Parallels continues its lead over Fusion with consistently faster results in our benchmarks. Using near-matched configurations of Windows 7, two active processor cores and 2GB of memory, Parallels scored 4,305 points in PCMark 7, 8.6 percent faster than Fusion’s 3965.”

Advertisement: Limited time offer – 25% off Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac – Run windows on your Mac – Faster

Harrison reports, “Graphics performance shows the largest difference. Fusion hit a playable 52fps in Stalker: Call of Pripyat, while Parallels added almost a third more frames at 69fps. These results were achieved using a MacBook Pro with nVidia GeForce 650M graphics, 1280×800 resolution and Medium detail… Both VMware and Parallels offer solid performance and useful features when running Windows on a Mac. If you need the fastest performance, Parallels still edges out VMware Fusion, although the latter is available for half the price.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Parallels Desktop, not VMware Fusion, is the best virtualization software for most Mac users – January 30, 2013
Parallels Desktop 8 updated with expanded support for Windows 8 – November 8, 2012
Macworld UK reviews Parallels Desktop 8.0: Does a slicker job than VMWare’s Fusion – September 20, 2012
Mossberg reviews Parallels Desktop 8: Works well; superior to VMWare Fusion – September 13, 2012
CNET reviews Parallels Desktop 8: New features put it above competitors – September 6, 2012
Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac now available – September 4, 2012


  1. I agree with article results, but if you don’t play games you will not notice any difference between the two. One advantage VMware has over Parallel is it’s support for other operating systems like Red Hat.

    1. No actually. From the Parallels 8 User’s Guide:

      With Parallels Desktop you can:
      … Install other operating systems, such as Linux, Google Chrome OS, Mac OS X Lion, and Mac OS X Server, and use them together….”

      “Supported Guest Operating Systems…
      Red Hat Enterprise
      CentOX Linux
      Fedora Linux
      SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
      OpenSUSE Linux
      Mandriva Linux
      Debian Linux

      Mac OS…
      Chrome OS
      Open Solaris
      OS/2 Warp

      That includes 64-bit versions of operating systems, where available. Linux Ubuntu 8 – 10, Red Hat Enterprise 5 & 6, and Fedora 12 – 14 have ‘Express Installation’ provided.

    1. Actually, I’ve bought every version, 5 – 8, as part of an inexpensive bundle offered by the likes of MacUpdate and MacHeist. Each of these bundles of software cost $49.99. I simply keep an eye out for deals.

  2. Also, Parallels only allows one licence per Mac, whereas VMWare allows usage on multiple Macs, as far as I am aware – so VMWare is the way to go if you have multiple Macs.

    1. Other than parlor trick, there are some weird little programs that are only on Win. Also I can say with some certainty that BluRay ripping software is better on Win.

    2. Web developers often need to test websites in Windows browsers, including many obnoxious versions of IE. There are other options – such as Boot Camp and – but running virtual machines inside OS X has many distinct advantages, such as loading speed, live debugging, and ease of managing multiple OS’s.

      1. Why not simply do what the PC people did? When something didn’t run correctly on a Mac they simply said the user needed to a get compatible system. Mac people can say, “Why don’t you get a STANDARDS compatible system? Time to eliminate .net and all the other non-standard Windows hacks to the web.

    3. If you want to run some apps that are Windows only, these are great solutions. Lately I’m playing through the ‘Silent Hill’ series via Windows XP on Parallels 8. I was able to dig up a port of the games to Windows (please don’t ask where). The results are excellent.

      I also help out the local PC user’s group, so it allows me to check out current Windows shareware, etc. When I used to support a friend’s PC, using Parallels was incredibly useful. (These day’s I refuse to troubleshoot Windows machines, having been burned out working on Vista infested PCs. OMG what a POS that was! And I want nothing to do with Windows 8).

      1. Agreed! VM gets the job done, never crashes (touch wood), no worries (Win7 on ML MBair starts in 25″). [What sucks is that, though it only fires up once a week or so for a couple of Windas-only scientific programs, I still have to keep up with the endless barrage of patches and service packs on the dark side; there’s 10 patches today!]

    1. deasystems, I’m not sure what version of Parallels you’ve used. But I can testify that version 8 cleaned up a lot of loose ends and is easy to use. I’m enjoying it. Versions 5, 6 and 7 were much more clunky.

      I’ve never used VMWare, so I have no comparisons.

    1. Which of the tree is best? (three, I suppose?)
      It depends on what you need to do. I do very heavy numerical analysis with some non-trivial, but relatively simple graphics. In my opinion, the reviewer does a disservice to those of us who are in this category, by dismissing VirtualBox. After checking out the various options, I have settled on VirtualBox. For my work, Windows on my iMac handily beats Windows on some incredibly expensive Dell machines I have been forced to use. VirtualBox is free and easy to deal with. There is not much to risk, other than possibly some time. For what it is worth, I switched after unsatisfactory experiences with Fusion and accompanying support. I have been very happy with VirtualBox – less happy with Windows, of course.

    2. Bootcamp requires booting your entire Mac to Windows.

      Virtualization, as provided by Parallels and VMWare means you’re running OS X and Windows (or other supported OSes) at the same time. Parallels makes switching between Mac and Windows apps seamless. You don’t even have to notice which OS each app is running on.

      The drawback with Virtualization is the need for RAM to run the boot OS AND all your virtual machines. With modern Macs, that’s not a problem. I can buy 16 GB of RAM for $140 or less.

      Also, people transitioning from The Dark Side to the Progressive Platform will have lots of old Windows software they’ll want to run. Not a problem!

      I can run a few things of interest in WINE, which is another alternative. But WINE can be extremely picky about what Windows software it can run. The list of supported software is considerably shorter than simply running Windows in virtualization.

  3. I work for a Company that used to use Citrix for use by our traveling sales staff as well as remote employees (which I am). As such, they didn’t care if I had a Mac or PC – so I chose a Mac.

    Recently we’ve dumped Citrix in favor of a VPN running Windows. When I asked for a copy of Parallels and Windows 7 to install on my machine so I could stay connected (and do my job), I was told our new IT Director wouldn’t support that. So as of right now, all I can do on my MBA is receive email. Everything else needs to be completed by someone in the building at HQ … Oh, the idiocy of the Windows-centric IT Manager! They are by far the least educated in Technology and what systems (other than Windows) can do!

  4. Having used both over the years my impression is that VM Ware tends to be more stable and better behaved while Parallels seems more oriented to the PC Gamer crowd with more emphasis on the graphics speed needed for that niche.

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