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About Parallels on Mac
Parallels is a program that allows Mac users to run Windows on their Macs by creating a virtual Windows machine on the computer. The Parallels virtual machine (VM) emulates the Windows OS while the Mac is still running on macOS. In other words, the VM is like just another app on your Mac – one that looks, behaves, and functions as the Windows OS. This means that you can do almost anything within the VM that you could do on a Windows PC, including downloading, installing, and playing Windows games.
Using Parallels to create a Windows VM on a Mac and then play Windows games through that VM is a popular way of getting games that don’t have a Mac version to run on a Mac. This method is a commonly used alternative to the Boot Camp Assistant method, as the latter isn’t available for M1 Macs, also requires a lot of storage space, and doesn’t always provide the best performance.
On this page, we will show you how you can set up a Windows VM on a Mac with the help of Parallels, but there are a few notes that we must first make:
- The first one is that the Parallels VM cannot use all of your Mac’s CPU cores and RAM. This is because your Mac would still be running on macOS while you are using Windows through the Parallels VM, so some hardware power needs to be left for macOS. This is particularly important if you want to play games through Parallels. In most cases, in order to be able to play a certain game while in the Parallels VM, your Mac would need to meet it’s recommended and not only its minimum requirements. For instance, if a game requires 8 GB of RAM and your Mac has 8 GB of RAM, you won’t be able to run this game through Parallels, because 4 GB of RAM would need to be left for your macOS, leaving the VM with only 4 GB of RAM rather than the needed 8 GB.
- The next thing to note is that Parallels is a paid program and this means that, so if you want to use it long-term, you will need to purchase it. There is, however, a free trial version that lasts for 14 days, and we highly recommend using it to test the waters and see if Parallels provides you with what you need. One important thing we should point out about the trial version is that it only allows you to allocate 8 GB of RAM to the VM, so even if your Mac has 16 GB or more, you won’t be able to give more than 8 to the VM if you are using the trial version. That said, 8 GB should be enough to cover the minimum requirements of any game, so that you’d be able to test playing it from within the Parallels VM.
- Thirdly, while you can use Parallels to create a Windows VM on both Intel and M1 Macs, there is one slight difference in the process of doing so. On Intel Macs, Parallels lets you install a Windows 10 VM, while on M1 Macs, you can create a Windows 11 VM using Parallels. This means that the files used for the VM creation differ, which will be addressed in the instructions below.
With those notes out of the way, it is now time to show you the process of using Parallels to create a Windows 10/11 virtual machine on your Mac.
Install Windows on Mac with Parallels
- Getting Parallels
- Downloading a Windows installation file
- Installing the Parallels VM
- Final Preparations
Step 1: Getting Parallels
Visit the Parallels site, click the Free Trial download button, and download the installation file for the free trial version of Parallels.
After that, double-click the downloaded .dmg file, then double-click on Install Parallels Desktop in the window that opens and then select Open if your admin confirmation is required to continue.
After that, wait as Parallels downloads the necessary installation data, then enter your Password, and click Continue when (if) asked if you’d like to use the Trial version. Next, accept the license agreement, select OK on every permission prompt that shows up, and follow any remaining prompts and when you see the Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file option, select it, and click Continue.
- Note: If you are using an Intel-based Mac, Parallels will first give you the option to automatically Install Windows 10 on your Mac – click Skip when this screen shows up.
Step 2: Downloading a Windows installation file
Perform this step without closing Parallels.
Depending on whether you are using an Intel-based Mac or an M1 Mac, follow the respective instructions shown below:
For Intel Macs: Go to this Microsoft page, select and confirm the selected Windows 10 edition (we recommend picking the Home edition) and language, then click the 64-bit Download button, and download the Windows 10 ISO file on your Mac.
For M1 Macs: If you don’t have a Microsoft account, click on this link and create one. Then go to this page, click on the Register button in the Meet the Windows Insider Program section, then sign in with your Microsoft account, click Register on the next page, and then select Flight Now.
Next, open this page and download the Windows ARM file by clicking the download button. If no download button can be seen on the page, you are probably not signed in with your Microsoft account – click the Sign in button in the top-right corner, sign in, and then the download button should appear.
Step 3: Installing the Parallels VM
After the Windows 10 ISO/Windows 11 ARM file is downloaded on your Mac, with Parallels still open, go to the Windows file, double-click it and Parallels should detect that you want to use this file for the installation and ask you what you want to use the VM for (Productivity or Games Only). If this doesn’t happen, drag-and-drop the Windows installation file into the Parallels window, and the program should now recognize it.
When asked to choose between Productivity or Games Only, you should obviously go with the latter option if you are going to be using the VM for gaming. After you select one of the two options, select Continue. On the next page, check the Customize settings before the installation option, and click Create.
When the Configuration window appears, we recommend going to the Hardware tab and selecting CPU & Memory from the left. Then unlock those settings by clicking the Padlock and entering your password, then select the Manual option, and give more RAM and CPU cores to the VM. This would be especially helpful if you want to use the VM for gaming since you’d need all the power you could get for the best performance. Therefore, feel free to allocate all the CPU cores and RAM that you are allowed to – Parallels automatically limits you here, ensuring that there’s always some RAM and CPU cores left for your macOS.
Once you are done with the customization, close that window, select Create, and let the installation commence. However, stay close to your Mac, as you will need to provide your Admin confirmation several times during the installation. Soon, the VM will be created and will open on your screen. Before you can start using it, however, you will need to create a Parallels account. You can also sign in with your Google or Facebook account, or with your Apple ID.
Step 4: Final Preparations
After the VM installs and opens, we recommend going to the Windows Start Menu in the bottom-left, opening Settings > Update & Security, selecting the Windows Update section, and installing whatever updates are available there. After that, you will need to restart the VM through the Start Menu.
Once it restarts, Parallels may automatically begin installing some additional software needed for smooth performance, let it finish the installation, and restart the VM once again.
And there you have it – the Windows 10/11 VM should now be fully functioning and ready for use.
A couple of notes
- You can easily switch between the VM and macOS by simply swiping to the left or right on your trackpad or by using the Command + Tab keyboard combination.
- The VM configuration can be changed after installation – to do this, start the VM, quit Windows from its start Menu, then select the Parallels icon from the Menu Bar in your macOS, click Control Center, and select the Settings icon. This will let you customize the settings of the VM.
- You can quit the VM from within Windows, or you can switch to your macOS and quit it from the Dock or from the Menu Bar.
This was our article and guide on using Parallels to create a Windows virtual machine on a Mac computer. If you have any questions concerning the program and how to use it, do not hesitate to ask them in the comments below. Also, feel free to share your experience with Parallels and let us know how well it has worked for you.