using parallels desktop for mac 1.6.0 with current linux distributions

Fedora 33 Beta, in all its glory

An update to Parallels Desktop for Mac installed on my MacBook today. Version 1.6.0 is currently running on my system, supporting five Linux virtual machines:

  • Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
  • Ubuntu 20.10
  • PopOS 20.04
  • CentOS 8.2.2004
  • Fedora 33 Beta

When I first installed Parallels about a month ago, I installed two of the five Linux VMs (both Ubuntu LTS and PopOS), including Parallels Tools, without any issues. I use Parallels Tools to allow VMs to natively access a certain folder on my MacBook’s file system so that I can share files between all the virtual machines as well as the MacBook itself. I do that with VirtualBox, and it’s a feature I really depend upon. Unfortunately hen I installed the other three and attempted to install Parallels Tools on those VMs, Tools failed to build and install.

This is a problem I’ve run into in the past with VirtualBox. The tools required to better integrate the VMs into macOS are dependent on the Linux kernel headers. If they change, as they are wont to do between various kernel releases, then the tools build will fail. There’s not much you can do about it except wait for a new Parallels or VirtualBox release to arrive that works with the latest kernel headers.

Normally I’d rail against the makers of Parallels or VirtualBox about that issue, but the real culprits are the Linux kernel developers who decide to make changes all for the sake of whatever they feel is justified. There’s very little I can do about it, except to run with an operating system as the host to my Linux VMs that shows better maturity and class — macOS.

I run the VMs because I need the tools they carry, especially the most advanced versions, such as Python, GCC, Clang/LLVM, Git, and CMake. I’ve got “legacy” applications I keep bring forward with me, adapting to the latest tools, while updating source modules to take advantage of the latest language standards. I run the VMs because there are customers who run with Linux on utility hardware, to do backend duty. So I fire up an instance and develop inside of that, then deploy my work on their systems when they’re happy with the results.

I’m very happy with Parallels and Linux on macOS, especially with the 16″ MacBook Pro as the host. 64 GB and 4TB of SSD makes for a sublime experience all around.

working with parallels desktop for mac on a 16″ macbook pro

The small project I’ve been helping purchased a new computer for me to work with: a 2019 16″ MacBook Pro. Before this I was using my own MacBook Pro, the mid-2015 15″ version. It was usable, but considering what I had to do and what  I had to work with, I was pretty much pushing it hard and having to be careful what I did run at any given time. Thus I was looking for something that would let me work more efficiently.

I had the 16″ MBP heavily beefed up. One of those features I beefed up was memory: it arrived with 64GB of memory. There were other features I beefed up, but the memory was top of my list. With 64 GB of memory I can run everything I want at one time and never have to worry about slowdowns or swap thrashing. For example, I like to run a number of Linux distributions in order to use the tooling as well as have extra operating systems to test against. With all of those applications and VMs running I’ve yet to touch swap.

Virtual Machines

For quite some number of years I’ve successfully used Virtual Box as my VM tool of choice. It’s worked across Windows, Linux, and macOS. But for reasons unknown to me, it doesn’t work well at all on the MBP 16 inch. I tried, I really did. I’m not the only user not able to adequately run VB on the 16″ MBP. Lots of recent users with shiny new 16 inch MBPs have also had issues. I read many forum messages and I tried the suggested solutions. None of them worked for me. In the end I paid the $80 asking price and purchased a license for Parallels and then installed the Linux distributions I currently care about.

The distribution’s graphical desktops, where I was having performance issues with VB, worked smoothly with Parallels. Where I have problems with Parallels is in the installation of Parallels Tools. These are the drivers that allow the guest OS to access the host filesystem, among other features. Parallels Tools builds just fine on Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distribution VMs. It fails to build on Red Hat derived distribution VMs, such as CentOS 8.2 and Fedora 32. You can install them and they run, but seamlessly sharing data between the host file system and from within the VM doesn’t work when Parallel Tools won’t compile and install.


Other than VB’s issues, I’ve not had a bit of problem with the latest MBP. Everything runs quite speedily and more importantly, smooth as glass. The new 16″ screen really does make a positive difference. For me the 15″ is cramped for the kind of work I like to do. But the 16″, for whatever reason, provides so much more real estate.