Parallels Bootcamp Migration

I guess I have known for a while that Parallels would migrate a Bootcamp install of Windows into a Virtual Machine. But, Parallels 11 lets you either use the Bootcamp version virtually (always accessing it on bootup) or it allows you to migrate the whole install over to the a virtual machine.




First, lets take a look at what the Parallels manual says about these two ways of importing your Bootcamp install into a virtual enviornment. You can make a virtual machine that just USES the Bootcamp install. Your Windows stuff stays on Bootcamp and Parallels 11 references it sort of. The other way migrates all your Bootcamp stuff into a Parallels 11 virtual machine. However, Windows running from the linked version Bootcamp has these limitations:

  • It can’t be paused
  • It can’t be saved as a snapshot
  • It can’t run in Safe Mode
  • It can’t be compressed

Those limitations are not a problem for me, I really do not need them. I suppose if a Win 10 install had some element of being Misison Critical to me then I would need the “Snapshot” feature for sure, YMMV here.

But, why would I want to do this migration in Parallels? I have Win 10 running good in Bootcamp. It is very snappy. However, for me, I only need to go into a Windows environment for a few short tests of my websites and a couple of other things. Don’t need to be in there very long, so the Restart of the Mac is a bit tedious. Because of that I chose the first method of install, to have Parallels just USE the Bootcamp Win 10. Here is how it went (there are ton of screenshots, 1 picture worth 1,000 words).

Bootcamp Migration

When you boot up Parallels 11 you see the Control Center. Just click on the plus symbol in the upper right corner:

When you click the plus symbol you get the New Virtual Machine window:

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Click on the Bootcamp icon at the end and you are on your way. The first thing the install does is give you an admonition that you may have to reactivate some of your Windows apps when the install is complete.

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You need to click the “I want to continue” box and then click the “Continue” button which takes you to a “Name and Location” screen:

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I named it “Win 10” and left it at the default Parallels folder. There are a couple of other settings as well. When you click “Continue” you are taken into the install.

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The install took about 20 minutes on my equipment, YMMV. When the install is complete (or maybe mostly complete) you go into the “Getting Windows Ready” mode:

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This goes on for a few minutes, then it boots into your account in Windows:

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Then, it automatically installs Parallels Tools, which takes a while as well:

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This is what you see in your Parallels Control Center while the tools install is occurring:

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When all this is completed you are booted into Windows 10. It is a fairly long process. It seems Win 10 has to setup a bunch of stuff. I had to restart Win 10 three or four times to get it working right.

Overal Observations

Here are some observations of this whole thing. The migration, install of Parallels Tools and various restarts of Win 10 takes quite a while. Not a whole afternoon, but a couple of hours easy. Is it worth it you are wondering? Yes!! After all had settled down I was able to use several Windows apps like Libre Office, Microsft Edge, Thunderbird, other web browsers, CCleaner and last but not least, McAfee Antivirus. Everything worked properly. The first bootup of these apps was slow, but subsequent boots were snappy. Not quite as fast as a Bootcamp install, but very close. Close enough for me to pretty much be using the Parallels version of Win 10 from now on.

You remember seeing the install screen with the warning saying you may have to reactivate some applications. I have not had to reactivate any apps at all, YMMV. Keep in mind I do not have a ton of stuff installed in Win 10. No Office install for sure, just don’t need it.

As far as I can see, this method of allowing Parallels 11 to use the Bootcamp install is a very viable alternative for some one that only needs to use Windows on a occasional basis. If you had to do tons of work in Windows then it might be better to just save it all up and Restart into a Bootcamp partition.

One more thing here. It is so cool to be able to use the “Mission Control” feature to just slide the Wndows screen right to get back into the Mac Desktop and then slide it left again to get back into the Windows Desktop. It really is seamless, works great.

Speaking of sliding the Windows Desktop out of the way, you may be using this when you first bootup Windows 10. The startup is a very slow process. I think this may be because it is referencing the Bootcamp Windows install and this just takes a bit longer. No worries though, I just start up Win 10, then Mission Control back into the Mac to do stuff while it is booting up. You can watch the Windows boot process in the small view of the Win 10 desktop in the Parallels Control Center. You can see when it is booted up and Mission Control right back over there.

Just wanted to add, none of this applies to using Parallels 11 and Windows 10 in a corporate enviornment. Sometimes all the servers that need to be accessed and other processes that need to be connected to is just to complicated for a Parallels install. It would be very convenient for a Mac person to be able to quickly switch back and forth in both Mac and Windows enviornments, but testing would be required to see if this was workable in your workplace.


I must admit I had my reservations that this would work at all and if it did that it would be too slow to bother with, but I was wrong. It works like a champ. I highly recommend doing this migration if you are tired of Retarting into Bootcamp and only need Windows on a light to medium duty basis. However, I wonder what a full migration of Win 10 into Parallels would be like?

PS — Before you do this migration read my next article on this topic which appears tomorrow. I issue a caveat to the whole migration thing that may or may not affect you.