With over 90% market share in Mac desktop virtualization software (according to NPD), Parallels is the clear leader in the industry. Now, Parallels has introduced Parallels Desktop 9 for Mac, bringing in new features, improving performance, and preparing for Mavericks and Windows 8.1. How does this version stack up? Is it worth the price? Read on to find out.

Performance

parallels desktop 9

With the software at its ninth version, some may be content with their version of Parallels and think the upgrade isn’t worth the price. However, as a previous PD8 (and all the way back to PD3), allow me to be straight-forward: this upgrade gives the biggest noticeable performance boost ever. The company claims the updated software provides 40% better disk performance, 25% faster virtual machine shutdown times, 20% faster virtual machine suspend times, and 15% faster web browsing and 3D graphics.

Even the faster shutdown time is noticeable. When I’m done dealing with Windows, the last thing I want to see is Parallels struggle to kill the operating system. With PD9, the operating system is gone within just a couple of seconds (and ready to launch again if necessary).

pd9 ready

New features

PD9 is chock full of new features that will save disk space, allow the VM to perform better while running, and more. PowerNap and the three-finger Dictionary gesture work inside Windows apps now, which are pleasant new additions. In addition, you can now connect to VMs located on Thunderbolt drives, thus saving space on your internal disk. There shouldn’t even be too much of a degraded experience in those cases, since Thunderbolt has a high bandwidth I/O.

The new software also makes efforts to avoid duplication by noticing when you’re hooked up to the same cloud services on both your main OS and the VM. When that happens, Parallels shares the resources and doesn’t duplicate the files. This works for iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, Photostream, and SkyDrive.

Parallels has also made some improvements to Windows 8 VMs by allowing you to bring back the Start Menu (the real one, not just the Start button brought back in Windows 8.1). In addition, “Modern” Windows 8 apps can be run as windows within the desktop mode. Even with all of the craziness produced by those over at Redmond, Parallels has done a great job of providing solutions for Windows 8 users.

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 5.51.08 PM

Better setup process

windows

PD9 improves the setup process by automatically finding operating system DMGs or ISOs on your computer/CD/flash drive and integrating Windows 8.1 Preview installation right into the app. When you choose to download the Windows 8.1 preview, a Product Key is automatically populated for you, and the installation can then begin. Installing Windows 8.1 only takes a few minutes, so if you’re curious what the “other” OS is looking like these days, there’s no harm in giving it a free shot.

“Sticky” multi-monitor detection

Screen Shot 2013-09-06 at 5.54.50 PM

Parallels’ full-screen mode will change depending on what you last set at the location you’re at. Your changes are set per-monitor, which makes it even easier to sit down and get work done with the software.

Operating system compatibility

Mavericks support seems to have been a main priority for the Parallels development team. In addition, the operating system works beautifully with Windows Blue (8.1), allows for installing OS X Mavericks using the recovery partition, and adds improved Linux support with shared folders and operating system autodetection. PD9 is ready for the newest wave of operating systems.

Thoughts & additional perks

PD9 is definitely the most noticeable Parallels Desktop upgrade ever. The performance boosts are the best part of the upgrade, but the sticky multi-monitor setup has been extremely helpful for me and saved quite a bit of time. As a Mavericks user, the software hasn’t been giving me any issues even though the operating system is still in beta. In addition, for a limited time Parallels Desktop 9 comes with 6 months of Parallels’ remote access iPad app, Parallels Access. Although the price is a bit high for most people, there will be plenty of users who will appreciate the sixth months of free service.

Pricing & availability

PD9 is available right now for $79.99 or $49.99 for upgraders (requires PD7 or PD8). Also, VMware users may be interested to know that Parallels Desktop requires just one-click to convert those virtual machines into Parallels-compatible VMs.

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29 Responses to “Parallels Desktop 9: Noticeably faster, smarter setup and ready for Mavericks and Windows 8.1 [Review]”

  1. Mark Granger says:

    The Windows Start menu is a great feature until you launch Windows using Bootcamp and get pop-ups telling you that you have to buy it. They really need to fix this. If we have a license for these features we should still get them under Bootcamp since it is the same install. You can’t remove them from Bootcamp without also removing them from Parallels.

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  2. tool022611 says:

    Right now I’m running M.L. And windows 7 via P8. It i want to upgrade to mavericks upon release do I need to first upgrade to P9?

