Parallels Desktop 18 review: Still the best Mac virtualization software on the planet

This happens every August. Even before Apple releases its latest version of macOS, Corel introduces a new version of Parallels Desktop. The best-selling virtualization tool lets Mac users run Windows, Linux, and other operating systems, from the comfort of macOS.

This year’s entry is Parallels Desktop 18, which even on day one supports Apple’s new macOS 13 Ventura. Parallels Desktop 18, like its predecessor, receives the highest score in this review. However, all these stars really have nothing to do with Corel packing the tool in with some great new features. Instead, the software receives high marks for its incredible ease of use, ever-improving stability, and ability to run on all Macs, new and old, including our favorites.

Parallels Desktop 18: Pricing and Availability

Parallels Desktop 18 is available for download from the Parallels website. It comes in full and upgrade versions with plans starting at $49.99 for students and $69.99 for everyone else. Again, there are Standard, Business, and Professional versions of Parallels and a 14-day free trial. Moreover, depending on your choice, there are versions of Parallels with standalone and annual tariffs.

As a host, besides macOS 13 Ventura, Parallels Desktop 18 runs on macOS Monterey, macOS Big Sur, macOS Catalina, and macOS Mojave. Additionally, you can run virtual versions of various Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems, including any version of Windows 11. Additionally, Parallels Desktop 18 has been optimized to run on the latest Apple silicon chips , including the all-new Apple M2. .

Parallels Desktop 18: What You’ll Love

Parallels Desktop 18 on macOS Ventura

(Image credit: iMore)

As stated above, there aren’t many new features in Parallels Desktop 18. And yet, many of the ones that have been added tend to stand out.

For example, it is now possible for a game controller connected to your Mac to work in a virtual Windows session. Previously, this involved the sometimes complex process of installing Windows drivers and hoping the connection worked. Parallels Desktop 18 also provides enhanced USB 3.0 support, enabling attached webcams, video capture devices, and audio streaming devices.

Corel has also improved running Intel (x86) applications through Windows 11 on ARM. Specifically, saving and playing files has been improved, and games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that didn’t work in Parallels Desktop 17 now work properly. The company claims that 99.9% of Intel applications run successfully on Windows ARM, including resource-intensive titles like AutoCad.

Games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that didn’t work in Parallels Desktop 17 now work correctly.

Learn more about ARM: One of the first drawbacks of using an Apple silicon Mac was that it was impossible to run Intel versions of Windows through virtualization using software such as Parallels or a Bootcamp partition.

Time has a way of solving problems like this. So no, Bootcamp is still not an option on M1 and M2 Macs. However, Microsoft has now introduced Windows On ARM, or WoA. Thanks to this, you can now use ARM versions of Windows 11 through Parallels and similar tools without wasting any time. Even better, Parallels 18 makes it easy to purchase and download Windows ARM from within the app.

In my tests on my 14-inch MacBook Pro (with an M1 chip), Windows 11 ran perfectly through Parallels Desktop 18. I recommend using the recommended (and default) CPU/RAM settings for most users. macOS and virtual operating systems.

For those with machines using the Apple M1 Max and Ultra chips, it’s now possible to set up virtual machines through Parallels with up to 62GB of memory and 18 CPU cores. GPU customization is however not allowed and is always controlled directly by macOS.

Parallels Desktop 18: What You Won’t Like

Parallels Desktop 18 Price

(Image credit: Corel)

In my review of Parallels Desktop 17, I criticized the confusing way Corel rates virtualization software. Unfortunately, Parallels Desktop 18 comes with the same confusion.

Corel offers Parallels Desktop 18 through an annual subscription model. For this, you can use the software for 12 months, including all updates that may arrive during this period. After one year, you must renew your subscription to continue using the product. Subscriptions are available for student, pro, and standard editions of Parallels Desktop 18.

The confusion arises when you consider that there is also a standard version of Parallels Desktop 18. Available for a one-time fee, this version offers fewer features and only covers updates to the current version of Parallels. Once a new version of Parallels arrives, you need to purchase an upgrade for it to support the next version of macOS. Get this?

Unless you are using a really old Mac that can’t support the latest version of macOS, there’s no practical reason not to go the subscription route. Also, there is not much difference in price between the two options.

Parallels Desktop Pricing
Student Edition regular edition Pro Edition Commercial publishing
Full License Pricing $49.99/year $99.99 $119.99/year $149.99/year
Upgrade pricing $49.99/year $69.99 $69.99/year $149.99/year

It should also be noted that Corel has chosen to increase the price of Parallels Desktop 18 over the previous model. So overall you will pay $20 more. Any price increase is unfortunate, but it seems prices are going up for everything, so it’s not that surprising.

Parallels Desktop 18: the competition

VMWare on Apple Silicon

(Image credit: VMWare)

VirtualBox and VMware Fusion remain Parallels’ two most obvious competitors, although there are others. VMware Fusion finally supports (opens in a new tab) Apple Silicon Mac, but the same cannot be said for VirtualBox. Parallels Desktop 18 (or VMware Fusion) should be considered if using Apple silicon. The VirtualBox freebie might be your best bet if you’re on an older Mac.

Parallels Desktop 18: Should You Buy It?

Parallels Desktop 18 on macOS Ventura

(Image credit: iMore)

You should consider purchasing or upgrading to Parallels Desktop 18 if…

  • You are on Apple M1 or M2
  • Need Windows 11 on your Mac
  • I don’t mind paying extra

You shouldn’t buy Parallels Desktop 18 if…

  • You are on an old Mac
  • I don’t want to pay for virtualization
  • You don’t need Windows 11 for your computer

The computing world remains largely divided between Windows and Mac. However, with Parallels Desktop 18, you don’t have to choose and can run both operating systems on your Mac. The latest in a series of Parallels Desktop releases lets you run over 200,000 Windows applications on your Apple device. Moreover, it works on Intel and Apple Silicon computers. Use it to seamlessly switch back and forth between operating systems, whether it’s testing software, having fun, or something in between.

The five-star rated Parallels Desktop 18 is an excellent virtualization solution, with a few new features like seamless game controller support, USB 3.0 and others that really seal the deal.