Head to Head: Parallels Desktop 6 vs VMware Fusion 3

We pit the two leading Mac virtualisation programs against each other to see which is best for running Windows on your shiny Apple computer.

EXTRAS

Parallels

Parallels appears to have bundled a generous selection of extra Windows software with its Mac virtualisation program. There are copies of Kaspersky Anti-Virus for both Mac and Windows, but these are merely 90-day trial versions you'll have to pay for full licences once they expire. The included copy of Acronis True Image for making backups is a full version though.

Parallels Desktop supports Snapshots, which is similar to the System Restore feature in Windows. This feature allows you to save your VM's state and then roll back to it in case you make a change you later regret, such as installing buggy software or accidentally downloading a virus. It's possible to schedule Snapshots too, so you don't need to remember to make one manually.

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Unusually, there's an iPhone and iPad app accompanying Parallels Desktop. The app gives you remote access to your VM, even if you're not physically in front of your Mac. The responsiveness of the VM is obviously dependent on your mobile internet connection and working with Windows using a multitouch interface is tricky at the best of times. Obviously, it only works if your Mac is on and your VM is running. It's still a useful capability to have for occasional use though. The app is free from the iTunes App Store.

VMWare

Like Parallels, Fusion has a Snapshots feature allowing you to rollback your VM to an earlier state in case dodgy software or malware wrecks your virtual Windows PC. Snapshots can be set manually or on a schedule.

There's no mobile app accompanying Fusion. There is a complimentary copy of McAfee VirusScan Plus and one year of free updates. This is much longer than the 90-day version of Kaspersky included with Parallels Desktop, although historically McAfee hasn't been as effective as Kaspersky at detecting malware, according to our sister title Expert Reviews.

Winner: Parallels it simply comes with more extra software. Whether it's actually useful for you is a different matter though.

COST

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Parallels Desktop 6 costs 44 ex VAT, while Fusion Desktop 3 is available for 39 ex VAT. Both prices are from Amazon UK.

Winner: VMWare Fusion. It's slightly cheaper than Parallels Desktop.

Verdict

Both Parallels Desktop 6 and VMWare Fusion 3 are very closely matched when it comes to installation and features. Although Fusion is slightly cheaper, Parallels has the edge when it comes to performance and Windows-Mac integration. The differences are hardly huge though – you can't go too far wrong with either program. Nonetheless, for now, Parallels Desktop 6 is the best virtualisation program available for the Mac.

PARALLELS SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Processor: 1.66GHz Intel processor or faster; dual core processor required for 64-bit operating systems

Memory: 1GB (minimum), 2GB RAM (recommended)

Hard disk: 500MB free hard disk space for the Parallels application; 15GB for each virtual machine

OS: MacOS X Leopard 10.5.8 or later

VMWARE SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Processor: Intel processor

Memory: 1GB (minimum), 2GB RAM (recommended)

Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 2600 (or faster) or Nvidia GeForce 8600M (or faster) for Windows Aero

Hard disk: 700MB free hard disk space for the Fusion application; 5GB for each virtual machine

OS: MacOS X Leopard 10.5.8 or later

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