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How To Set Up A Win 7 VM On Your Mac With Parallels Desktop

Here's the best way to get Windows 7 on your pre-Lion OS X Mac.

Now select to make Windows apps work like Mac apps, or keep Windows apps in one VM as though it were a separate PC. I select like a PC so it works like an individual machine on my home network with a separate IP address.

Name the VM, and check Customize Settings Before Installation before installing Windows.

Set up the VM’s hardware specs. Under General, an important setting is the amount of RAM. The VM is using your Mac's hardware so be vigilant. Here I’m selecting 2GB of RAM because my Mac has a total of 8GB. My rule of thumb is to allocate a quarter of total system resources to the VM so overall system performance is fluid.

Under Options, select to share folders and profiles and other options. Definitely accept the default to Access Windows folders from the Mac. Change other settings later.

Under Hardware, select boot order, hard disk size, network, sound, etc. When finished, click OK.

NOTE: If you want to run Aero fluidly, max out the Video Memory and enable 3D Acceleration.

After making your selections, start the install of Windows 7.

At the bottom of the VM screen, you’ll see a message that Parallels Tools are not installed. Ignore that because an Express Install will automatically install them anyway.

The VM will restart a few times during the install. Keep your eye on it for potential glitches during the process. When complete, your screen should look something like this.

Here is how OS X with Parallels will display your Windows VM on screen.

Now set it up exactly like it’s a real Windows 7 machine. That means installing updates and your favorite programs. Arrange everything how you want and start using Windows 7 on your Mac.

Brian Burgess is executive editor for BYTE. Follow him @mysticgeek. Got a comment or idea? Send it to him at

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