Windows 8 Pro on Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac

Windows 8 Pro was finally released late October 2012 and I finally took the plunge to click on the order button today. Why? Well, I was curious to see how the final version of Windows 8 performs on Parallels Desktop 8 on my Mac. And furthermore, the recent update to Parallels Desktop 8 included new features which promised to further enhance your Windows 8 experience.

If you’re not familiar with the new features in Parallels Desktop 8 to support Windows 8, I suggest you to check out my two articles, namely Parallels 8 for Mac: First Impressions and Parallels Desktop 8 vs VMWare Fusion 5: The usability & comparison report before reading on. And in this article, I’d revisit my experience of running Windows 8 on Parallels Desktop 8 and also comment on the new features and how the final release of Windows 8 Pro runs on the latest update to Parallels Desktop 8 (Build 8.0.18314).

At the latest update, Parallels Desktop 8 now supports the folllwing new features :-

  • Support for Windows 8 tablet gestures
  • Addition of a single tile to the Windows 8 interface for easy access to shared Mac apps
  • Full USB 3.0 support for faster connections to peripheral devices
  • Updated Retina display settings for easier screen optimization
  • Smooth transitions when entering and exiting Coherence mode
  • Increased virtual machine limits for running large apps

This adds on to the following list of features that Parallels Desktop 8 already support :-

  • Sticky Mouse for Windows 8: When running in window view mode and slowly crossing the border of Windows 8 and Mountain Lion, the Sticky Mouse feature of Parallels Desktop 8 causes the mouse to stop at the border so you can simply move it to the last pixels in the corner of Windows 8 to access the Charms, Start and other menus or pages
  • Use Mountain Lion’s Dictation in text-based Windows apps
  • Windows 8 apps can be added to Mac Dock and to Launchpad
  • Open in Internet Explorer (IE) button added to Safari launches the Windows 8 IE browser to quickly access a website that requires IE
  • Mountain Lion Notification Center: Parallels Desktop 8 integrates Window 8 Toast Notifications into the Mountain Lion Notification Center so users in Mountain Lion can receive messages from Windows 8 and its calendar, games, Internet Explorer, mail, messaging, music, store and video plus all new applications that support Windows 8 Toast notifications
  • Windows 8 applications in Full Screen and Mission Control
  • Desktop and Windows 8 applications are searchable in Spotlight
  • Launch Windows 8 applications while in Coherence mode
  • Windows 8 running in window view mode at low resolution (less than 1024×768) is scaled, so Windows 8 apps still can be started on a 13-inch MacBook Pro or MacBook Air and 11-inch MacBook Air when using Windows 8
  • Windows 8 user interface and desktop applications on a Retina display are readable with the “Best for Retina” option enabled, making high-resolution text more readable

Yup, that’s quite a lot of Windows 8 specific features and it all adds up to the best Windows 8 experience you will get on a Mac. In fact, if you have a Retina MacBook Pro (13″ or 15″) it’s possibly the best Windows 8 experience you’d ever get on any non-touchscreen hardware available today. Seriously, Windows 8 Pro running on Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is really that good.
Now, once of the nicest feature of Parallels Desktop 8 is the support for Windows 8 tablet gestures. I’m sure by now you might have read how unintuitive Windows 8 can be on a desktop environment and one of the primary reasons for that is the difficulty in accessing the various menu bars that slides out from outside the edges of the screen. With a tablet, you pretty much get it by swiping into the screen and the menu slides out accordingly with your gestures.

So this new support for Windows 8 tablet gestures simply emulates that swiping actions on your MacBook’s touchpad! This single feature alone makes running Windows 8 on the Mac a lot more usable. If you want to access the application bar on the left, just swipe from left to right with a single finger from outside the touchpad (image on the right), and the bar appears. If you want to get to the settings menu on the right, just swipe into the touchpad from the right side instead and the settings menu bar now appears. Just like how you’d expect it on a tablet running Windows 8.

In terms of performance, I found the final release of Windows 8 Pro slightly faster than the Release Preview, expectedly of course. So there’s nothing really to complain and further to report on at that section.

And in terms of the best view mode to run Windows 8 on Parallels Desktop 8, I found that it’s best to run it on Fullscreen mode. Coherence mode works relatively well and it does run Windows 8 fullscreen Modern UI apps in Mountain Lion fullscreen mode while any traditional windowed app on Mountain Lion’s desktop as a normal windowed app. However, there are times that the fullscreen Modern UI app just acts a little weird. I suppose Parallels still needs to work out the kinks in supporting this feature robustly.

But overall, I am happy with the performance and stability of Windows 8 Pro running on Parallels Desktop 8. And if you’ve been wondering if Windows 8 Pro would run well on your Mac, Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac has proven to be a  very stable and great platform for you to run it.

And remember, if you’ve not done so, read my two articles, namely Parallels 8 for Mac: First Impressions and Parallels Desktop 8 vs VMWare Fusion 5: The usability & comparison report, to find out why I think Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac is the best platform to run Windows 8 on.

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4 Responses

  1. I kept stumbling on your blog post when trying to figure out how to actually activate the swipe from edge feature so I thought I drop a note to help another Parallels noobie like myself. To actually enable it you must install Parallels Tools (under the “Virtual Machine” menu -> “reinstall Parallels Tools”).

  2. Ken Ng says:

    Thanks for dropping the note! Perhaps I assume that everyone would install the Parallels Tools :) I’ll add that into my article.

  3. Jason says:

    Have you ever used Oracle’s VirtualBox? I wonder how that stacks up with Parallels. Maybe a future comparison?

  4. Ken Ng says:

    I definitely have used VirtualBox, especially since I work at Oracle too :) Perhaps I’ll work on a comparison. Makes sense to justify why one would want to pay for Parallels vs the free VirtualBox.

Let me know what you think...

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