Parallels 6: The Shining (Upgrade) Path

Dear Leader, please illuminate our shining upgrade path to Parallels 6.

As I alluded in my post yesterday, I’ve been using Parallels for quite a while – since version 2 as I recall. I was quite keen back in the day, so I always signed up for their beta programme. At the time I was working for a Windows™ software developer (prepress and workflow applications) and had the use of a pretty sweet IBM ThinkPad so my interest in virtualization was more theoretical than practical.

My company developed software for the graphic arts market, and I repeatedly proposed we build Mac versions to access a larger market. But, our programmers had no experience with Objective C, so the bosses shied away from anything to do with that “other” OS. Sensing a brick wall, I suggested we look at Virtual Machines as a way to move our product onto the Mac desktop. Thus began my computer-generated journey down the road to cross-platform-land!

So, as I said earlier… I’ve installed and used a lot of beta versions of Parallels. Back in the Version 3 beta days, I got burned often as subsequent builds adversely affected (read: trashed) my virtual machines. And the early days of Boot Camp support were painful to say the least. We all know how much time it takes to build a Boot Camp partition or Virtual Machine. Windows™ installs can take hours, not to mention the time it takes install and register your software.

As I painstakingly tried to recover and rebuild my bruised VMs, I created a process for upgrading to subsequent builds of Parallels that minimized the potential for problems during the beta phase. The procedure worked so well, that I continue the practice to this day – even with stable, release versions of Parallels.

If this is your initial installation of Parallels and you’re building your first virtual machine, read no further – just go ahead and do it (but bookmark this article for future upgrades). If you’ve been using previous versions of Parallels and have built multiple VMs, read on…

  1. Backup your Virtual Machines: Seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be amazed how many people don’t take this simple precaution. Just drag a copy of your VM(s) over to another drive. If you make it to Step 12, you’ll be glad you did.
    UPDATE: SoftCircus reader Jon pointed out that not everyone knows where the VMs are kept (thanks Jon), so here goes… If you used the default location when you first installed Parallels, follow this path… [your user account] > Documents > Parallels > [your VM name].pvm. If you chose another location when you installed Parallels and don’t remember where it is, just do a search for .pvm and your VM(s) should appear. Just copy them over to another drive.
  2. Make sure your Mac OS is up to date. Apple Software Update will do this for you.
  3. Repair your permissions – Before any major software install it’s always a good idea to use Apple’s Disk Utility to repair the permissions on your boot drive.
  4. DiskWarrior users – It can’t hurt to rebuild your directories.
  5. Do all the usual OS X housekeeping such as deleting caches, etc. I use Mac OS X Cocktail for this. They have a free trial version.
  6. Mount the Parallels disk image of the version you already have installed. You should have kept this somewhere if you’ve been a good little geek like me.
  7. Use the Uninstaller from that disk image. Its a good idea (and often your only option) to use the uninstaller that came with the version you already have installed. Go ahead and remove your settings as well, they’re really easy to setup again. Don’t worry about your Virtual Machines, the uninstall process doesn’t touch them. Basically, I like to leave NO TRACE of the previous install. The only information that will survive this is your registration/license info. This means that if you’re simply upgrading within the release (version 5 to 5.1 for example) you won’t have to enter your license key or re-activate your install. If you’re going from v5 to v6, you’ll need a new license key anyways.
  8. Keep the installer disk image from your last install in case you want to de-migrate. (is that a word?)
  9. Mount the NEW installer disk image and install the next version of Parallels.
  10. Once installed, open each of your Virtual Machines, let Parallels update them (this is a one way trip, which is why we back them up, mmm-kay?) and install the new version of Parallels Tools if it doesn’t do so automatically.
  11. After your VM is updated, I would suggest compressing your VM as well. (On the Mac Parallels Menu Bar go to Virtual Machine > Compress). This purges your VM of extraneous crap and tidies up your Windows™.
  12. If you feel the need to roll it back to a previous version, follow the same procedure in reverse order to de-migtrate (after all, you’ve got your Virtual Machine back-up you made in step 1, right?).

