Virtualization programs such as Parallels Desktop ( ) are extremely useful for people who need to work with both Macs and PCs, as they allow you to create a virtual machine that works just like an ordinary PC, but which runs on your Mac at the same time as all your normal Mac programs (unlike Apple’s Boot Camp, which requires you to restart and switch back and forth between the Mac and Windows environments).
This can also be useful for people who are switching from a PC to a Mac for the first time, as it provides a kind of halfway-house that allows you to keep your existing Windows software while you get used to the Mac way of doing things.
With that in mind, Parallels has a special version of Parallels Desktop designed specifically for switchers who have bought their first Mac.
The Parallels Desktop Switch to Mac Edition includes version 4 of Parallels Desktop (it comes with a free upgrade to the latest version of Parallels, version 5) along with a set of video tutorials and a special USB cable that can be used to transfer files from your old PC onto a virtual machine running on the new Mac. However, it costs $100, compared to $80 if you buy Parallels Desktop on its own.
The tutorials are fairly straightforward and quite cleverly presented. They display a picture of the Mac desktop, and when you move the mouse over any item on the desktop (such as the Dock or the Spotlight search tool) the tutorial explains how that feature works, and also compares it to similar features on Windows so that you can see the new Mac features in a familiar context.
The USB cable is also handy. It allows you to connect your PC to your new Mac and (with the aid of a program called Parallels Transporter) transfer everything on the PC’s hard drive straight across to a new virtual machine on your Mac. This allows you to keep working in the familiar PC environment until you’re ready to complete the transition onto the Mac.
Macworld buying advice
We wouldn’t say the Switch To Mac Edition is an essential item for all first-time Mac users. Many switchers will be happy to explore their new Mac on their own, or to ease their way in using the standard Parallels Desktop software. However, if you’re feeling a little nervous about using Macs for the first time, then the Switch To Mac Edition might well be worth the extra money.