Virtual Woes…

Why can’t we all just play nice together in Virtual Land?

You remember my buddy Patrick (not his real name, OK it is…)? Seems he’s had a bit of a bumpy ride in upgrading his Parallels to version 4.0. By his own admission, he’s had problems with Parallels Tools for quite a while, though I suspect this could be due to problems with his Vista Install, which was an “upgrade” from XP. Another rule from Zac’s SysAdmin Bible is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER upgrade an OS from one full-number version to another… ALWAYS do a clean install of the new OS and migrate your info and settings over any way you can. I adhere to this basic tenant with both Windows and Mac installs – you are just asking for trouble by trying to retrofit your tired, old OS! Start clean… no XP to Vista upgrade… no OS X 10.4 to 10.5 upgrade, etc.

So… enough pontificating! Here’s Patrick’s story in his own words…

Hi Zac,

My Parallels story.

As you know, somewhere between the Parallels 3.0 updates and the Vista Business OS updates of the last year, an incompatibility emerged.  About a year ago installing Parallel Tools after a Parallels update caused my dual core CPU to race at 90% per core, my mouse to have a 10 second delay and the keyboard to have about a 5 second delay before reacting.   Since I was in Beijing and did not have my original Vista Business OS DVDs, I backed off and I have used Parallels without Parallel Tools since that time – a clunky, but acceptable solution.  I have made numerous attempts (at least 5) to contact Parallels technical support during this time, but with no response.

When Parallels 4.0 was announced and after reading a good review I decided to try again.   I plunked down my credit card and downloaded.   Initially my Vista Business OS virtual machine worked fine when 4.0 was installed.  It booted and the apps worked.   It wasn’t pretty since the Tools were not installed, but it worked.  Then when I went through the 4 step Parallel Tools install, it resulted in disabling Vista Business OS so it could not boot AND the Parallels .pvs file was not recognized or opened by Parallels 4.0.  I popped my original Parallels CD (maybe a Parallels 2?) into the DVD drive and then found it did not recognize either my Parallels 4.0 or backup Parallels 3.0 virtual machine file as valid.  Basically, I was screwed.  Looking for help categories on how to recover to 3.0, I search the PDF instruction manual and Parallels web site.  Nothing is posted on how to recover.   Looking for a Parallels 3.0 .dmg to download, I found none.   I am now so screwed.

Luckily I have (Mac OS X Leopard) Time Machine.  So, I recovered my Parallels 3.0 to run my 3.0 virtual machine.   Once running again, I then did a total backup of Vista OS, apps and files to DVD.  I then tried to convert from Parallels 3.0 to 4.0 again, but got the same corrupted/not recognized OS virtual machine when I installed Parallel Tools.  I decided to go with a clean slate, deleting all 4.0 virtual machines and creating a new Vista Ultimate 64 bit virtual machine.  I basically built a new Vista PC from scratch, then copied backup files to it in a brute force method using DVDs.  That has worked flawlessly.   However, in starting from a clean slate and installing a Vista OS, applications and files, it has taken over a solid day.  It is not an easy update.

I’m reasonably happy now that everything is stable again. As a final present, Parallels responded to my original bitch email.  I am shocked since it is the first time they have responded in a year.  However, they quote the problem as Microsoft’s, which is a 50 – 50 probability.  After all, I’ve read too many comments on Parallels also having major problems of compatibility.  Their solution description deals with the Microsoft OS coming out of hibernation mode, not failing to boot.  It appears that Parallels has adopted the Microsoft custom of providing technically accurate, but useless information.

All in all, I’m happy now that things are working.  However, I am concerned that Parallels customer service is not working.

Patrick (not my real name… OK, it is!)

Sounds like Patrick might have benefited from keeping his old Parallels installer and backed-up Virtual Machine – might have saved some time. However, it really does seem like a case of Vista not playing nice in Virtual Land. In any event, Parallels seems to be responding to recent criticism regarding their alleged lack of support for users… let’s hope this isn’t a passing fad! More Parallels user reports here, along with loads of links.

Having said all that, I continue to use Parallels 4 on a daily basis with no issues… go figure!

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2 Responses

  1. midtoad says:

    I’ve heard enough Parallels 4 update horror stories to convince me to sit tight with Parallel 3 until a few updates come out. After all, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!

  2. zbolan says:

    They’ve (Parallels) just released another update (like yesterday) and I’m finding it pretty stable. Although my XP virtual machine is a bit sluggish, might need a “Parallels Compressor” treatment. Sigh, OS’s are like finicky houseplants – it never ends! Bring on Windows 7 and Snow Leopard – my life needs more aggravation.

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