Parallels Desktop for Mac occasionally informs you of updates to the product, typically alluding to “overall stability and security improvements,” plus a long list of fixes.
Improved stability and security? Sounds good to me. But, if you install the update, you may end up with a non-operational Parallels Desktop installation.
“Unable to start Parallels services” translates to “Parallels Desktop won’t start at all.”
I’ve seen this with two recent Parallels updates: with the Parallels Desktop 16.1.1 (49141) update, and with the Parallels Desktop 16.1.0 (48950) update, both running on macOS 10.14.6.
The suggestion to “Please relaunch Parallels Desktop” isn’t helpful: you can launch it over and over, and every time you’ll get the same “Unable to start Parallels services.” You can restart your Mac and that won’t help either.
If you click the disclosure triangle for “Help me solve the problem” you’re taken to the Parallels website… and then nothing. That’s nice.
Fortunately, I have the answer for you, and it works every time. Just reinstall macOS.
How to reinstall macOS
- Shut down your Mac (Apple menu).
- Turn on your Mac, and immediately hold ⌘-r to start up in Recovery Mode
You’ll see an image like this:
- Choose the option to “Reinstall macOS,” follow a few prompts, and then let the process complete. It’s going to take about an hour.
Having reinstalled macOS, try Parallels again. It will work. It will probably ask you to reinstall Parallels Tools– in fact it will probably start doing that automatically, as soon as you open a Parallels virtual machine. That’s something that actually works, so let it happen.
This “Unable to start Parallels services” issue is completely reproducible (and it happened to me “organically” with the last two Parallels Desktop updates) so I know this is going to happen to someone else. The good news: now you know how to solve the problem.