Parallels Desktop for Mac: Windows Express Installation Option

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Using the Windows Express Installation Option in Parallels

Parallels for Mac
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Parallels lets you run many different types of operating systems on your Mac. Because the developers knew that most Mac users will want to install at least a Windows OS, Parallels includes a Windows Express installation option that eliminates the need to babysit a Windows XP or Vista installation.

This guide will take you through the Windows Express installation, which creates a virtual machine on your Mac. We'll stop short of actually installing Windows, because the specific steps depend on whether you're installing Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, or Win 8. You can refer to the Windows XP or Windows Vista installation guide for assistance, as appropriate.

What you will need:

  • Parallels Desktop for Mac v3.0 or later.
  • The installation CDs for Windows XP or Vista.
  • 20 GB free disk space. You can get by with less (I've performed an installation with as little as 8 GB of available disk space), but you'll appreciate the extra room if you later want to install more Windows applications or store larger Windows files than you originally intended.
  • About an hour of free time, for the Windows Express setup and to actually install Windows.
     
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The Parallels OS Installation Assistant

By default, Parallels uses the Windows Express installation option. This option creates a virtual machine with settings that will work just fine for most individuals. You're not committed for life if you select this option; you can always customize the virtual machine parameters later if you need to.

The real advantage of Windows Express is that it's fast and easy; it also does most of the work for you. It will collect most of the information that Windows needs by asking you some strategic questions. Once you supply the answers, you can go off and have lunch, and return to a fully installed version of Windows that's ready to run. This is a much more pleasant Windows installation than any PC user has ever experienced. The downside is that the Windows Express method doesn't let you directly configure many settings, including type of network, memory, disk space, and other parameters, although as I mentioned earlier, you can always tweak these and other settings later.

Using the OS Installation Assistant

  1. Launch Parallels, usually located at /Applications/Parallels.
  2. Click the ‘New’ button in the Select a Virtual Machine window.
  3. Select the installation mode that you want Parallels to use.
     
    • Windows Express (recommended)
    • Typical
    • Custom
  4. For this installation, select the Windows Express option and click the ‘Next’ button.
     
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Configuring a Virtual Machine for Windows

Parallels needs to know which operating system you plan to install, so it can set the virtual machine parameters and collect the information necessary to automate the installation process.

Configure the Virtual Machine for Windows

  1. Select the OS type by clicking the dropdown menu and choosing Windows from the list.
  2. Select the OS version by clicking the dropdown menu and choosing Windows XP or Vista from the list.
  3. Click the ‘Next’ button.
     
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Entering Your Windows Product Key and Other Configuration Information

The Parallels Windows Express installation option is ready to collect some of the information it needs to automate the installation process.

Product Key, Name, and Organization

  1. Enter your Windows product key, which is usually located on the back of the Windows CD case or inside the Windows envelope. The dashes in the product key are entered automatically, so just enter the alphanumeric characters. Be careful not to lose the product key, because you may need it in the future if you need to reinstall Windows.
  2. Enter your name by using the alphanumeric keys and the space key. Do not use any special characters, including apostrophes.
  3. Enter your organization's name, if appropriate. This field is optional.
  4. Click the ‘Next’ button.
     
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Name That Virtual Machine

It's time to specify a name for the virtual machine that Parallels is about to create. You can choose any name you like, but a descriptive name is usually best, particularly if you have multiple hard drives or partitions.

In addition to naming the virtual machine, you will also choose whether your Mac and the new Windows virtual machine should be able to share files.

Pick a Name and Make a Decision About Sharing Files

  1. Enter a name for Parallels to use for this virtual machine.
  2. Enable file sharing, if desired, by placing a check mark next to the 'Enable file sharing' option. This will let you share files in your Mac's home folder with your Windows virtual machine.
  3. Enable user profile sharing, if desired, by placing a check mark next to the ‘Enable user profile sharing’ option. Enabling this option allows the Windows virtual machine to access the files on your Mac desktop and in your Mac user folder. I generally leave this file unchecked, and manually create shared folders later on. This provides more protection for my files, and lets me make file sharing decisions on a folder-by-folder basis.
  4. Click the ‘Next’ button.
     
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Performance: Should Windows or OS X Get Top Billing?

At this point in the configuration process, you can decide whether to optimize the virtual machine you're about to create for speed and performance or allow applications running on your Mac to have dibs on your Mac's processor.

Decide How to Optimize Performance

  1. Select an optimization method.
    • Virtual Machine. Choose this option for the best performance of the Windows virtual machine you're about to create.
    • Mac OS X applications. Choose this option if you prefer your Mac applications to take precedence over Windows.
  2. Make your selection. I prefer the first option, to give the virtual machine the best performance possible, but the choice is yours. You can change your mind later if you decide that you made the wrong choice.
  3. Click the ‘Next’ button.
     
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Start the Windows Installation

All of the options for the virtual machine have been configured, and you've supplied your Windows product key and your name, so you're ready to install Windows. I'll tell you how to start the Windows installation process below, and cover the rest of the process in another step-by-step guide.

Begin the Windows Installation

  1. Insert the Windows Install CD into your Mac's optical drive.
  2. Click the ‘Finish’ button.

Parallels will start the installation process by opening the new virtual machine you created, and booting it from the Windows Install CD. Follow the onscreen instructions to install Windows.