Single Application Mode

Single Application Mode is a special Parallels Desktop deployment option that allows you to largely obscure Parallels Desktop and Windows on a Mac, making Windows applications appear native to macOS. This mode is designed for system administrators who want Mac users in their organization to run one or more Windows applications while minimizing their interaction with Windows or Parallels Desktop.

When Parallels Desktop is deployed using Single Application Mode:

  • A Mac user will not see the Parallels Desktop icon, user interface, or the virtual machine window while interacting with Windows applications.

  • A Windows application icon is added to the Dock and is registered in macOS for opening the associated file types. When the user clicks on the icon, the application will run on a Mac desktop like a native macOS application.

  • A user's macOS workflows will remain largely unaffected by the background presence of Parallels Desktop and Windows.

Note: Single Application Mode is incompatible with the Activation using corporate account option.

Configuring Deployment Options

To deploy Parallels Desktop using Single Application Mode, do the following:

  1. Add a virtual machine to the autodeploy package. For instructions, see Adding a Virtual Machine. Please take note of the following:

    • You can add only ONE virtual machine when using Single Application Mode.

    • The virtual machine must be completely shut down before adding it to the autodeploy package. DO NOT simply close it, as this will be detected as a crash by Windows, and a Mac user will have to deal with it at startup.

  2. Add a Windows application stub to the autodeploy package that will be used to run a desired Windows application on a Mac. If you want to deploy more than one Windows application, add a corresponding stub for each one. For details, please see Adding Windows Application stubs.

  3. To enable Single Application Mode, set the enable_single_application_mode="yes" parameter in the deploy.cfg file, as described in Configuring deployment options. The parameter is included in the User Experience section of the deploy.cfg file.

  4. Deploy Parallels Desktop to Mac computers as described in Deploying Parallels Desktop and Virtual Machines on Macs.

Configuring Windows

For Windows to be completely hidden on a Mac, you need to make some changes manually because they cannot be automated. The following list describes these changes:

  • Enable auto logon in Windows. Make sure that Windows in the virtual machine doesn't ask the user to log on. If this is not done, a Mac user will see the Windows logon screen when Windows starts or reboots.

  • Configure file associations in Windows. This is necessary so that Windows doesn't open another Windows application when the user tries to open a file from the primary application. For example, let's say you deployed Outlook for Windows. A Mac user may try to open a text file attachment in Outlook. Normally, the file will open in Notepad in Windows, which may confuse the user. To prevent this, you can associate text files with TextEdit (a macOS application) in a virtual machine. The ability to associate file extensions with macOS applications is a standard Parallels Desktop feature available in Windows in a virtual machine. In addition, we recommend that you have as few applications installed in Windows as possible in order not to create additional file associations.

  • Use the Productivity profile. When creating a virtual machine for Single Application Mode, choose the Productivity profile in the virtual machine Installation Assistant. If you are using an existing virtual machine, change its profile by going to Configuration > General > Configure for, clicking Change, and then selecting Productivity.

  • Remove Sound & Camera devices from the VM configuration. This will eliminate the chance of macOS prompting the user to provide Windows with access to the respective hardware. To do that, go to Configure > Hardware > Sound & Camera and click the "-" button in the bottom left corner.

Note: There's a known issue when users may see Windows screens when Windows is installing updates. There is also a known issue of macOS prompting users to allow Windows apps access to user folders at the first launch. Consider starting the application once after deployment and resolving all requests manually.

Configuring macOS

If you are deploying Parallels Desktop on macOS High Sierra, macOS Catalina, or macOS Mojave, you need to make sure in advance that Parallels Desktop kernel extensions are either approved or don't require user consent on each Mac. This is particularly important when using the Single Application Mode because if the extensions are not approved, Mac users will see warning messages about them when they try to run a Windows application for the first time. For more information, please see

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