Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7 review

Price when reviewed

Parallels Desktop is a general-purpose virtualisation package, but this cut-down edition has a very specific purpose: helping XP and Vista users make the leap to Windows 7. If you’re migrating to a new Windows 7 PC it will help you transfer your files and programs, and if you’re performing an in-place upgrade it will help ensure your applications continue to work.

Run the software and you’re greeted with a friendly talking head named Saied who guides you through the wizard-based process. Files can be copied to a new PC via an external hard disk or over a home network, or for the fastest transfer you can buy the software bundled with a proprietary USB cable for £34 (£40 inc VAT). Whichever method you choose, it works much like Laplink PCmover Professional, and with around 40GB of applications and data to transfer, we found the process took roughly two hours via USB.

Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7 USB cable

The clever part comes when the transfer or upgrade is complete. Parallels installs a virtual copy of your old XP or Vista installation inside the new OS, so any applications that don’t work in Windows 7 can be used in their old environment instead. As with the full edition of Parallels Desktop, you can give the guest OS its own window, or use Coherence mode, which hides the guest OS and presents its applications as if they were running natively. An internal database helps Parallels automatically identify software that needs to run on a virtual machine, but you can manually select which applications should run in the old OS via a simple tick-box interface.

It’s all very easy and reassuring, and there’s even an interactive guide to the new features of Windows 7 to introduce you to the new OS. Unfortunately, once you start to use applications in a virtualised environment you bump into issues that may well confuse non-technical users.

For example, our virtual XP installation complained that we had no antivirus software installed, while security software was running happily on the host OS. By default, the user folders within the guest OS are synchronised with those in the real OS, so if you delete a file in the virtual machine you delete it in real life. Other locations, however, aren’t synchronised: it’s a recipe for confusion even if you’re familiar with virtualisation.

The extensive hardware and networking configuration options are likely to go over the head of novices too, although if you just need to run the odd desktop application you should have no need to tweak them.

Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7 supports only a single virtual machine, running your old operating system, but it's au

For these reasons, we’d hesitate to recommend Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7 to a non-technical user. Indeed, we wonder how necessary it really is: we’ve found that Windows 7’s compatibility troubleshooter gets the vast majority of XP and Vista applications working just fine.

Experts, meanwhile, won’t need the hand-holding, and it isn’t a cheap way to get a full copy of Parallels Desktop (which sells for £47 exc VAT) as this edition doesn’t let you create additional virtual machines of your own. It’s also worth noting that the licence covers only one migration – otherwise you’d be making multiple copies of Parallels’ virtualisation host.

So there aren’t many people for whom Parallels Desktop Upgrade to Windows 7 is a perfect solution. That’s a shame, because on paper keeping a safe copy of your old OS looks like a great idea, and Parallels does make it effortless to set up. For that reason, small offices that rely on bespoke applications might want to invest in a few licences. Generally speaking, though, virtualisation is a can of worms, and one we suggest non-technical users, where possible, avoid opening.


Software subcategorySystem tools


Processor requirement1GHz Pentium or equivalent

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes
Operating system Linux supported?no
Operating system Mac OS X supported?no
Other operating system supportNone

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