How to Switch Between Mac and Windows on Parallels Desktop


Let’s be honest: to the average person, the idea of running two different operating systems at the same time on one computer is pretty weird. This idea naturally leads to questions like these:

  • How do I know which one I’m using at any one moment?
  • How do I switch between them?
  • Which applications do I use?

And of course:

  • Why would I want to do that?

 As a Parallels Desktop® for Mac user, you can probably answer the last two questions like this:

  • Because I need to run some Windows applications, and I have (and love) a Mac®.

But you might not know all the ways you can switch between Mac and Windows, so in this blog post I’ll show you. Which one of these ways you might use depends on how you use Parallels Desktop.

1. Window Mode

In Window mode, Windows runs in a window on your Mac screen.

You switch between Mac and Windows just be moving your cursor—what could be easier! See Video 1:

2. Full Screen Mode

In Full Screen mode, both Mac and Windows fill the entire screen. You switch between them with a three-finger swipe on your trackpad. See Video 2 (Note: The hand gesture video insets are from


3. Coherence Mode

In Coherence mode, Mac and Windows applications run side-by-side on the Mac desktop. You switch between them just as you would switch between two Mac applications: just click inside the window of the application you want to use. See Video 3:

I hope these three ways help you to easily and quickly switch between Mac and Windows whenever you want.

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Kurt has been a Mac developer since before the Mac came out. Today he is the Senior Product Manager at Parallels where he works on both Parallels Desktop for Mac and Parallels Access. Prior to Parallels, he was the Senior Mac Evangelist in the Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) at Microsoft Corp. Kurt is the author of three books and has lectured internationally on object-oriented programming, UI design, and virtualization. Kurt is also a Microsoft Office for Mac and iOS Accredited Support Professional for 2014 and 2015. Outside of work, Kurt has been a fencer for many years, has four times been a member of the US team at the world championships, and has also been the coach of the US team:

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