How to Run Boot Camp in a Virtual Machine

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Guest blog by Nikhil Palathingal, Parallels Support Team

Many Mac users who still need access Windows programs use Boot Camp. While Boot Camp is a useful feature, it has one major downside: you have to restart your Mac to boot into Windows and vice versa.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably using Parallels Desktop or are at least interested in learning more about it. You might be thinking:

Are you trying to say I should create a new virtual machine in Parallels Desktop and start a new Windows installation from scratch? What about all the programs I already have installed on Boot Camp? It’s too much work to just ditch Boot Camp entirely!

To tell you the truth, if I had been using Boot Camp for several years, I would be hesitant to just uninstall it and start from scratch too. But thankfully, Parallels Desktop has got us covered. Believe it or not, you can actually run your existing Boot Camp partition in a Parallels Desktop VM! Sound easy enough? Read on for more specifics.


Benefits of Using a Boot Camp-based VM

1. You save time.

Every second of your life counts. Parallels Desktop takes less than 1-2 minutes to boot. Compare that to the 4-5 minutes you’d spend to restart your Mac and boot to Windows on Boot Camp.

2. Work in Windows and Mac simultaneously.

Life becomes simpler when you’re able to use Windows-based applications on a Mac and work with Mac OS X and Windows OS simultaneously. You can drag and drop and copy and paste between both operating systems with ease.

3. Easy to access and update data.

Changes you make in Windows programs while working in your VM or when you start your Mac in Windows using native Boot Camp will be reflected in both places.


How to Set Up a Boot Camp-based VM

There are two ways to use a Boot Camp VM. One, you can run Boot Camp directly in Parallels Desktop as a VM; or two, you can import Windows and your data from Boot Camp into Parallels Desktop.

Let me go over each method in more detail.

1. How to set Parallels Desktop to run Windows from the Boot Camp partition:

  • Start Parallels Desktop.
  • With Parallels Desktop active, go to your Mac upper menu and select File > New.

Bootcamp in VM

  • In the Parallels Wizard, choose Use Windows from Boot Camp and click Continue.

Bootcamp in VM

Yes, it’s that easy. Once Windows starts in the VM for the first time, it will automatically install Parallels Tools and you’re good to go.

2. How to import Windows and your data from Boot Camp into Parallels Desktop:

The main difference between this method and the one just discussed is that the “import” function for Boot Camp is usually used when you want to eventually get rid of a Boot Camp partition.

Don’t be mistaken—it doesn’t remove your Boot Camp partition. Instead, it just migrates your Windows into a standalone VM (a .pvm folder on your Mac). The changes you make in the VM after import will not be reflected on the Boot Camp side—they are now separate. Once all of the programs and files are on the VM, some users prefer to wipe out Boot Camp to expand their native Mac hard drive.

Here’s how to import Boot Camp into your Parallels Desktop VM:

  • Set Parallels Desktop to use Boot Camp, as I described above.
  • Right-click on the Parallels Desktop icon on your Mac dock and open Control Center (Virtual Machines list in older versions).

Bootcamp in VM

  • Right-click on the Boot Camp-based Windows and select Import Boot Camp.

Bootcamp in VM

  • Locate where you want to store Windows and your data and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the import.


That’s it! Hopefully, this post shed a little more light on ways in which Parallels Desktop and Boot Camp can be used together for a better user experience. We hope this information was helpful to you—and don’t forget to follow the Parallels Support team on Twitter.


Parallels Desktop

Social Media Lead for Parallels WorldWide Support. Passionate about technology and customer experience.