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    • Nope you don’t have to. PD8 handles Maverick well. I ran PD8 before upgrading to PD9 on Mavericks DP7 without any issues. But again, PD9 has got very good feature additions and performance enhancements. So upgrading to PD9 won’t be a bad idea.

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      • Josue Breton says:

        Currently running PD7 and Windows 7… I am assuming by your comment that I would be wise for me to upgrade to PD9 before updating to Mavericks, right? If so, will I need to change Windows 7 to 8? Thanks for your help.

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      • Hi Josue, that’s not exactly what I meant. PD9 works perfectly with Mavericks and also Mountain Lion. To benefit from latest features & improvements in Mavericks, you may want to upgrade to it. But with regards to Windows 7/8, I think it’s purely your requirement. If you find any benefit by upgrading to Windows 8, please go ahead.

        But with latest announcements from Apple, I would recommend you to upgrade your OS X to Mavericks first (as it is free), get PD9 and if only it’s required, upgrade to Windows 8.

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  3. Yea, great, thanks for another 50 dollar upgrade that removes the FREE functionality of the remote access that was already working great. Subscription based BS.

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    • shareef777 says:

      Couldn’t agree more. I’m sticking with version 8 and if they stop supporting it for Mavericks, then I’ll find an alternative way of getting version 9. They sure as hell won’t be getting any more money from me. Tired of spending $50 every year for bug fixes and compatibility.

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      • That’s two customers they lost then. I’m sure there’s more. I’m more ticked off about losing the mobile app than I am that there is not noticeable difference in versions. 8 ran smoking hot for me on an external drive, 9 runs just as quick, but if you listen to this marketing article it’ll wash your car too. I got taken. Once.

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    • I want to share my own negative experience in this Parallels 9 Upgrade Review.

      In a nutshell I upgraded my full copy from 7-8 and 35 days later they want me to pay full upgrade price again!

      I already agree with reviewers above that their upgrade pricing is mercenary and often unnecessary.

      On top of that I was promised a free upgrade by their customer support when purchasing in late July (I told support I was willing to wait for version 9 but was told the upgrade would not be a problem).

      Now when I checked on my free upgrade to 9 (with their upgrade promise attached as an email) their response is “As a valuable customer we have given you a max of 15% discount”.

      When I highlighted their promise to me via email they simply regurgitated their bs 15% reply above.

      I can’t understand why they treat their loyal full paying customers like s*** – I have been with them since version 6 and feel totally shafted by their upgrade pricing and policy of putting profits before loyal customers.

      Like

  4. sinzim says:

    Good article, thanks^^

    Like

  5. silas681 says:

    I use a number of windows PC Cad programs (PTC Creo, Lightwave, and Sammie CAD) as I use them in consultancy and research. I currently spend most of my time in boot camp windows 7 during work hours but would love to be able to have a more OSX work life!

    It seems logical to me that anyone using windows on a Mac must be doing so to gain access to software so surely any GOOD review of something like parallels would benchmark and compare performance of CAD and games using bootcamp and parallels?

    The last time I tried a demo of parallels (v7) the cad software was too slow to be usable compared to when running in boot camp on the same machine. Has it improved?

    Come on Scott, let’s get pro!0

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  6. What about vmware 6 ?
    I suspect 9to5mac to … on PD.

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  7. Dan Jurak says:

    These $50 upgrades every year are getting old. Every new version is touted to be 40% faster than the last.

    When I upgrade I usually wait until Christmas and get an online Black Friday price. There is NO WAY I would upgrade for the regular upgrade price. It ALWAYS comes down.

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  8. aforty says:

    9to5Mac can’t take a little criticism? Weak. You’ve lost my respect.

    Like

  9. After several days of actual use, it is NOT noticeably faster, however, my wallet IS noticeably lighter for no reason. That, and the fact that by “upgrading”, you lose the free Parallels mobile app use. Either this article is nothing but a marketing ploy, or this article is a marketing ploy. I’m done. Won’t be paying another 50 bucks next year. I’ll wait until it’s bundled with some decent software for 20 bucks, which always happens anyway.

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  10. If you want to access your computer from your iPhone, forget it. Stay with Parallels 8. Parallels 9 has rendered Parallels Mobile useless. The replaced it with Parallels Access. This app is much nicer than Parallels Mobile, however it ONLY supports the iPad. It does NOT support the iPhone. So if you want to access your desktop on the go and don’t have your iPad, you’re out of luck. Why such a great company, producing great programs would make such a horrendous omission, I don’t know. I’m looking to downgrade back to Parallels 8 until they support the iPhone.

