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Wednesday, March 28


I heart my MBP.

But there are times when I really need access to a Windows PC. For example - testing cross-browser compatibility for websites. I do have a lovely boat anchor PC on my desk at work... just adding to the clutter. I heard a lot of talk about Parallels so decided to give that a try (there is a free demo on their website if you want to check it out).

Parallels allows you to create Virtual Machines (VM's) - enabling Mac users to run Windows simultaneously with their Mac OS X on any Intel-powered iMac, Mac mini, MacBook, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro Towers. (From the Parallels website.) The attractive feature for me is that you don't have to reboot to access the Windows OS, it runs like an application window.

The Windows XP install went off without a hitch. Parallels includes a Windows silent installation wizard that works beautifully... for Windows XP. It didn't work at all for Vista. I eventually got everything working though... here is a brain dump of what I learned!

Multiple VM's
This was pretty easy. From the Parallels Desktop menu click "File, New..." to relaunch the installation wizard.

Installing Windows XP
They went to Staples and got an Easy Button for this one. From the "operating system installation mode" window choose Windows Express. Enter your product key, name, and company. Insert the CD... and everything goes on autopilot. Woot-a-riffic!

Installing Vista
From the "operating system installation mode" window do not choose Windows Express. Instead, choose Typical. Yes, you will have to answer more questions and all of the normal "noisy" Windows install prompts. (You only have one HD. Which one would you like to install Windows onto?) But, here's the catch... Vista will actually successfully install! Pretty cool stuff, eh?

What, your Vista install didn't work on the first try? You must have ignored my advice and tried the Windows Express route! It's OK... and it's really easy to get rid of that failed copy. Highlight the control window with the FUBAR'd virtual machine. Then from the Parallels Desktop menu click "File, Delete". You still need to move the (automatically created) alias on your OSX desktop to the trash, though.

Please insert Windows Installation Disc X
This dialog gave me pause. When Parallels "captures" mounted volumes, they are unavailable on the OSX desktop. Since I have an MBP there is no shiny "eject" button for the CD drive, and the Eject button on the keyboard didn't work. It took a few moments poking around, and then I found the solution.
  • Click the little CD icon at the bottom of the Parallels window.
  • From the pop-up menu click "Disconnect".
  • The mounted CD will reappear on the OSX desktop, and you can eject it normally.
  • Insert the next CD, and wait for it to appear on the OSX desktop.
  • Click the same little CD icon at the bottom of the Parallels window (it will now have a little red X over it to show that it's disconnected).
  • From the pop-up menu click "Connect to default CD/DVD-ROM drive" (or the name of your drive) and wait for the session to recapture the CD.
Now you can click "OK" in the Windows installation screen and the installer will continue to copy files.

Capturing the mouse and keyboard
This was a little confusing. It's easy enough to "capture" your mouse and keyboard into a Parallels session - simply click anywhere on the VM desktop. But the hinting within Parallels says to "Press Ctrl+Alt to release keyboard and mouse". On a Mac, this translates to the Control and Option keys.

Note: I am using Virtue Desktops and I noticed that when I used the keyboard to switch between desktops the keyboard and mouse were released automatically.

Connecting to a network in XP
Everything worked automatically. There was nothing to configure, and the first time I launched the browser I got onto the Internet. Another big Easy Button for this one!

Connecting to a network in Vista
Well, despite the hype I definitely still felt like I was wrestling with Windows when I got to this point. My built-in Ethernet adapter didn't install automatically. (Note: I generally keep the AirPort powered off when I am in the office, so this just applies to the wired adapter.)

First I played "name that device driver" with Windows. I had some flashbacks to a recent Apple commercial ("Mac is issuing a salutation; accept or decline?") because every time I launched the Device Manager from the Control Panel I was prompted to approve that yes, I actually wanted to run the application that I just double-clicked. (Grrr... how cranky am I about that?!)

Finally I found one that worked. So... now I should be able to connect to the network, right?


Vista still showed that it was not connected to the network. I moused over the network status icon (in the Windows tray) and a context menu appeared. It restated (in rather large letters) that the computer is not connected to a network. I clicked on the link to "Connect to a network". According to this window, "Windows cannot find any networks" so I clicked on the link to "Diagnose why Windows can't find any networks". And gives the reason (drumroll, anyone?) This computer does not have a wireless adapter installed and configured.

But... I didn't want to use the wireless adapter. I wanted to use the WIRED adapter. And it was configured (or at least said it was), but Vista thinks the cable is disconnected. Huh??

Finally, after a lot of drama and hair-pulling I discovered that you need to install Parallels Tools first. This option is found on the Actions menu, and it just takes a couple of minutes once you have the VM started and are logged in. Once I did this, Vista restarted and then immediately connected to the network and everything went smoothly.

It was truly a "duh" moment for me. ("You are coming to a sad realization; accept or decline?") I guess this would be obvious to anyone that is vaguely familiar with Parallels, but as a n00b I didn't notice the Tools (or lack thereof) and it wasn't really obvious that this was a critical step. They installed automatically on the XP VM so no worries there. The moral of the story is don't fight with Vista over this, just install the Tools. Trust me on this. :)

More information
Parallels website
Here is another good resource with information about installing Vista on Parallels.


???Mac4SmallBusiness??? said...

This was incredibly helpful. THANK YOU for taking the time to blog this. Found it via Google. EXCELLENT!!!!!

Jen said...

Thanks! Hope this made your Parallels on Vista install go more smoothly than mine. :)

Larry said...

Thanks great help

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Anonymous said...

OMG thank you!!!!!! had a problem with this until now!!!! thX!!!'

god bless

CapitalC said...

Seriously, why is this not AUTOMATIC? Computers are my job and even I had to search a dozen websites and forums to find this answer. Thank you!