What is the Best Desktop Virtualization Software, How to Decide?

I decided to publish this article after received several emails from readers regarding what is the best desktop virtualization software. This is completely from my experience and personal opinion.  If you ask an automobile expert about which is the best car in the world, he or she can’t answer, because it depends on your requirement and category or type. It’s applicable here too.

Best Desktop Virtualization Software

I’m a heavy user of desktop virtualization software on daily basis. I use these products at my work place to install Server operating systems with client operating systems for testing purpose. Again at home, I do all testing on different types of guest Operating systems such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS X for blogging purpose.

So far, I have worked with VMware workstation, VMware Player, Sun/Oracle VirtualBox and Microsoft Virtual PC. I have never worked with Parallels desktop virtualization products.

So, what is the best desktop virtualization software? Here are the few facts decide it.

1) Compatibility

The best software should run on any host operating Systems with any guest OS. For example if you take VMware Player, it should be able to run in Windows, Linux and Mac OS X, also it should support multi Operating Systems as guest.

Most of the time we use desktop virtualization software for testing purpose with different types of OS without disturbing host OS. So, make sure your software can run most of the latest OS as guest.

2) Performance

This is another major factor to decide the best desktop virtualization software. Performance of guest and host machine should be good with any product.

Some software will take more resources from host computer to just run the application without running any virtual machines. On the other hand, with minimum configuration for VM, it should work fast and smooth within the desktop virtualization software.

3) Built in Features

The each additional built in features will help to have a good working experience with the best product. When it comes to desktop virtualization, I think Snapshots, P2V, Cloning, Export/Import, guest additions, shared folders, networking and virtual disk options are essential for a normal user.

Therefore, it’s always better to have software with most of the built in features.

4) Cost

Yes, it decides the best.  If I can get the most of the features what I wanted for free, then I will stick with it. Instead of paying some money for few features for different product, we will be happy with using free product without any cost. Am I right?

5) Hardware Support

The program should be compatible for the hardware platform of your physical computer. If you have AMD, Intel, 64 bit or 32 bit processor based computers, then the software must run in it with full usage of physical hardware.

Supporting number of processor cores, virtual memory, virtual display, sound cards and physical ports will be an added advantage.

6) Additional Tools for Virtual machines

The special package which helping Virtual machine to communicate with host computer’s hardware, is an essential for each guest OS.  In my opinion, the best desktop virtualization software must have these types of tools (like VMware tools and VirtualBox guest additions) for all guest Operating Systems. So, we can experience the performance improvement, display options, sound and other features.

7) Cross Software Support

I don’t know how much this is important for you, but I like this feature. For example, if I have a Linux VM in VirtualBox at home, I should be able to take this VM to office tomorrow and work in VMware with different host, then bring back again. It sounds cool, isn’t it? But it’s very much possible.

This type of cross software supports depends on virtual machine’s configuration and hard disk file formats. Also, export and import options of different file formats will be an added advantage of moving virtual machines across different hosts.

8.) Support and Updates

How quickly you get support from vendor? How often they release the patches and updates?, these all are not only important  for desktop virtualization software but for all software.

Final Thought about Best Desktop Virtualization Software

I have listed above points which I considered to select the best desktop virtualization. These all are depending on my requirements. To be honest, I worked only on Intel physical computer with Microsoft host Operating Systems, therefore I would have missed some important facts should be considered here.

Leave comments on points I missed.

Oracle VirtualBox is the best desktop virtualization software in my personal opinion. I never worked with Parallels for Windows. VMware workstation is an excellent and competitive product for Oracle VirtualBox, but it’s not free. VMware Player is a free product, but its missing most the required features.

This final thought doesn’t mean that VirtualBox is 100% perfect and not having any issues. It’s having several drawbacks.

The features still missing in VirtualBox (Some of them are fixed in VB 4)

You can check a comparison between VMware and VirtualBox written by me earlier here

A small comparison between VirtualBox and VirtaulPC available here

I do expect your opinion on this post and tell me what is your favorite or best desktop virtualization software and reason for that.

