Parallels is a very impressive piece of software, but it’s not quite ready for prime time. In addition to using it on two different computers myself, I know many other people who use it on a daily basis, and although it’s by far the best way to run multiple operating systems on an Intel Mac, it’s also full of problems. If you use Parallels on a regular basis on different networks, you are likely already familiar with the various networking and VPN quirks, and if you have been using it for long enough, you might have also discovered that virtual machines will occasionally become corrupt and refuse to boot. And if you have ever tried to get free email support from Parallels, then you have almost certainly discovered that they are unable to keep up with demand. Again, I want to stress that Parallels is a remarkable piece of software, and it gets better with each update, however if you’re using it for mission-critical operations, be sure to make frequent backups.
But if you haven’t been backing up your data, and you’ve run into the dreaded corrupt virtual machine problem, there is actually a relatively painless way to recover your data:
- Create a new VM. Configure it any way you want, and get it to the point where you are ready to install the guest OS (presumably Windows).
- Before installing the guest OS, edit the VM by clicking on the edit button, then click “Add…” beneath the property table.
- Click “Next”, then select “Hard Disk”, then “Use an existing hard disk image”.
- Browse to your previous virtual hard disk (the one with the data you want to recover) and choose “Finish”.
- Install the guest OS. Be careful not to install it on the virtual hard disk that you are trying to recover.
- When you boot into your new installation of Windows, open Explorer, and notice that your old virtual hard disk is mounted and that all your old data is accessible.
I’ve had enough problems with Parallels that I’ve stopped using it on a daily basis and have gone back to trying to get by in a Windows-centric world using nothing but OS X. I haven’t given up on Parallels entirely, however, and with every update, I give it a fresh chance since I still believe that if you absolutely have to run Windows, the best way to run it is as a Mac app.