VirtualBox vs. Parallels Desktop® 8 for Mac
Compare & Choose the Best



Virtual Box is a free, open source virtualization application from Oracle. Being free seems to be enough of a reason to give it a go. All you have to lose is time, effort, and your sanity. So what hassles are involved? The biggest drawback to using VirtualBox on your Mac is the substantial amount of fiddling needed to get your virtual machine to run the way you want. Creating a virtual harddisk, enabling XYZ switch, and configuring with the driver packages — all require some intermediate or advanced computer skills.

Another substantial downside is the limited graphics capability. There is some early OpenGL support, but that is not officially fully supported yet. VirtualBox doesn’t support the Aero features of Windows 7.

The consensus among VirtualBox users is that you can forget about playing any games in VirtualBox, it won’t be worth your time. That said, VirtualBox runs OK for web surfing, email and very light office document work.

User Testimonials about VirtualBox
experience on a Mac:

VirtualBox does not support popular gestures. Small customer base means it’s not easy to share with others as they’re likely using one of the other two. Does not hold up well when run for the long term. — Revelated, MacRumors

If you expect to be running in Windows more than once or twice per week, you’ll probably want to get Parallels... — Jim

I’ve been trying to play PC games in VirtualBox but it won’t let me. It either tells me that it detects a virtual machine and won’t continue, or it tells me that I need to put the original copy of the cd in my drive. Only problem with that is that I have the cd in the drive. — Woody

Less features and the worst performance compared to paid virtualization solutions. Lack of vendor support is a concern as well. — Thomas, MacRumors

Parallels Desktop® 8 for Mac

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is the virtualization solution that is the most powerful and flexible for users who need regular access to many apps on both Windows and Mac platforms from a single machine without rebooting. From PC-only games to productivity software, Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac has you covered.

Enjoy the latest Mountain Lion and Lion features in Windows apps, and remotely access your Windows and Mac programs from your iPad or iPhone with the Parallels Mobile app.

In addition to Windows 7, other OSes can also be run in Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac, including Windows 8, Windows XP, Windows 98, Linux, and Google Chrome OS.

...Parallels Desktop is a very good product and a pleasure to use. It's like having two computers in one, the best of both worlds. — Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal

The speed in Parallels was astonishing – not simply astonishing for being inside a virtual environment, but astonishing for a real physical PC. —

New & enhanced features include:

  • New! Use Mac OS X Mountain Lion features like Launchpad and Mission Control with Windows applications
  • New! Enjoy Retina Display support for Mac and Windows applications
  • New! Run presentations, videos and other full-screen Windows apps easier with Fullscreen on Demand
  • Enhanced! Get a more natural full screen experience for Windows apps with improved support for Spaces and Mission Control.
  • New! Seamlessly share Bluetooth devices between Mac and Windows just like with the FaceTime HD camera
  • New! Run Mac OS X Mountain Lion as a guest operating system
  • New! Speak, don’t type because you can use Mountain Lion’s new Dictation tool across both Mac and Windows apps
  • New! Switch from Safari to the same web page in Internet Explorer with a single click when you try to view a page that doesn’t render correctly

New & enhanced features of Parallels Desktop 8 include:

Retina Display

Retina Display is supported for both Mac and Windows apps

Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion support

Use OS X Lion & Mountain Lion features like Launchpad and Mission Control with Windows applications

Improved Spaces / Mission Control

Get a more natural full screen experience for Windows apps with improved support for Spaces and Mission Control.

Shared Trash

Now even your Mac Trash Can and Windows Recycle Bins are identical for only one Trash Can to manage.

Enhanced Application shortcuts

Use the standard Mac OSX keyboard mapping to get the shortcuts you want in Parallels Desktop for Mac.

Improved Snapshots

It’s easy to see how much hard drive space your virtual machine is using with a visual indicator and improved Snapshots.

Presentation Wizard

The Presentation Wizard allows you to easily and beautifully show presentations from your Mac on any external monitor or projector.

Open in IE button

Switch from Safari to the same web page in Internet Explorer with a single click when you try to view a page that doesn’t view correctly.

Display of processor & memory use by VMs

Easily monitor your Mac’s resources with the new graphical view of how much of your Mac’s processor and memory is being used by your virtual machine.

Shared Bluetooth

Seamlessly share Bluetooth devices between Mac and Windows just like with the FaceTime HD camera

Enhanced Crystal menu

Crystal view mode improvements make it easier than ever to access the full power of Crystal view mode.

Improved Mac OS X guest

Improved support for Mac OS X guests give you a more complete experience when running Lion or Mountain Lion in a guest.

Reviews & Awards
Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac — Second to None!

Parallels Desktop is consistently ranked as the world’s #1 virtualization software — its award winning history is second to none! See what others have to say.


Head-to-Head: How do VMware Fusion 5 and Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac compare?

In the vast majority of our overall tests, Parallels Desktop 8 won. …If you look at all the tests, including the 3DMark06 detailed tests, Parallels won over 68% by 5% or more, 56.9% of the tests by 10% or more, and 31.7% by 25% or more.

Parallels Desktop has power management features that stretch your battery life. On the MacBook Pro, we saw about 40% more battery time…Parallels ran Windows 8 about 40 minutes longer as well before running out of juice.