Comments

  1. Pete says

    I run VirtualBox 3.2 on an AMD 64bit Ubuntu 10.10 host.

    I have experience with VMWare server, Workstation, and ESX. Of these I use ESX the most.

    VMWare ESX is my choice for a dedicated virtualisation environment, but for virtualisation on a desktop, VirtualBox has exceeded all of my expectations. While it is missing some niceties in the GUI (VM cloning, templating, access to raw devices), these functions are available, albeit by command line.

    Another great piece of software from Sun. Let’s hope Oracle doesn’t stuff it up.

    Pete

  2. Amorim says

    Hi Dinesh.
    I try to convert my physical desktop on the corporate network to virtualBox, its work!
    Congratulations. Your blog is the best!
    Now, i will test the mac address clone feature of VB. The network router block the port if the machine mac address changes.
    i would like to post the results.

  3. says

    The VmBox is good, but I have some issue. I hame E-machine model ET1352G. It have Athalon II and 4G of mem. I istalled the PCLOS and SUSE. They both worked fine until I decided to install Snow-Leopard. It does work and works fine. I use for boot the EmpireEFI boot loader for AMD and use the right arrow to point to drive. Boot fine and works fine, But I lost the other virtual boxes. The PCLOS and SUSE are gone. No more in menu. How do I get them back?. The Safari works fine too.
    Thanks you.

    • says

      It was my mistake. I erase the xml file. Since, I reistalled the PCOSL and SUSE. AL OS (Mac and 2 Linux) works fine. The Vmbox beats all other vitual boxes. I love it. Working on add the Chrome OS.

  4. Pete says

    Since my first comment, I have upgraded from VirtualBox 3.2 to 4.0.2. V4.02 is much cleaner to use, although the way you do things has changed a lot, especially management and backup of VMs and virtual disks, and portability of VMs/virtualdisks between machines.

    VirtualBox is still my choice for desktop virtualisation.

  5. Steven Camilleri says

    Nice blog, great work and I’d like to say that I have used VMware, Virtualbox, Virtual PC 2007, and the Windows XP Mode, I’d like to say that Virtualbox is the most user friendly from all them, simple to install, simple to install oses on, and everything is simple for the user to understand and even if the user has almost no experience in computers, they will still find it easy to install an os.

  6. says

    Even to Virtual box is easy to use, but still you can’t enjoy some features which is in vmware server ?

    I am useing vmware server i have kept a dedicated box for hosting my vm’s which is haveing 4GB of Ram on the physical host, Then one think i liked about vmware server is it’s webconsole i can completely manage my vm’s form different machine exampel i can pwr on a vm’s sitting in different Box via webconsole, This feature are missed in virual box and VPC, in vmware workstation still pwr on the vm’s close the vmware worksation select run vm in background, so the i you can manage your vm via rdp or vnc,
    But vmware is little hard to learn.
    sysprobs is doing grate job and helping jr level teams,

  7. RVNEO says

    Hi,

    I have dual boot System (Windows 7 and fedora 14), i want to use both OS installed in different drive, which Virtual Software should i use for this. I do not want to create virtual disk space for installing another OS.

    Please suggest which one will be better … Using Windows 7 in Fedora 14 or just other way.

    whether using Virtual instance installed in different drive is better than using through Virtual Disk Space ???

    Please Advice.

  8. C. Olson says

    Dinesh et al,

    Great blog(s) and guides. Are people successfully running OSX as a guest in VBox with AMD processor? If so, I might want to switch. I’ve posted a few comments on the other guides/pages looking for tips on increasing vmware workstation 7 performance (with OSX as guest), haven’t gotten anything beyond what’s out there.

    I’ve heard VBox isn’t too friendly to AMD people, but if it performs better, I’ll do it.

    SPECS:
    amd athlon x64 (windsor), 3ghz
    3.0 GB mem
    Gigabyte ma785 mobo
    Windows vista (host)
    10.6.7 SL/OSX

    Cheers,
    C

  9. Adam says

    Virtualbox is still the best although i do try the other one’s from time to time.

    The recent changes to the media manager aren’t so cool but it still works nicely.