Is Parallels Desktop Worth It? Read This First

So you have a Mac and you’re wondering if Parallels Desktop is worth it. You’re in the right place. I decided to test run Parallels Desktop, so you don’t have to. Once you’ve read this article, you’ll know if Parallel Desktop is the software for you.

Parallels Desktop bridges the gap between Windows and IOS users. It allows you to create a virtual machine on your Mac that you can install Windows on and use as a separate environment for your work.

The application is not only useful for business applications, but also for playing games that aren’t natively supported by Mac OS.

Is Parallels Desktop Worth it?

parallels desktop

Parallels Desktop software is worth it for people who need to use Windows-only programs for work or business. It’s also useful for programmers and developers who need to test their projects on multiple operating systems.

You can also use it to play games on your Mac that are not compatible with the M1 chip at the moment. Bear in mind you will need a Windows 10 license key for the program to work.

What is Parallels Desktop?

Parallels Desktop allows you to run more than 200,000 Windows apps from your Mac, as well as access Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer as intended for Windows.

Currently offering its latest version 17 software, it promises no performance issues, and a seamless experience as you switch between the Mac and Windows interfaces by using their virtual machine technology.

How Much is Parallels Desktop?

Parallels have a number of products, but the focus of this article is on Parallels Desktop 17 for Macs. 


  • Parallels Desktop Standard Edition – $79.99/year
  • Parallels Desktop Pro Edition – $99.99/year
  • Parallels Desktop Business Edition – $99.99/year

If you’re not quite sure if Parallels Desktop has everything you need though, they offer a 30-day free trial so you can try it before you buy.

Parallels Desktop for Gaming:

A common reason for buying Parallels Desktop is to run games on your M1 MacBook. Since Boot Camp is no longer compatible with the M1 Macs, many people are looking for alternatives.

The gaming performance will vary depending on a number of factors. The recent version of Parallels Desktop 17 has been optimized for the Apple M1 Macs, offering a number of new features and improvements.

Here’s the thing:

Parallels Desktop 17 is not that good at running games. In my opinion, Cross Over is a better alternative for people looking to run games on their M1 MacBooks. You can read my CrossOver review here. While more games are compatible with Parallels, the performance is really bad.

Both programs use very different technologies to achieve similar results, and while some games do run well on Parallels, it’s not the main focus of the application. Parallels Desktop struggles to reach 60 fps for newer, modern games – even on the lowest settings.

Keep in mind that the gaming performance will depend on your Mac’s hardware and your Parallel Desktop settings. I’ll get into the recommended settings later on. For the best performance, you will want one of the latest M1 Macs, such as the M1 Pro MacBook. 

Older games that are less resource-intensive work better and with fewer frame drops than the newer ones.

To give you an idea, the base M1 MacBooks can only reach 30 FPS on GTA V.

Best Parallels Desktop Game Settings:

These are the best settings for Parallels Desktop

Recommended MacBook M1 Pro 32 GB of RAM

  • 16 GB of RAM
  • 6 CPU Cores
  • Game Profile

Bear in mind, Parallels Desktop can only use half of your Mac’s resources. If you try to assign more, the performance will actually drop, and you should always use an odd number of CPU cores too. Configuring your Parallels Desktop virtual machine is important to squeeze out the most performance.

Note: The M1 Pro has 10 CPU cores and 16 GPU cores, but Parallels will automatically assign 6 CPU cores. The reason for that is most applications are designed to run on CPUs with an odd core count.

So if your M1 Mac has 8 GBs of RAM, the virtual machine will only be able to use 4 GBs, which is barely enough to keep Windows running smoothly, not to mention games. For best results, you will want to run Parallels on a Mac that has at least 16 GBs or more of RAM, that way you can assign 8 GB to Parallels.

Do I need a Windows License for Parallels?

You will need a Windows License for Parallels Desktop. When installing Parallels Desktop’s virtual machine, you will be asked to input your Windows License key to automatically activate Windows once it’s installed.

If you don’t have one while setting up, there is an option to skip the license and come back to it, but you will at some point need the license to activate Windows.

You can buy Windows License keys online from G2A and other platforms. It is an additional cost, though.

Is Parallels Desktop Free for Mac?

Parallels Desktop is not free for Mac, however, they do have a 30 day free trial which is handy.

From there, the cheapest version of Parallels Desktop is their one-time purchase Standard Edition which costs $79.99.

Their more popular Pro Edition and Business Edition are both priced at $99.99 per year, and these subscription packages obviously offer more functionality.

There’s also a student discount.


If you have an M1 Silicon chip, Parallels Desktop is one of the better options for you if trying to run any kind of Windows application on your Mac.

For gaming purposes, while Parallels isn’t compatible with all games, it does beat Bootcamp on its compatibility with the M1 chip, and also leverages the power of the M1 chip better than CrossOver.

To summarize, I think Parallels Desktop is best for professionals who need to use Windows software on their Macs. It allows you to seamlessly switch between Windows and Mac OS, and you can also transfer files between the two with no issues.

While you can open many games on Parallels virtual machine, most of them will not run at playable frame rates. For gaming on MacBooks, I recommend CrossOver.

Also, did you know that Steam works natively on Mac OS? And many games will run with the automatic Rosetta 2 emulation.


  • Timothy Gagnon is the owner of My Portable Office. As a kid, he's always had a fascination with electronics and never passed on the chance to disassemble and reassemble them. When he's not taking a hammer to his electronics, he can be found playing with his cats or writing about his latest discoveries on My Portable Office.