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Is there some way to enable Retina Display resolution on my MacBook Pro inside the macOS (Mac OS X) virtual machine (“guest OS”) on Parallels Desktop for Mac?

I am disappointed every time I switch from the beautifully crisp fonts and lines of my native “host” Mac screen to the fuzzy blurry type of a macOS VM.

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Yes, now in Parallels Desktop for Mac version 12. This new version released 2016-08 is the first to support Retina resolution within a macOS VM.

Per this page, Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac: Updates Summary

Retina resolution support for OS X virtual machines

Previous versions of Parallels, as well as the competitors VMware Fusion and Oracle VirtualBox, provided some support for high-resolution resolutions in VMs of other OSes such as Windows & Linux, but none did so for macOS-as-guest VMs.

Here are screen shots of the three new settings. The first was the only behavior in the previous versions without Retina support.

Screen shot of “Scaled” setting

This next shot shows the new Retina support. Zoom into these images to see the difference at the pixel-level. You will see the icons in the next image are much more detailed than seen above, and the edges of fonts and lines are much more fine than seen above.

Screen shot of “Best for Retina display” setting

The last shot is if you want to use every physical pixel as a logical pixel in the display, rather than take advantage of Retina smoothing. So you get the most usable visual space but at the price of making everything tiny and harder-to-see. Notice how the Finder window becomes zoomed-out, showing much more content but shrunken.

Screen shot of “More Space” setting

Bug

I have encountered a bug where after adjusting for Retina, when using the VM on an external monitor (not Retina) the resulting image is shrunken, not re-scaled for non-Retina. So text and graphics are squished with too few pixels to represent their true detail.

See the following screen shot of part of screen when running Parallels 12.0.1 on an external monitor. The monitor is a plain full-HD Acer brand monitor, non-Retina. Notice how the Apple logo on the menu bar is smaller than the Apple logo on the host Mac, and the menu labels too are shrunken.

While on the non-Retina screen, the scaling options disappear. So I cannot find a way to return to conventional scaling within the VM.

enter image description here

Workaround is to open the laptop, move VM back to Retina screen, access the Configure panel, choose the third Retina option "Scaled", move VM window back to conventional external monitor. You may then close the laptop.

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Make sure that you have Parallels Tools installed — Retina in the guest macOS won’t work without it.

Also, there’s a known bug right now with Parallels Desktop 13.2.0 (and possibly other versions), where it’s challenging to get Parallels Tools successfully installed on the guest macOS. You might think you successfully installed it, but you need to follow a series of convoluted steps:

  1. Install Parallels Tools.
  2. Restart.
  3. Go to System Preferences -> Security & Privacy and allow the Parallels kext to load.
  4. Install Parallels Tools AGAIN (yes, seriously).
  5. Restart.
  6. Click the green full-screen button in the toolbar.
  7. Notice that it should now be Retina (not blurry).

Parallels developers communicated these workaround steps in this forum post:

https://forum.parallels.com/threads/macos-10-12-6-vm-stuck-at-1024x768-resolution.342546/page-2#post-832114

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