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Using "Parallels Desktop" with Bootcamp to run Windows XP

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 04
Column Tag: Virtualization

Using "Parallels Desktop" with Bootcamp to run Windows XP

by Criss Myers

Most Apple users see the development of Bootcamp as a way to run windows software without having to buy a second machine. In the past, on PPC machines, the only way to run windows was with VirtualPC, which with Apple's processors was never fast enough. VirtualPC was never really a viable option and since there was always software that would run only on Windows, one could not escape running Windows. So when Apple brought out Bootcamp beta, this meant that users could ditch their PC and run both operating systems natively on the same machine, the best of both worlds.

For PC users, this meant that they could invest in better hardware that spec-for-spec, is cheaper than hardware from any other manufacturer. They can now run Windows in the same way as on their old machine, but get the added bonus of trying out Mac OS that comes free with the computer.

Bootcamp is great, however, having to reboot your mac every time you want to run a Windows application can be tedious and annoying, especially if you need to use OS X at the same time. As Apple users we would rather run both operating systems at the same time and never have to boot into Windows. PC users, as they get more and more used to OS X, find that they use Windows less and less so also would like to run both together. The only option, then, is to use a virtual machine (VM), such as that offered by Parallels, CrossOver and a few others. With Core/Core 2 Duo and Xeon processors, these run much better than did VirtualPC.

Running a Virtual Machine means creating a VM installation of Windows on a hard disk image, with all your software and settings. This takes up additional hard disk space and means that if you run both a VM and Bootcamp, you have 2 Windows installations with duplicate software and settings. This is a waste of space when you have a perfectly good Windows partition.

The ideal solution is to use both Bootcamp and VM together seamlessly. This means sharing the Bootcamp partition within VM, so that you only need to install Windows and your software once.

Introducing Parallels Desktop 2.5 Build 3186

As of February 27th 2007, Parallels Desktop 2.5 Build 3186 now offers Bootcamp support. There is very little in the Parallels guide, especially on the topic of troubleshooting and very little on the website about Bootcamp support. This step by step guide will tell you how to use this Bootcamp support and what to avoid. Parallels Desktop 2.5 can only be used with Bootcamp for Windows XP Service Pack 2 partitions. I am sure it will not be long before Vista support is added. Parallels Desktop 2.5 should be available as an upgrade for existing customers.


Download Apple's Firmware and OS updaters

Download Parallels Desktop from

Download Bootcamp Beta 1.2.2 from Apple

Have your Windows XP Service Pack 2 Install CD

For Early Intel Core Duo Macs, make sure you install the Keyboard update.

This was tested on a MacBook Pro Core Duo and a Xeon Mac Pro.

Step 1. Install all Apple's firmware updates and OS updates.

Step 2. Install Bootcamp beta 1.2.2

Step 3. Create a Windows XP drivers CD via Bootcamp.

Step 4. Partition the hard drive using Bootcamp.

Step 5. Install Windows XP Service Pack 2 onto partition C:/. Format for either Fat32 or NTFS, both Bootcamp and Parallels will work with either Fat32 or NTFS, the advantage of Fat32 though is that you can read/write this partition from within OS X.

Step 6. Install the Windows Drivers from the drivers disk you created.

Step 7. Set up Auto-Login. In order for Parallels to work with your Bootcamp Windows partition, Parallels needs to install its tools. Parallels can only do this when Windows is logged in as an administrator. The Parallels guide says to login as administrator, if asked. However, without the Parallels tools installed the keyboard and mouse will be inactive from within Parallels. Therefore it is important that Windows auto logs in on boot up. If your Windows setup has auto-login active then ignore A-G in the next section (continue with step 8).

Setting up Auto Login

This is to be performed in Windows, while booted via BootCamp - before trying to load in Parallels.

A. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, click ok.

B. Locate the following registry key,


C. Double-click the DefaultUserName entry, type your username under the value data box, and then click OK.

D. Do the same for DefaultPassword, if there is no DefaultPassword value you will need to create one. To do this, in Registry Editor, click Edit, click New, and then click String Value. Type DefaultPassword as the value name, and then press ENTER. Double-click the newly created key, and then type your password in the Value Data box.

E. Double-click the AutoAdminLogon entry, type 1 in the Value Data box, and then click OK. If there is no AutoAdminLogon entry you will need to create one in the same way as you did for the DefaultPassword.

F. Quit Registry Editor.

G. Click Start, click Restart, and then click OK.

Step 8. Boot into OS X and install Parallels, you should uninstall any previous versions of Parallels.

Step 9. Launch Parallels and create a new install and click Custom.

Figure 1 -- Custom Installation

Step 10. Select Windows / Windows XP and set the desired memory allocation. Bootcamp support will not work with any other Operating System.

Step 11. Next select Bootcamp as the virtual hard drive option and complete the rest of the setup. You can edit any of these settings later.

Figure 2 -- The Boot Camp hard drive option

Step 12. Start this new installation, by clicking on the green "play" triangle. However you will probably get the following error shown in Fig 3.

Figure 3 -- Startup error

This is the only troubleshooting mentioned in the Parallels guide. You do not need to boot back into Windows as long as you're using Fat32. When you install XP from a Service Pack 2 CD it installs a single file with all the Service Pack 2 drivers in it, however when you upgrade to Service Pack 2 from a Service Pack to updater, another file is installed called which contains the new and updated drivers. Parallels looks for this file in order to read the Service Pack 2 drivers.. Open your Windows partition and look in Windows/Drivers Cache/1386/ folder, you should see However Parallels needs the file as well. Since you have installed XP via a full Service Pack 2 CD then the contains all the necessary drivers. Copy this file and rename it

Step 13. Start your Windows XP from Parallels and it should now launch, it will ask you for your Mac administrator name and password in order to unmount your Windows partition.

