Notes on running Windows on a Mac


Windows runs on your Mac as a “virtual machine,” or VM. Parallels Desktop is a virtualization app.

Basic idea

Windows becomes a file on your computer. Parallels opens that file and tells it to pretend that it is a real computer.

You can start that computer, shut it down, put it to sleep (a.k.a. suspended), or wake it up. Also, you can look at it in a separate window, or full screen, or have the windows you have open on it appear as individual, discrete windows in your Mac environment.


Most of the time, you will have Parallels quit, and Windows suspended. When you open the Parallels Desktop app, you will be asked to resume Windows 7.

Then, when you are done with what you need to do in Windows, simply quit Parallels, and it will suspend the VM.

Best Practices

When you do need to have windows running, you should probably quit any other apps that you don’t need to use at the moment. Running Windows consumes a great deal of memory, leaving less room for other apps to do their job, which will result in the spinning beach ball.

As you would with any computer, if Windows is misbehaving, turn it off from the Start menu at the bottom left corner of the Windows screen. Parallels will make it obvious how to fire it back up.


I don’t do much to Windows after I install it, with three exceptions: I install Microsoft Security Essentials, and Google Chrome. I also run Windows Update, which you can find using the search blank in the Start menu.

VirtualBox + Windows 7 Test Drive = smoothness

Just installed Sun’s virtualizer VirtualBox — a free, open-source alternative to Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion — and then created a virtual machine for the Test Drive of Windows 7 Release Candidate (RC).
VirtualBox is easily acquired and installed. Microsoft required a hotmail/ registration to download Windows 7 … I think I had a hotmail account back before Mr. Softee snatched ’em, but despite my misgivings, I registered with my real address.

Anyway, I haven’t had a chance to dig into Windows, and I don’t have nearly enough Benadryl on hand for that anyway, but I am very pleased that VirtualBox installs and works basically as smoothly as either of its non-free competitors. I hope VMWare and Parallels have recouped their development costs for their products.

VMWare Fusion 2 beta is out

Features sound fine, especially better Windows printing [crossing fingers], but the extra cool thing is that v2 is going to be a “free downloadable upgrade for all VMware Fusion 1.x customers, as a sincere thank you to our early supporters.” I really like that kind of language.