I know, this sounds like a lot of steps and it’s far more than Parallels recommends you do but I can honestly say that I haven’t had a SINGLE problem with botched installs, corrupted virtual machines or rolling back a version since implementing this procedure. Farm-boy logic says the extra 5 minutes this all takes is time well spent if it saves a single VM!

I’d be interested in hearing from other Parallels users about their upgrade experiences…

[UPDATE: Our man Patrick has been running betas of Parallels 6 for a while now and will be blogging about his planned install of the full release version this weekend.]

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7 Responses

  1. Norm says:

    I do find your post title of humorous irony or juxtaposition. Perhaps Parallels is heading to the same anachronistic fate as the similarly titled guerillas. And there is always that non-existent connection of a “Chinese” Irish guy to that Maoist group!

    I no longer bother with Parallels or Fusion, as I’ve found that although I’ve been a MS DOS/Windows guy from the start, I can do just about all I need via OSX….and what I can’t I either don’t bother or I’ve got a Win laptop for the 2 apps that are not Mac capable (Quickbooks, GOC tax stuff).

  2. Patrick says:

    Zac:
    I would add one more step before installing Parallels. If you use Microsoft Outook email, then back up the Outlook archive files. When I first installed Parallels 5, I lost Outlook email capability for over a week due to a disk mapping bug.

    Norm:
    While the Mac is great, I run into an app or website about once every 3 months that is Windows only, e.g. Intuit corporate tax programs. In addition, and I know this is heresy, Office continues to have more capabilities than iWorks. For business use, I find that Office continues to be a requirement.

  3. zac says:

    Patrick, I used to backup my Outlook archive separately, but now just back up the whole Virtual Machine as mentioned in Step 1… the archive is included in that. As for Office, I agree as far as Word goes. Maybe it’s just habit, but I still use only Word for my writing. I tried Pages but it just didn’t cut it. Having said that, I’ve pretty much switched all my number crunching over the iWorks NUMBERS… I like it better. Also, keep in mind that MSRP of iWork ($79) is about 1/4 the MSRP of Office ($279). Anyways, thats a beer debate…
    Or you can just use OPEN OFFICE for FREE!

  4. Jon says:

    Being a mac newbie, I am having difficulty in finding the VM files to drag to a different HD. “Just drag a copy of your VM(s) over to another drive.” Can you tell me where the VM files are located in finder? I must admit that finding files and copying them were easier on my PC, but Mac really does not want you to ‘look under the hood’. thanks for any guidance you can give.

  5. zac says:

    Hey Jon… You bring up a good point. This process assumes that you store your virtual machines in the default location that Parallels chooses when you first install… AND that you know where that location is. By default, Parallels puts the VMs in a folder called “Parallels” in your document folder. The VMs have a suffix of .pvm, so if you still have trouble finding them you can just do a spotlight search for .pvm and that should locate them. If you use the default location suggested by Parallels, then your upgrade install will also use that location and your VMs should be available immediately.

    So look in your home account directory (in my case its called “zbolan”), along this path: zbolan > Documents > Parallels > [your VM name].pvm. I just copy the whole Parallels folder over to another drive.

  6. Zach says:

    This might be a dumb question, but I was wondering, If I upgrade from PArallells 5 to 6, and use these instructions, will I have to re-install all windows and windows software? Thanks for letting me know.

  7. zac says:

    Zach, your virtual machines are self-contained in the disk images that Parallels builds when you install windows. You shouldn’t have to re-install anything. However, it’s important to back up your virtual machines in case you don’t want to stay in Parallels 6 or you have some problems during upgrading. You can do this simply by dragging your Parallels VM files to another hard disk. If you ever need to revert to one of the backups, just copy it back to the your Parallels VM location. By default this is [user] directory / Documents / Parallels. Let me know if you have any other questions.

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