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Parallels update adds Windows 8 support

Microsoft's upcoming and controversial Windows 8 operating system is now supported in virtual machines using Parallels Desktop on your Mac.

Windows 8

If you have a Mac and are running Parallels Desktop to install and run various Windows installations within OS X, an update is available that will allow you to easily download and configure the new Windows 8 Release Preview on your system.

One of the highly anticipated software releases is Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 operating system. The new OS is now in Release Preview mode and sports some radical changes to its interface, with the foremost being its radical departure from the classic desktop in favor of a new Metro interface to mirror its mobile offerings.

Unfortunately the changes Microsoft is implementing in its operating system are so radical that they have been described by many as a hurdle to the customer, with columnist John C. Dvorak writing a scathing review and describing the system as "an unmitigated disaster that could decidedly hurt the company and its future."

Parallels Desktop with Windows 8 support
Windows 8 can be installed from within Parallels using the Parallels Wizard tool. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

If this sounds intriguing at all, then you might wish to give it a try to at least see what all the fuss is about and determine for yourself whether you agree with Dvorak; however, as with any preview it may be best to give it a try in a more secure environment rather than directly installing it on your system (such as in Boot Camp). Therefore, if you have Parallels Desktop installed on your system, update it and install the Windows 8 preview in a new virtual machine. The update is a 306MB download that can be downloaded through the Parallels Desktop update service, or from the Parallels 7 downloads page.

With the software update installed, all you need to do to get the Windows 8 preview running is to create a new virtual machine in the program and select the Download Windows 8 option in the virtual machine wizard. From there just continue through the wizard's options as you would for any other operating system. Parallels sets the default parameters for the virtual machine to have 1GB RAM and a single CPU, but I recommend you increase this to 2GB and dual CPUs by customizing the virtual machine configuration.

The Windows 8 preview is about 3.3GB in size, so it will take from 1 to 4 hours to download and install, depending on your Internet connection.

While Windows 8 can be installed in prior builds of Parallels Desktop, the installations were unsupported and also required downloading and installing from the Microsoft Web site as would be done on any PC system. Though still experimental at this state, the specific Windows 8 support in Parallels Desktop should now make running the Windows 8 preview far smoother, more stable, and give it access to many of the features that Parallels desktop supports.

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