Parallels has released a new version of its virtualization software that will allow Chromebooks to run Windows 10 for the first time.
Dubbed Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise, the software will allow selected, high-powered Chromebooks to run the full version of Windows 10 and associated Windows apps, as if they were using a regular Windows laptop.
Parallels is best known for its software that allows Mac users to run Windows, and this software – aimed at businesses – equally aims to give Chromebook users the best of both worlds. It’s primarily pitched at power users who occasionally need the full-blown version of Office apps or other desktop software, whilst working within a company that uses Chromebooks.
Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise includes many of the features that users of the Mac software will be familiar with, including the ability to cut and paste between Chrome OS and Windows apps; dynamic screen resolution that means Windows never looks squished or relies on scroll bars; and the ability to run Windows in full screen on the Chromebook, as if it were a Windows laptop.
Other handy features include the option to set Windows apps as the default application to open files. So, if you download an Excel spreadsheet on the Chromebook, for example, it can be set to open automatically in the full version of Excel, rather than the feature-stripped Android or web versions that are normally used on Chromebooks.
One other benefit is that Windows can run offline on the Chromebook. Given that Chromebooks themselves are very restricted in features without an internet connection, that could be a big boon for those workers who regularly travel/fly with a Chromebook.
So what are the drawbacks?
If you’re getting excited at the prospect of running Windows 10 on a Chromebook, there are a few things you need to know first.
The big one is this software only works with enterprise-grade Chromebooks – it’s not designed for the $200 Chromebooks you can pick up on Amazon. There are only a handful of “preferred devices” capable of running Windows 10, including the Google Pixelbook devices, the HP Elite c1030 and the Dell Latitude 5300.
The biggest potential blocker is storage. Most Chromebooks aren’t blessed with a great deal of it, and Parallels recommended specs stipulate 128GB, which is the bare minimum you would need to install Windows and just a handful of apps.
The installation of Parallels itself requires at least 60GB of free space, and with apps such as Word and Excel taking 2-3GB of space each, let alone associated data, you can see how Chromebook storage will soon start to fill up.
If you’re hoping that you could supplement the Chromebook’s meager storage with a USB drive, you’re out of luck, as they’re not currently supported in Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise. Neither are cameras, microphones or other USB devices such as printers or scanners.
Then there’s the cost, which is $69.99 per year (£49.99 in the UK) for Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise, plus the cost of the Windows license – although many companies will already have a stock of these with volume licensing.
Parallels has no plans as yet to release a version of consumer Chromebook owners, but watch this space.