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.
Thanks for posting this. I am still living on my old powerbook, so this has not been an issue for me. But as i am nearing the purchase of my new Mac Book Pro I had planned on using Parallels to do my pc tasks.
This is actually the first I had heard of folks having troubles. Granted I have not gone digging much, but its good to know before i get into it that the road is not without its bumps.
Is this the only issue you have had, or have you had other problems with Parallels?
ah, good to know. I had my VM crap out, when the MBP had to be force shut down’ed. After that the VM was very angry :)
Good to know it’s not a complete loss as I thought it would be. Since then I back up my VM (My god that takes a loooooooong time). and keep my source code in SVN.
It definitely burns that support is as bad as it is, when the product ain’t free, and ain’t even that cheap relative to most mac apps.
I use mine on a daily basis 8-10 hours a day, fingers crossed :)
Simeon, the three problems I’ve had are:
1. Networking when switching from network to network. In order to get Windows networking to work, I often had to reboot the guest OS, and sometimes even my Mac, as well.
2. For some reason, Parallels would force the guest OS to crash after periods of inactivity. This got very old.
3. Corrupt VM which prevented the guest OS from booting. Parallels blamed the guest OS (Windows), but even Windows isn’t that bad. It was definitely caused by Parallels. Reinstalling fixed the problem.
Just wanted to chip in…
I’ve encountered #1 quite often (esp. since the last few Parallels updates) but never (yet) encountered #2 or #3.
I do occasionally get complete system freezes but I haven’t tracked that down to Parallels for sure (I actually suspect the Cisco VPN client).
I was just using Windows inside of Parallels and remembered another problem I’ve been having. The mouse pointer doesn’t seem to respond to what’s under it properly, and items under the mouse pointer don’t respond to having the pointer over them. Clicking works fine, but nothing changes when you mouse over it. I’ve seen this on two different installations.
A corrupt VM is really aggrevating. Even after re-installing OSX and parallels and windows over again, windows doesn’t seem to have any love for my mac. I wish I had a screen shot but I had a Windows blue screen with the mac grey screen of death over the top of it, Classic! It is very strange sometimes it works fine other times basic MS programs won’t load up.
Hi, fellow mac users…
I am using parallels and windows will not boot anymore. Windows says it needs a file to run. It says I should use the windows recovery console to transfer the file.
How can I boot..?
I’m running Parallels on a 2gb Macbook with 2gigs of RAM, and it gave me a massage the other day that the startup disk was full, then asked if I wanted it to end the guest OS. I said sure, as I was shutting down anyway. Now, however, my virtual drive – and with it Win XP and all my apps and shared folder, have disappeared, and Parallels asks me to reinstall a new guest OS. Any ideas on why, and especially how I can recover it?
You are amazing. Thanks for this post.
Like danno, I made the mistake of trying to use Parallels without enough free disk space. Boom! There goes my .hdd file. Parallels simply will not boot from it anymore. The product needs to be made more battle-hardened–if there is insufficient space to launch (I had “only” 1.5Gb free–wow it needs a lot), it should tell you before it accesses and corrupts the .hdd file. I’ve tried to recover the .hdd using the Parallels Image Tool, but no go. Guess it’s time to reinstall XP. Yay. (not)
Hi, thanks for all these posting, however I have tried all this and still cannot get to see my Parallels HDD file, is there any way to recover this? Any ideas? I really need to get to 2 files which I never backed up yet and they are on my windows desktop?
there is an official way to fix this:
doesn’t require creating a new VM
Firstly, I have not tried your solution, but from what I read it sounds interesting and very helpful. But, I suppose it also depends on the type of problem you are having and how you installed the Windows image. I had my parallels hard drive image come up as corrupt and then decided to try something, and it worked perfectly. The only thing which was really corrupted was the the DiskDescriptor.xml file, the data was fine.
Firstly, the image I use is a clone of a base install I did when I first installed parallels. So what I did originally did was install parallels, then installed windows xp as the client OS. Once everything was configured and upgraded to the latest versions of windows (patches applied), I cloned the image to my working copy. I did this so I would not need to go through the instal process if I screwed something up in windows as I find that whole process tiresome.
Anyway, the other day something happened when I shut down parallels (windows client OS) and I could not start it up again as parallels claimed that my hard drive image was corrupted. I thought that this was really strange as I had no hardware failure, and everything was shut down properly. I decided this morning to look into the problem and then I found that my DiskDescriptor.xml file was reported back as being data (not ASCII), I discovered this using the file command. Now, knowing that my working copy of windows was a clone of my previous image of windows, the disc geometry and other information should be exactly the same; so I renamed the corrupted DiskDescriptor.xml to DiskDescriptor.xml.save and copied the DiskDescriptor.xml from the original imaged directory and bang, it was all up and running again with no data loss.
All the files I am talking about are in ~/Documents/Parallels/[IMAGE_NAME]/winxp.hdd directory.
I hope that this tid bit is of some use to anypne having a similar problem.
I’m very new to MBP’s so apologies if this has been covered. I’m running parallels on my computer and when i went to load it up today i got the following error message: “Parallels Desktop is unable to access the virtual hard disk image file /Users/jasonridge/Documents/Parallels/Microsoft XP/winxp.hdd. The file is corrupted.” I haven’t yet backed-up …. is there anything i can do to resolve?
There is better solution for this problem. check out
Great link! It worked perfectly. I’m quickly back to using Parallels and I have lost nothing. Thanks.
Hi – I had a corrupted system image, Parallels Desktop Build 5160, MB Pro 2.16 Dual Core (the early MB Pro). Followed the long series of steps recommended by Parallels – including the not-quite-relevant http://kb.parallels.com/entry/21/235/ . Didn’t help.
