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A2115 / 2019 / Processors from 3.0 GHz 6-core i5, up to 3.6 GHz 8-core i9. Released March 19, 2019.

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Win 10 Bootcamp install on an External SSD, in macOS via Parallels?


I recently replaced my CPU, RAM and Fusion-Drive in my 19,1 iMac - awesome upgrade. I hated the Fusion drive so replaced the m'board blade SSD with one large enough to replace the whole virtual drive array of the Fusion Drive. I've a separate SATA SSD now on that channel for storage, and I have hacked my way using VMFusionWare to a Windows 10 bootcamp install on a TB3-connected NMVe SSD in an external enclosure.

This works perfectly - it's detected from power-on, I get the macOS or Windows10 drive-choices to boot into. I can also 'restart into' from both OSes. ie the macOS/Bootcamp environment has no issue with detecting and running either OS. TB3 is a faster interface than SATA so this is the better arrangement for a separate OS.

However, I'd like to be able to 'run-Windows within Parallels' through Bootcamp, without Windows being on my primary drive. But, Parallels does not support Bootcamp Windows installs that are not on the primary SSD - and I've just had an amusingly circular conversation with their tech support to confirm this.

I am not sure 'why'? I guess because Parallels works through Apple's Bootcamp Assistant when in macOS, to find and connect to a Windows Partition, and since Bootcamp Assistance does not support non-primary SSD installs, so Parallels does not 'see' these. I do not think it's an issue with the TB3 interface for example, although that was an issue with the inital install of Windows 10, as no-one has a virtualisation solution for the TB interface, usually only USB interface for externally-connected drives (So, I did the inital VMFusionWare install of Win 10 to the internal SATA-attacked storage SSD, and then cloned it to the external SSD).

Alternatively, is it that the hardware resource reallocations required to run Win 10 AND macOS simultaneously, may only be possible when they are being 'addressed' from the same physical location - ie the m'board NVMe. There is no 'neutral third-party' in the system's hardware that could control such things?

My broad question remains however, IS there any way to hack either Bootcamp or Parallels to spoof them into 'seeing' the externally-connected, bootable Windows 10 partition as bootable, such that I can connect to it within macOS, through Parallels? - or, any other software that can do this?

Many thanks!


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...only if I want to import my Bootcamp partition into a parallels VM (Which is irriversible), which I do not. 'Space' in the primary SSD, wanting the option to boot natively into Windows without the macOS overhead, etc.


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You don't need BootCamp here as Parallels is a full VM which runs on top of macOS.

Update (06/04/2022)

@doctorcloudbase - Lets look at this a bit differently... There is two elements of any OS environment the storage space and the OS its self.

Here it would be wise just to use the needed storage areas independently Overview of FAT, HPFS, and NTFS File Systems And the OS its self in your case Windows.

You had the right idea of using an external drive as being a good way of holding your Windows environment if you did a straight install (no macOS involved). You could have also partitioned your internal drive/s as well. This is what I call a firewall config as there is a low risk of a malware process accessing the other OS spaces.

Virtual Machine spaces (VM) like Parallels and VMWare sit on top another OS (in this case macOS), BootCamp is an odd duck it is more of a half step between a true VM. There really is no benefit using BootCamp as either VM will offer the same functions as BootCamp. But! Your risks of malware messing up both OS spaces is much higher.

From what you are concerned with it sounds like you hadn't really installed the VM in a way that allows transparent clipboard access as you are using the external drive as your macOS boot drive and then launching the VM so you can't access the internal drive spaces and as you booted up off the other drive the applications are not accessible.

As far as overhead there is always the dual OS's using a VM or even BootCamp it can't be avoided. Other than booting up exclusively under the explicit OS. If the other OS space is asleep other than the RAM space (Virtual RAM) and the drive storage there is no means to have your cake and eat it too, Sorry ;-{ But keep in mind the processes are not using CPU resources.

I really recommend you do some deep reading and maybe talk to someone directly that can help you locally. This is a very large subject and a lot of subtleties! Which is way beyond what we deal with here.

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