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The best Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac: Review

Parallels Desktop 16

Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac: Is It Worth Your Purchase?

Some people will still be happy using Boot Camp to switch between MacOS and Windows (for now). But Parallels Desktop 16 is the best virtualization option if you prefer to run Mac and Windows applications in parallel on your Mac.

Retail price (RRP)

  • $ 79.99 annual subscription (Standard Edition); $ 99.99 annual subscription (Pro / Business Edition)

Parallels Desktop 16 for Mac Review

Parallels Desktop has always been an important application for Mac users who need to run Windows software on their Mac (and maybe also try some video games).

However, Apple’s decision to ditch the Intel processors and move the entire Mac platform to its own Apple Silicon chips in the next few years means that the new Parallels Desktop 16 is about to go from “important” to “absolutely essential.” for many people.

Parallels Desktop 16

Macs that still use Intel processors – including the recently released new iMac 2020 27in – will still be able to use Apple’s Boot Camp to ‘dual-boot’, and switch between Windows and MacOS.

However, the upcoming Apple Silicon processors are based on a technology known as ARM, which is completely different from the Intel processors that Apple has used for the past 15 years.

This means that Boot Camp will not work on newer Macs with ARM processors, so ‘virtualization’ software like Parallels Desktop will be the only option to run Windows software on those future Macs.

The software virtualization lets you create a virtual machine – or VMs – which emulates the hardware of a PC with Windows and runs on your Mac like any other Mac application.

You can then install the Windows software and other Windows programs on this VM and run your Windows applications alongside all your normal Mac applications (although it needs a lot of memory to run the MacOS and Windows side by side).

You can view the Windows desktop within its own window by floating on the Mac desktop, expand Windows to full screen size so that it hides the Mac desktop entirely, or even shrink Windows to a small preview found in a corner of the Mac desktop so you can keep an eye on the Windows side while working on other Mac applications.

Parallels Desktop 16

Parallels Desktop is not the only virtualization software available for the Mac – its main rival, VMWare Fusion, has also been updated – but Parallels’ status as a leader in this field was emphasized when Apple used Parallels Desktop to demonstrate a number of applications and games. Windows running on prototype ARM Macs during their recent Worldwide Developers Conference.

Price and options

There are several options for purchasing Parallels Desktop 16, depending on how it will be used. Fortunately, there is a 14-day free trial available at so you can try the program for a while and decide which option is best for you. 

The standard version of Parallels Desktop 16 has been designed primarily for home users, students or individual business users who only need to run a few key Windows applications (or games – and Baldur’s Gate 3, I’m looking at you …).

If you are likely to use Parallels Desktop on a regular basis, you can pay an annual subscription fee of $ 79.99, which also includes all future updates.

For more occasional use, it is also possible to purchase this standard edition for a one-time fee of $ 99.99. This fee allows you to use the software for as long as you want, without the need for an annual subscription, but it does not include future updates, so you will have to pay around 49.99 when you update.

There are also two other versions, the Pro Edition and the Business Edition, which require an annual subscription of $ 99.99 per year. The Pro Edition is intended for software developers and includes features, such as Microsoft Visual Studio support, to help test and debug applications.

The Business Edition includes the same capabilities as the Pro Edition, as well as a number of additional administration tools for large organizations that need to manage multiple copies of Parallels Desktop in their offices.

All versions of Parallels Desktop 16 also include Parallels Toolbox and Parallels Access. The Toolbox is a handy set of utilities, which runs on both Mac and Windows, while Access is an application for iOS and Android that allows you to remotely control VMs on your Mac using your mobile devices.

Prepared for the Big Sur operating system

Parallels Desktop updates always include new features and performance improvements, but the most important change in Parallels Desktop 16 is actually a major over-the-net programming rewrite that won’t be immediately obvious to most people.

Virtualization applications like Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion rely on pieces of software called kexts – kernel extensions – that dig deep into macOS to improve performance when running Windows on your virtual machines. However, Apple has decided that kexts from outside companies such as Parallels are a security risk, so it has banned kexts from the next Big Sur.

This has forced Parallels to make major changes to Parallels Desktop 16 simply to ensure that it can still run in Big Sur.

We were happy to see that it worked well in the Big Sur beta we had installed on our MacBook – and it even allowed us to create a VM that would also run the Big Sur beta, so we were able to return the MacBook to its more reliable Catalina configuration. , and then just use the VM to explore Big Sur.

Parallels also told us that they are planning an update with some additional features when the final version of Big Sur launches this fall.

In addition to this major rewrite, Parallels has also managed to add other new features: They have adjusted Parallels Desktop so that their virtual machines start and shut down faster than before. Support for Mac trackpads when running Windows applications has been improved, including zoom and rotate gestures .

Additionally, the “virtual disks” used to store all Windows applications within your VM are now reduced to take up less space on your Mac when you shut down the VM.

There are also improved printing options when working with Windows software, allowing you to use all the features of your Mac printer, such as two-sided printing and additional paper sizes.

In addition to supporting Apple’s Metal graphics software , Parallels Desktop 16 also supports OpenGL 3.2, allowing you to run various specialized Windows applications, such as DiaLux for lighting design and Samson for molecular modeling.

Parallels also claims that it is about 20% faster when running applications that use Windows’ proprietary DirectX graphics software.

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