Step 14. Windows will bootup and auto login, then a message will come up saying it is initialising for Parallel tools, you will notice that the mouse is not responsive from within Windows.

Figure 4 -- Auto setup of Windows after auto-login

According to the manual you may need to re-enter your Windows activate key. I found that it never asked me to re-activate. If it did ask, I am not sure the keyboard would be active to allow you to enter it. Give it some time to install the tools and auto reboot.

Step 15. When Windows reboots you will notice it has created a second installation. This only shows up when you boot from Parallels. Windows will boot normally via Bootcamp.

Figure 5 -- Ah ha! That's the Parallels magic to using the Boot Camp partition!

Step 16. The keyboard and mouse will now work within Parallels, you will also notice that with build 3186 you no longer need to use Ctrl+Alt to release the keyboard and mouse, drag and drop now works between Windows and OS X. The experience is now seamless.

Step 17. You can also now have a full seamless experience by using Coherence. This removes the windows desktop and creates a truly integrated system.

Important Information

Here are some important notes about working with Parallels while booted from a Boot Camp partition.

1. You must shutdown Windows from within Parallels, do not use the STOP button.

2. Parallels unmounts your Windows partition within OS X so you cannot read or write to the drive when Windows is running, but you can copy files via Shared folders you setup in Parallels.

3. Parallels creates a shortcut for Shared folders on the desktop, you cannot access this folder in Bootcamp, so do not delete it when booting natively.

4. You cannot uninstall Parallel Tools when booting via Bootcamp, however if you uninstall them when booted by Parallels you no longer have keyboard and mouse support to shutdown Windows.

5. If for some reason your Windows XP gets corrupted and you need to do a windows repair via the install CD, then repairing your Windows system via the repair option on the CD will fix Windows so it can boot via bootcamp as normal, but will destroy your Parallels support. When you reboot via Parallels you will get the error message shown in Fig 6. At this point in order to fix this you will need to do a complete, fresh reinstall of Windows. To avoid this problem, try booting into Parallels first and then see if Windows will run from there, even if it will not run from Bootcamp. If this is possible, uninstall the Parallels Tools via the "Add and Remove Programs" tool. This will remove mouse support so you will have to do a forced shutdown via the red Stop button. Repair Windows via the install CD. Reboot into Parallels and install the Parallels Tools via the Actions menu. It will not auto install the tools this time.

Figure 6 -- Uh, oh.

6. Install programs and drivers via Bootcamp if possible.

Customizing Parallels

You can customize the configuration ".pvs" file that can be found in your Parallels folder under Documents/Parallels/ (by default, although, you could have saved this somewhere else). This file contains all the configuration details for your VM setup. By editing this file you can add multiple Bootcamp partitions to a single VM setup. In, view your current partition layout via the following command

diskutil list
   #:    type name                       size         identifier
   0:    GUID_partition_scheme          *232.9 GB     disk0
   1:    EFI                             200.0 MB     disk0s1
   2:    Apple_HFS OSX                   201.0 GB     disk0s2
   3:    Microsoft Basic Data WindowsXP   31.6 GB     disk0s3

From this command you can get disk and sector details for each partition. Since we are using a mirrored Master Boot Record we can only have a maximum of 2 Windows partitions on the main disk and 4 and any other disk. In the example above we have 1 Windows partition on disk 0 sector 3 (disk0s3)

Edit the .pvs configuration file in Terminal, (I prefer to use "vi" so that the formatting of the file is not damaged, but you could also use TextEdit). Look for the "[IDE devices]" section, each IDE device is listed, 0:0, 0:1 etc, where it says Disk 0:0 image = Boot Camp , we will add the partitions we wish to use. You can add other IDE devices, 0:0 is primary master, 0:1 is primary slave, 1:0 is secondary master, 1:1 is secondary slave. Only add the partitions that are attached to each IDE.

[IDE devices]
Disk 0:0 enabled = 1
Disk 0:0 = 1
Disk 0:0 media = 1
Disk 0:0 connected = 1
Disk 0:0 image = Boot Camp;disk0s3;disk0s4
Disk 0:0 cylinders = 0
Disk 0:0 heads = 0
Disk 0:0 sectors = 0
Disk 0:1 enabled = 1
Disk 0:1 = 2
Disk 0:1 media = 1
Disk 0:1 connected = 1
Disk 0:1 image = Default CD/DVD_ROM
Disk 1:0 enabled = 0
Disk 1:0 = 0
Disk 1:1 enabled = 0
Disk 1:1 =0


Parallels Desktop 2.5 now makes using Virtual Machine software much more attractive. Being able to use the same installation of Windows in both VM ware and Bootcamp makes it well worth while investing in Parallels. This will hopefully help to convert many Windows user to OS X when they do not have to reboot to use both Operating Systems, but have the option to do so when needed. Given enough memory, Parallels runs very fast and with Coherance, makes it hardly noticeable that you are running two systems. Tested on a Mac Pro 2.6Ghz with 4GB of ram was really impressive; but even running on a MacBook Pro Core Duo with 1Gb of ram it was very acceptable. Parallels Desktop 2.5 now also comes with antivirus software which can be installed via the tools menu.

Criss Myers is a Senior Mac IT Technician for the Faculty of Science and Technology, at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, United Kingdom. He has been a Systems Server Administrator from the very first version of OS X Server. He works with Macs as well as Linux, Unix and Windows.


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