The Wall Street Journal Wall Street Journal: Walt Mossberg

In my reviews of the last couple of editions of Parallels and Fusion, I've found Parallels, which claims about 70% of the Windows-on-Mac market, superior.

I never had a crash or observed any strange behavior in Windows 8 using Parallels 8, while Fusion 5 froze my Mac three times and caused some text in Windows 8 to disappear.

I can recommend Parallels 8 as a good solution for running Windows on a Mac simultaneously with Mac programs, and especially for Mac users who want to also use Windows 8 later this fall, or experiment with the pre-release version.

MacNews Parallels Desktop 8 Vs 7: Should You Upgrade?

In short, if you are using virtualization regularly, the answer is a resounding yes. There’s a feel to the environment that is just smoother across the board, and the faster boot time, disk performance, and graphics are both welcome and noticeable.

9To5Mac Parallels 8 is a clear winner vs. VMware Fusion 5 in Ars shootout

Parallels 8 out-gunned VMware across the board (as previous benchmarks have shown) performance-wise and adds full support for Retina displays and dictation among other features.

The Mac Observer Parallels Desktop 8 vs. VMware Fusion 5: Benchmark Showdown

In terms of DirectX 9 performance, Fusion falls about eight to ten percent short of Parallels in all areas of the benchmark’s measurement.

From a purely performance-based perspective, Parallels has won this year’s competition of virtualization software on OS X.

ZDNet Seven 'must-have' apps for your new Mac

...the Boot Camp software only allows me to have access to one operating system at a time. By installing Parallels Desktop, I can access applications and data stored in other operating systems, including Windows 8, Windows 7, Linux, and even Android. This gives me access to a wide range of operating systems from my Mac.

Apple Insider Parallels Desktop 8 update enhances support for Windows 8

Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac on a MacBook Pro with Retina display is one of the best ways to run Windows 8. It enables people to experience Windows 8 on a Mac with the most vivid Retina resolution of 2880-by-1800 pixels, but with more readable text and graphics.

Volume Licensing

Parallels offers a simple and flexible volume licensing program that rewards businesses, academic, non-profit and government organizations for volume purchasing. Realize deeper IT savings and get the best value from your software investment with a Parallels Volume Licensing Program.

Volume Licensing Program
A Parallels Volume Licensing Program offers a simple and flexible approach to acquire the latest Parallels technologies and ensure your IT investment is protected. Licensing plans are available in the following options:

  • Corporate Volume Licensing Program
  • Academic Volume Licensing Program

Based on the size of your organization, a customized volume licensing program can address network computing requirements and purchasing preference while delivering a cost-effective and scalable solution. In addition, volume licensing allows organizations to acquire product licenses and maintenance plans, for a cost-effective and simple approach to acquiring the latest Parallels software.

Buy 5-pack for $349.95

Need more licenses? Talk to a sales associate today!

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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac compatible with Mac OS X Mountain Lion?

    Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac supports OS X Mountain Lion as a host and guest virtual machine (VM).

    Older versions of Parallels Desktop (versions 4, 5 and 6) will not run on Mac OS X Mountain Lion, so we recommend that customers upgrade to Parallels Desktop 8 if they plan to run Mountain Lion. To learn more about new OS X Mountain Lion hardware and software compatibility please refer to this article:

    Customers who purchased a copy of Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac from Parallels or an authorized reseller on or after July 25, 2012 are eligible to request an upgrade to the next version of Parallels Desktop for Mac at no additional cost: Parallels Desktop for Mac Tech Guarantee 2012

  2. How do I install Windows OS on a Mac using Parallels Desktop?

    To learn about installing Windows OS, please refer to this article for complete details:

  3. What are the Parallels Desktop for Mac support options? How can I reach the support team?

    To learn about the Parallels Desktop for Mac support options please check the following KB article:

  4. Is Windows 8 supported on Parallels Desktop for Mac?

    The latest build of Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac is compatible with the previews of Windows 8. Please visit for more information on Parallels Desktop for Mac and Windows 8.

  5. How do I activate Parallels Desktop for Mac?

    To learn about activation, please refer to this article for complete details:

  6. I am unable to start Windows. What should I do?

    To learn about what to do if you can't start your virtual machine, please refer to this article for complete details:

  7. Windows installation into a virtual machine fails

    To learn more about what to do the Windows installation fails, please refer to this article for instructions:

  8. How do I migrate a PC to Parallels Desktop for Mac Virtual Machine?

    To learn about migrating your PC, please refer to this article for complete details:

  9. How do I upgrade Windows XP or Vista installed in Parallels Desktop Virtual Machine to Windows 7?

    Please check the following KB article to learn more about upgrading to Windows 7,

With millions of users worldwide, Parallels Desktop for Mac is the #1 choice of Mac customers. Get the latest and the greatest to make your Windows, Linux or any other OS truly at home on your Mac.

Parallels Desktop brings OS X and Windows even closer together than before, and it adds several features that have become necessities in the virtualization world. — Infoworld

Buy Parallels Desktop 8 for only $79.99 or Download a Trial Now

Why choose Parallels Desktop for running Windows programs on your Mac?

The award-winning Parallels Desktop is the most tested, trusted and talked about way to run Windows on the Mac with more than a dozen awards for its excellence.

* Reviews and awards cited may be for previous versions of Parallels Desktop for Mac.