How to test a Windows app in Parallels Desktop for FREE


A question that I am regularly asked is:

“Will an old Photoshop Version for Windows work in Parallels Desktop on the Mac?”

(with the named app being almost any type of app: line-of-business app, educational app, productivity app, or game, among many other categories).

My standard response is:

“It is highly likely that this app for Windows will run just fine in Parallels Desktop, with the following exceptions…

…apps that require you to insert some special hardware in the PC, since there is no way to insert PC hardware in a Mac, or

…the latest PC games. The latest PC games sometimes won’t even launch in Parallels Desktop, and sometimes run too slowly to be usable. Overwatch from Blizzard is the rare exception to this. Older games, on the other hand, often run just fine in Parallels Desktop. (My favorite game of all time, Age of Empires, runs great in Parallels Desktop on my home iMac.)”

However, even if it is “highly likely” that the app in question will run just fine in Parallels Desktop, many people would like an absolute guarantee before they spend any money. If you are one of these people, then this blog post is for you.

You can get this absolute guarantee—and for FREE—if you do the testing yourself. There are four quite different ways to do this, each with their own pros and cons. However, each of these four uses the Parallels Desktop trial, a 14-day, no-cost trial of full-featured Parallels Desktop. The four ways differ in where and how you get Windows for the test.

Method 1: Use an un-activated Windows 10

You can download, install, patch, and use Windows 10 for about a week or so before you need to activate it with a purchased Windows 10 product key.

Download from here:

Test Windows app

Figure 1

The options you should choose on this page are:

Select Windows 10

Select language

Select 64-bit download

This will download a 4.4 GB file, Win10_1607_English_x64.iso, which you can use in the Parallels Desktop trial to create a Windows 10 virtual machine on your Mac. (Need detailed instructions for creating a Windows VM? Look here.) When setting up the Parallels Wizard to create this VM, be sure to uncheck “This version requires a product key in the Parallels Wizard (Figure 2).

Test Windows App

Figure 2

You have several days to install and test any Windows app before Windows 10 requires activation. During the three days, you will see reminders to activate (Figure 3),…

Test Windows App

Figure 3

…but these will not interfere with your testing. You activate Windows by purchasing a Windows 10 product key and entering it in the Activation Wizard dialog (Figure 4).

Test Windows App

Figure 4


Method 1 Pros

Method 1 Cons

Can be changed to a perpetually licensed copy of Windows by purchasing and adding a Windows 10 product key Only a week or so trial period
The work on installing the Windows app you are testing is not lost if you eventually enter a Windows 10 product key.
If you need a little more testing time, you can install Windows in a new VM and get more days.


Method 2: Use a 90-day Windows 10 trial

Within Parallels Desktop, you can download a ready-to-use Windows 10 VM. This VM contains a 90-day trial version of Windows 10. Figure 5 shows you the easy steps. Note that there is no install of Windows 10, since you are downloading a ready-to-use VM. On my home network, this download took about an hour.

Test Windows App

Figure 5a

Test Windows App

Figure 5b

Test Windows App

Figure 5c

Test Windows App

Figure 5d

When you start up this VM, you may see a rather crowded desktop. Just set Shared Folders to None in the Sharing Options to get the desktop you see in Figure 6.

Test Windows App

Figure 6

Note that you might also want to reclaim storage on the VM to recover a couple of gigabytes on your Mac disk (Figure 7).

Test Windows App

Figure 7

You will have 90 days to install and test any Windows app before the Windows 10 trial runs out. After the 90 days are over, this VM will no longer work, and there is no way to change this. Buying a Windows 10 product key and attempting to change this VM to a licensed copy of Windows will not work.


Method 2 Pros

Method 2 Cons

The trial period is long (90 days). No way to continue using this VM after the 90-day trial
No installation of Windows required Big download
The 14-day trial of Parallels Desktop is now the limiting factor.
If the application you are testing requires its own activation, this may cause problems when you install the application again in another VM.

Method 3: Migrate a PC into a VM

Within Parallels Desktop, you can migrate a PC into a VM (Figure 8).

Test Windows App

Figure 8

Of course, this only works if you have a PC with Windows on it. The version of Windows that is on the PC will be the version of Windows that will be in the new VM, and this may not be what you want for your test. This will not modify or harm the PC that is being migrated. This Knowledge Base article gives you all the detailed instructions.


Method 3 Pros

Method 3 Cons

No trial period for Windows Only applicable if you already have a PC with Windows installed.
May require reactivation of Windows
The 14-day trial of Parallels Desktop is now the limiting factor.


Method 4: Use your Boot Camp Windows in a VM

Within Parallels Desktop, you can set up a VM that uses your Boot Camp installation of Windows (Figure 9). Note that you will only see this option in Parallels Desktop if you have previously created a Boot Camp partition and installed Windows in it.

Test Windows App

Figure 9


Method 4 Pros

Method 4 Cons

No trial period for Windows Only applicable if you have already installed Windows in Boot Camp on your Mac
“My Boot Camp” VM is tiny (about 300 MB). May require reactivation of Windows
The 14-day trial of Parallels Desktop is now the limiting factor.


I hope one of these four methods will show you that the application you are interested in works fine in Parallels Desktop. In the very unlikely event that the application has problems, please let our Support team know.

Have you tried one of the four described methods above yet? Share your experience with us in a comment, or reach out to us on Facebook or Twitter.

Try Parallels Desktop for free for 14 days!

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