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…And why I’ll stick to Parallels

Posted by Preston on 2009-12-09

So in an earlier post, I mentioned that I’d been looking at first comparisons between VMware Fusion 3.0 and Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac, and I thought it was time to follow-up with longer term impressions.

To be blunt, VMware Fusion 3 is unpolished and unpleasant to use on an almost continual basis. I’ll keep it around for only two reasons: (a) so I can run ESX/vSphere within a VM for testing purposes, and (b) I can periodically play with the demo/test images provided by EMC for particular products that won’t convert into Parallels images.

So what’s there to dislike about Fusion?

  • Unity. It’s like someone at VMware declared “Make it slow. Make it inefficient. Make it periodically take 10+ seconds to redraw windows. Make it work but glitchy enough that it makes the user grind their teeth in frustration.” Well, if someone did decree that as a product feature, they did a remarkably good job of achieving it. Here’s a tip, folks at VMware: Buy a copy of Parallels and see how professionals do an integrated windowing feature. Unity in Fusion v3 is worse than Coherence when it was first introduced (which was fine) – i.e., you have a long, long way to go.
  • Import another VM. What VM would you like to import? Parallels? Forget it. Why offer to import VMs from Parallels if every VM comes in unusable? (I’m sure other people must have better experiences than this, but I’m certainly not impressed.)
  • Performance. OK, so VMware Fusion performance isn’t atrocious – it’s actually OK. However, I’d been led to believe that VMware Fusion kicked Parallels Desktop out of the ballpark when it came to performance. I’ve not seen anything to indicate that it exceeds the performance of Parallels, and so I see that as a negative.
  • Quit. Don’t pester me, just suspend my VM.

As I said, I’ll be keeping Fusion around, but only for those situations where I can’t use Parallels.


4 Responses to “…And why I’ll stick to Parallels”

  1. Preston; it is funny, but I had just the opposite experience. I am a long time Fusion user, but recently had the “pleasure” of trying to do a Parallels upgrade on my wife’s MacBook. What a disaster. Easily the most unpleasant software experience I have had in the last couple of years. After the “upgrade” to the latest version of Parallels, everything ran slow. Firefox took 15 seconds to establish a network connection to Google. The upgrade itself was messy, and was never completed successfully. Apparently Parallels doesn’t check for the existing serial number of your software. But does make you enter it *after* you have done the ugprade. When it is no longer accessible. So hunt through support docs for half an hour, and they have a utility to extract it. WTF? If they can make the utility, why doesn’t the upgrade do this automatically? Their support was not good. They insisted they had responded to a ticket when they had not.

    At the end of the day, Parallels got uninstalled. It made a shambles of an otherwise good, working system. Based on that one experience, I can’t say as I would be motivated to try them again.

    OTOH, I did try importing the Parallels machine into Fusion 3 and got nowhere (VMware told me that the virtual machine was not shut down correctly, and couldn’t be imported).

    Call me biased but I will stick with Fusion. FWIW, I have version 3 on two machines, and I don’t have any of the slowness/window redraw problems you desribed.


    p.s. what happened to the old layout?

    • Preston said

      Hi Scott,

      Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience with Parallels. I do seem to remember a couple of versions ago having the problem where VMs were slow after the upgrade until the Tools were reinstalled. In particular with Parallels these days I take the attitude of shutting down all VMs before doing an upgrade. It’s probably not necessary any more but the VMs sometimes used to behave very slowly/erratically if suspended in one version and woken up in another version. With 20+ VMs on one machine, mostly suspended, that can be a little arduous, but thankfully major version upgrades aren’t frequent.

      If anything I’m glad to hear that your experience with Fusion is such a different one to what I had. Personally though I’ll only be running it up when I need to fire up ESX/vSphere for testing. (Ironically the entire thing for me is driven from working out of a home lab a lot of the time, and loathing the noise of a Dull server running ESX. The Mac Pro solved the noise problems while giving better performance…)

      Ah the old layout – well, let’s just say that some design elements of it drove me nuts every time I looked at the site – small caps for instance are things I really dislike. There’d be some argument to me paying the extra money on WordPress to have a fully customised design, but I just haven’t gotten around to doing that yet. One thing the new design does give however is a bit more room for shell scripting/console examples — the old design used to cut text off remarkably early.



  2. Wolf said

    > Here’s a tip, folks at VMware: Buy a copy of Parallels and see how professionals do an integrated windowing feature.

    Isn’t Parallels the former, outsourced to russia, VMware development crew for OS X? Maybe they shouldn’t have broken up with them; that way we would have the technology that is Parallels with VMwares experience when it comes to virtualizing.

    • Preston said

      I’d certainly heard stories like that a while ago, but don’t remember any sources for them. It wouldn’t be the first time such shenanigans had happened!

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