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  11. I am fed up with forking out £50 every year, they keep claiming 40% performance gain, going by them in a couple of years running a game in parallels will be 50% faster than running it on equivalente PC hardware..they have lost another customer, I’ll use version 8 until it works and then find alternative ways to download version 9.

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  12. Vraja Kumara says:

    This site is extremely biased towards Parallels virtualization software as opposed to Vmware Fusion, the competing product in the category. The recent review for the Fusion 6 product is far inferior to this for Parallels. I personally have been a user of Fusion since version 3 and have constantly – via periodic test installations – found it far superior to Parallels. Over and above its nerdy, ugly, gross Windows-like dock icon, Parallels offers absolutely no facility, potential or experience not present in the Fusion product.

    I use virtualization for gaming. No benefit has ever been found from using Parallels instead of Fusion in any version for the last 6 years. Fusion is a fully capable virtualization product and – without getting into time-consuming and boring details – simply provides a more satisfactory result than Parallels. Reviewers should open up their minds instead of their wallets which doubtlessly are more full from received back-handers from promotions and present competing products equally rather than in the extremely biased way that they presently practice.

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  13. No way I’ll hand out another $50 for compatibility and a few bug fixes. Support for the older versions is dropped without hesitation, both Parallels and VMWare have the same awkward policy.

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  14. Parallels 9 may offer marginal improvements over 8 as highlighted by others but I’d like to highlight my extremely bad experience with their support – they do not keep their promises even if made in writing!

    In a nutshell I upgraded my full copy from Parallels 7-8 and 35 days later they want me to pay full upgrade price again!

    The Parallels 9 pricing is already found to be expensive by many customers (just Google for “Parallels 9 Upgrade” and read other consumer comments).

    On top of that I was promised a free upgrade by their customer support when purchasing in late July (I told support I was willing to wait for version 9 but was told the upgrade would not be a problem).

    Now when I checked on my free upgrade to 9 (with their upgrade promise attached as an email) their response is “As a valuable customer we have given you a max of 15% discount”.

    When I highlighted their promise to me via email they simply regurgitated their bs 15% reply above.

    The irony is that many retailers like Amazon like NewEgg are still selling copies of Parallels 8 with a FREE upgrade to version 9!

    I can’t understand why they treat their loyal full paying customers like s*** – I have been with them since version 6 and feel totally shafted by their upgrade pricing and policy of putting profits before loyal customers.

    Like

  15. I installed P9 about a week ago and was looking for a Windows OS option. I saw the option to install the W8.1 preview and clicked on it out of curiosity. P9 provided the key and downloaded the software and installed it. I have never seen a Windows install go so smoothly and effortlessly! What I am wondering now is what will happen after the final release. Will I be asked to purchase the software at some point in the future? I can get educational pricing now on W8 through my community college. Not really wanting to pay any more than that for the few times I need to use Windows for just a couple of applications that I have no MAC option for for.

    BigTex

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  16. Juicy Jane says:

    So you guys are paying the top price for hardware…. and after that you want windows running on your MAC ? i dont get it

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  17. DO NOT BUY. THEIR LICENSING IS A SHAM AND WILL FORCE YOU INTO PAYING FOR MORE LICENSES (WHICH I REFUSE TO DO) IF YOU END UP REINSTALLING FOR AN OS-REINSTALL!!!

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  18. I’ve had a horrendous time with Parallels 9 and Windows 8.1 (upgraded form Win 8). I’ve had problems for example, where the mouse click would register like 50 pixels to the left of where you visibly click, or issues where the resolution would not automatically resize. This is well documented in the Parallels support forums and I’ve seen these types of problems with TWO Macs and hence two Parallels 9/Win 8.1 installations.

    I would say, avoid Parallels 9 if you want to use Windows 8.1 at this moment (or if you are running Win 8 and want to upgrade to Win 8.1). Parallels 9 doesn’t bring *that* many new features and Parallels 8 works just fine with Mavericks.

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  19. Upgrade from previous version should be priced much lower, this is borderline criminal, however, people must stop buying the software since numbers rule, ethics not so much.
    I was set up on buying parallels 9 for my new Imac today, expecting to pay something like 15-20 $ for the upgrade from my older version, but i think i would feel better from just bootcamping. If there is someone out there planning to write another virtualization software for Mac i guess the time is now.

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