Using Parallels

It’s really okay on a Catalina Macbook Air? My sister who is not tech savvy wants to run a program that is only Windows. She’s researched and learned she can put Parallels on her machine. I’ve never done it, her one computer is mission-critical to her daily income so I’m ansty about it for her. I’ve come here for reassurance that it is as easy as the reviews and Parallels people say. One concern I have is she has 4 GB Ram… Thoughts?

I have been running Windows 10 under Parallels on Big Sur (previously using the same VM on Catalina, Mojave, etc.,) for 15 years or so. It is totally reliable for me, and is used to support my work. Neither Parallels or the Windows VM have ever damaged anything on the Mac side or caused me issues.

There are alternatives to Parallels – VMware Fusion for example. And it you are running only a single Windows program than Crossover is another possibility.

BUT 4GB is very limited for running VMs. Parallels can be configured to use a no more than X amount of RAM.


I use Parallels to play Command & Conquer Red Alert, Yuris Revenge on my iMac. it’s beautiful.

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To just run one program…I’d get the free VirtualBox.


Okay… deep breath. I’m reassured… I think. I think my hesitancy comes from some dim memory of trying it out in and having problems…? the memory includes an office I haven’t had since 2005 so a long time ago…

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I’d look for a macOS alternative to “the program” first.

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Reinforcing @anon41602260 Parallels or VMWare Fusion are terrific for this purpose. I’ve used both for years. However, 4gb memory is insufficient to be satisfied with performance.


Yup, I agree… there isn’t one. It’s a specific astrological interpretation of financial markets…

Agree with comments and suggestions and FWIW
VMware Fusion offers a free “Personal Use” license

VMWare Fusion Personal Use License


:musical_note: …" when Goldman Sachs is in the seventh house, and the SPACS align with Mars…" :musical_note:


I second VirtualBox if it’s really a single application, and the majority of the work is on Mac. At least that will work as a free proof of concept.

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Thanks. That’s most interesting. But as I said, she’s not techy savvy, I’d end up doing all the support… not sure I want to have to figure out VirtualBox and then teach her…

No pressure, but it’s as easy as Parallels. Just give it a shot for 10 minutes, if you can’t figure it out, then Parallels. By the way, I run Parallels because I develop stuff for Windows. But for just a single app, I would try VirtualBox first (by the way, VirtualBox is an Oracle product).

I ran Parallels some years ago and found it really slow on a 8gb MBP. Once I upgraded to 16gb performance was great. Can’t remember if this was before I upgraded to a SSD. 4gb would be a stretch.

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Virtualbox is slow, often behind the times and much less user friendly as compared to Parallels, i’d stay away from it.

Re-iterating others; if the memory is not upgraded, your sister’s experience will be very painful.

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Did you benchmark it? I didn’t do it for current versions, but 3-4 yrs ago the performance was equal.

“Behind the times”
3D support? macOS integration?

What`s “less user friendly”?
Virtual Box: start Virtual Box, double-Click on the “one program”, use it, close
Parallels: start Parallels, double-click on the “one program”, use it, close

If the use-case was “use a lot of Windows programs”, share data with macOS, etc., I’d go for Parallels. But for the use-case “one program”, it’s hard to argue spending money for Parallels.

On the 4GB RAM question - Parallels 16 system requirements

Be aware that the virtual machine PVM package (a type of folder) that Parallels creates for Windows 10 requires 16GB disc space, minimum, and will probably be closer to 2x that size or more. (Mine is 45GB, but I run M365 and a number of other Windows apps in Parallels.)

Just a few things on the latest virtualbox (from memory):

  1. Audio drivers don’t work in catalina nor big sur
  2. Display scaling is not fluidly adapting to window size but must be done in steps. This seemed to work fine on several mac minis but not on 16” pro machines
  3. 3d mouse from connexion driver cannot start.
  4. Elmer (finite element analysis software on linux) a good factor 2 slower as compared to parallels or VMware

Setup/configuration with virtualbox is fiddly imho as compared to parallels.

I have/had a whole list but can’t remember it all.

Now on parallels the big nagative for me is their forever upgrade cycle and how they go about trying to get you to upgrade each year.

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Parallels is definitely faster than Virtualbox, in addition to being a lot more pleasant and full-featured as noted above. I’ve been in both regularly for years.

It makes sense that it would outperform as it needs to earn its share of the market as a paid alternative to free software.

For infrequent use, though, free is just fine.

She might be able to, but it’s going to be expensive. She she look at VMWare which is free for personal use.

As others have said, 4GB of RAM is going to be an issue, regardless. I almost wonder if it wouldn’t be better to setup BootCamp and boot into Windows when she needs to use Windows, but I have no idea if that would be feasible. It would depend on what the Windows app is and how often she needs to use it.

Also, I just remembered there’s another project out there… WINE which might be the best solution IF the app that she wants to run is supported by it. At least then she would not have the overhead of running all of Windows on 4GB of RAM.