How to install Windows on a Mac using Parallels virtualisation

How to Install Windows on a Mac using Parallels Virtualisation: Complete setup, driver installation, PC migration, Boot Camp method & DVD/USB installation explained

Installing Windows on a Mac using Parallels software

Many Mac user’s will gladly let you know why they believe Mac OS X is far superior to Windows, and they wont stop telling you for quite some time. For some user’s, however, having a virtual Windows system installed within OS X can be quite handy.
There are various reasons why running Windows virtually is a good idea:

  • Run Windows programs without needing to reboot.
  • Use both OS X and Windows at the same time.
  • Adds the ability to run Windows only applications.
  • No need to download and install potentially troublesome Windows drivers

Installing Windows virtually is actually really easy on a Mac, much easier than installing it on a separate hard drive partition. All you’ll need is a copy of Windows and some software capable of running Windows virtually. One such piece of software is Parallels, it’s easy to use and well priced, so we’re going to explain the process using this app today.
We’ll cover two of the three ways to install windows using Parallels. Firstly, using a Windows DVD/USB installer and secondly, running Windows through a Boot Camp install.

Install Parallels

Parallels Wizard install windows on macThe first thing you’ll need to do is install Parallels, you can find it here. Installation is easy, just download the file and follow the instructions on screen.
You’ll also need a copy of Windows, that could be a DVD packaged with serial key, or a USB restore device with an accompanying serial key. You can also migrate from a PC or use your Windows Boot Camp partition.
With these things you’re now all set to install Windows virtually, first we’ll look at doing this with traditional install media such as a DVD.

Installing Windows using Parallels from a DVD or USB drive

Installing Windows using Parallels from a DVD or USB driveOk, so you have a Windows DVD or USB drive, perfect, lets get to it:

  1. Load up Parallels in OS X.
  2. Select ‘Install Windows or another OS from a DVD or image file’
  3. Parallels will now scan for your DVD, USB drive or mounted ISO. It should automatically find it and start installation, if it doesn’t then select ‘Find Manually’ and follow the instructions on screen to locate your DVD, USB drive or mounted ISO. Next click ‘continue’.
  4. You will now be asked to enter your product key, do this, or de-select ‘This version requires a product key’ if your version of Windows does not require one. Again, click ‘Continue’. We recommend you leave ‘Express installation’ ticked, unless you know exactly what you’re doing.
  5. Next, select what you primarily use Windows for. Again, click ‘Continue’.
  6. Now you will be prompted to create a name for your virtual Windows system and designate where it will be stored. We recommend you leave ‘Customise settings before installation’ un-ticked unless you know what you’re doing. Again, click ‘Continue’.
  7. Parallels will now create your Virtual Windows Machine.
  8. You will now see the Windows installer appear within a Parallels window. Install Windows as normal and enjoy your virtual machine with no need to set up extra drivers.


Installing a virtual Windows machine using Parallels from a pre-installed Boot Camp partition

Installing Windows on a Mac from a Boot Camp partition
If you’re using this method, you’ve already done all the hard work by installing Windows on a Boot Camp partition. Here’s how to use that partition within Parallels to run OS X and Windows at the same time:

  1. Install Windows on your Boot Camp partition.
  2. Load up Parallels in OS X.
  3. Select ‘Use Windows from Boot Camp’.
  4. You’ll now see a message about potential Windows application re-activation, if you’re happy with this, tick the box and continue.
  5. Parallels will now create a virtual Windows machine using your Boot Camp drive, no extra set up required.


CPU, RAM & VRAM allocation in Parallels

CPU GPU and RAM allocation in Parallels
It is possible to manually adjust the amount of CPU cores, RAM & VRAM you allocate to your virtual Windows machine in Parallels. Below are our general recommendations for carrying out basic tasks:

  • CPU Cores: 2 cores (or 1 if you are using a dual core system).
  • RAM: 2GB (or 1GB if you have 4GB or less).
  • VRAM: Half of total. At least 512MB is recommended if you are using an external monitor.

If you are looking to do more serious computing in Windows you will need to increase resource allocation, or run Windows natively on a separate HDD or HDD partition.