Software

New Parallels beta supports USB 2.0

Parallels continues to improve its Parallels Desktop for Mac software with a new beta version available for download now. Beta 2 touts myriad improvements including support for USB 2.0 devices. Parallels Desktop for Mac costs $79, and the beta version is available for registered users who want to give it a try.

Parallels Desktop for Mac enables Intel-based Mac users to run Windows and other X86-compatible operating systems on their Macs without having to reboot first, unlike Apple’s own Boot Camp software. In practice, the user experience is similar to running PC emulation software in that Windows runs side-by-side with Mac OS X, but because of Parallels’ technology and the Mac’s Intel underpinnings, it’s much, much faster.

About a week and a half ago Parallels offered a new beta version of Desktop for Mac, and this new beta version builds on that functionality with new features. USB 2.0 support is now provided for devices including hard disk drives, printers and scanners, which work at full native speeds. Parallels advises that “isochronous devices” like Bluetooth peripherals and webcams do not yet work, but they’re working on the issue.

You can now burn CDs and DVDs directly in Parallels virtual machines, and play any copy-protected CD or DVD just as you would on a “real” PC.

What’s more, the new beta 2 release has an improved “Coherence” mode. “Coherence” lets Parallels run Windows applications from the Mac OS X Dock, blurring the line between Mac OS X and Windows. With beta 2, users can place Windows apps on the Mac desktop or in the application dock; use command+tab to cycle through Windows and Mac applications and use Coherence in either Windows XP or Windows Vista.

There’s better support for using Boot Camp partitions in Parallels Desktop, full support for both FAT32 and NTFS partitions, easier offline configuration, and other changes.

Users who continue to utilize a Boot Camp partition will also appreciate the lack of having to “re-activate” Windows each time you switch between Boot Camp and Parallels. Activate Windows only once and work in both environments.

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