Tried your series of steps, too, and the image file won’t load. At the point of trying to attach it to the VM, the consistency check runs and fails.
Your blog article is a year old – perhaps the later builds have a different behaviour. It is also possible that the problem was caused or provoked by the Battery Update 1.3 – my macine is affected, but I only found that out when it stopped running at 60% battery, with no warnings – and with Parallels running.
Thanks for the description of the process. I guess it is worth trying. I’m now off to find the best recommendations for making backups of the VM, and to get my battery replaced :(
I am a techy muppet and am trying to fix my IMac for my kids homework – help!! I did everything suggested above which was great in reloading windows but when it was loaded I went to Windows Explorer but sadly the old VM wasn’t anywhere in sight? I need the old data – any ideas?
Just wanted to let you know that the corrupt disc image happened to me. However, luckily I kept a back up of it on another drive. But that backup was several weeks old. So, I decided to take a chance and take my Terminal and go inside that corrupt image. I found that the DiskDescriptor.xml file that was in the corrupt image root was empty. So I went ahead and copied the contents of the DiskDescriptor.xml from the backed up image into the DiskDescriptor.xml file of the corrupt image and … voila.. started up just fine. Hope that this helps someone else.
I have read all of the above and tried them all but nothing helped my problem.
What’s puzzling that even my back up copy, weeks old, tells me that the file is corrupt.
Does this mean the problem is with Parallels?
I have also created a new VM and tried to add my old HDD but am still not able to open the HDD.
It is really frustrating.
What happens when parallels won’t open at all? All I get is the dreadded “The application Parallels Desktop quit unexpectedly. . .”
Open Package Contents of “xxxx.hdd”, delete “DiskDescriptor.xml.lck”. Parallel Desktop should be able to launch xxxx.hdd.
I just ran into this problem and tried several posted solutions — which didn’t work.
First I received the “in use by another application” error.
Then I trashed the locked file inside the package of the hard disk file. That led to the “file corrupted” error message.
THen I read Paul Lim’s solution from 8/12/07 and it did the trick. Luckily I had a time machine version in backup and I copied only the relevant file and it worked. I didn’t lose any of the data in my “corrupted” disk image — which turned out not to be corrupted at all!
Hey guys, I found a way to recover my VM…
I deleted the locked file in the HDD bundle and it told me it was corrupt after saying it was in use… but I had another XML file on my home iMac, I connected to that and copied the XML file from it to my HDD bundle. It worked perfectly after that! I recommend a one time backup of the XML file. It probably has to be the same size…
BUT people reading this probably already have corruption, so either get another XML file (from another installation) or make a new install (SAME SIZE HDD) and JUST copy over the new XML file to parallels.
Heres my XML file (30 gb VM) (hope this isn’t breaking any rules…)
I was sooo frustrated with this problem for a few days. I followed your suggestion and now it works fine.
Thanks a million!
I tried your advice on recovering a corrupt machine. I can’t even see the old virtual hard drive. I must add, I am new to Leopard and Parallels and didn’t quite get the select old virtual drive bit. I created a brand new virtual PC and installed the OS. The old one is still in tact. How do I access the data on the old one?
I didn’t get to the end of the posts to see that by removing/replacing the hdd xml file one could be back in business quickly. I did get as far as ‘restoring your VM from backup’, however. TimeMachine did it and 6 minutes later I was up.
So, backups do work in this situation. It’s worth the investment, especially if you’re already using Leopard.
Well, I tried this solution and the old .hdd would not open any which way. There wasn’t an XML file where there was supposed to be.. no idea why. So I trashed the old Windows XP and am recreating a new VM. Luckily I have everything backed up and a copy of all the software. Makes me want to warn all who read this to *keep a proper backup of the files on the VM*.
I have a .hdd package with several .hds files inside — and the recovery procedure (see http://kb.parallels.com/en/4680) will create a new XML file for any of the .hds files — but only the oldest is recognized by Windows (which is useless for me. I need my newest data). None of the other converted files works – in the Parallels Explorer or in Windows. WinXP sees there is a drive, but thinks it is empty (or no file system). Parallels Mounter/Explorer also says there is no volume or it is an unrecongized file system. Is there any way to fix the file system from within Windows? Anything else I can do?
Does anyone have any comparisons between Fusion and Parallels? I’ve been using Parallels for a couple of years now, and about every 6 months the .hdd file gets corrupted and will not open.
After paying $29.99 for telephone support I was promptly emailed a link to a page with a set of instructions I should follow to fix the problem. This did not set well with me. I had searched their Knowledge Base for any self help instructions I could find to avoid the fee, and only the exact phrasing returned the right result.
Then, after following the steps exactly, when I tried to launch the VM it asked me to re-install Windows.
Also, I have been pretty good about creating “snapshots” but when I tried to launch them they also had an error.
I’m very frustrated with the product and the company’s support. It should be much more robust and the “snapshot” backup system appears to be worthless – it only works if there are no problems – what good is that?
I’m wondering if switching to Fusion will help me avoid these issues, or if the same problems happen with that product as well.
Can a file, unintentionally removed from a parallels VM drive, be recovered (Parallels 5.0)?
If so, how?
What is a VM; I have a corrupt Parallel after I tried to download a software and I have been unable to access it; Can someone walk me through this
holding my hand.
I have a huge problem booting a VM by Parallels. Every time that I try to boot I get the following messages (I am still using Windows XP SP2):
Boot from hard disk
A disk read error occurred
Press Ctrl+Alt+Del to restart
Of course it is impossible to restart. I have tried to reinstall my Windows XP. It worked, but with a fresh and empty copy. I could not find a way to transfer my files from the faulty VM to the new VM. Please help!!!
hi all does anyone know how to recover ur files on a parallels corrupt hard disk