VirtualBox 3.1.6 vs VMware Player 3, Which is the Best Desktop Virtualization Software?

Do you want to try desktop virtualization at your home or office? Read this post to decide which desktop virtualization software is best. Small comparison about VirtualBox 3.1.6 vs VMware Player 3, according to my knowledge and experience.

This VirtualBox 3.1.6 vs VMware Player 3 comparison is not done by any benchmarking software and statistics. This is just a human recognizable comparison with few technical things. Because, if you are new to desktop virtualization and looking for information about these two products, then this basic comparison will be useful.

I’m using VMware workstation 7, VirtualBox 3.1.6 and VMware Player 3 in Windows 7 and Windows XP (earlier in Windows Vista) computers. This comparison is from my working experience with these products.  VMware workstation is not included in this because it’s not a free product.

VirtualBox 3.1.6 vs VMware Player 3

VirtualBox 3.1.6 vs VMware Player, Basic Comparison

1) Speed of Guest Virtual machines

Guest is a virtual machine installed inside desktop virtualization software. Host is your physical computer having desktop virtualization software.

Sun VirtualBox 3.1.6 wins in this topic since it allows guest machine to work faster. It got high input and output disk access. Starting a virtual machine, working with it and shutting down speeds are considerably faster than VMware player in VirtualBox.

Winner – VirtualBox

2) Speed of Host Machine

When you run any desktop virtualization software, it should not disturb your host computer, correct?  So, always it’s better to go for software which consumes less memory, processor and hard disk activity from your host. VirtualBox is having big advantage on this because it consumes fewer resources from host. It’s a light weight desktop virtualization software compare to others.  I was able to run 3 Windows 2008 R2 servers, two Windows XPs and one Windows Vista virtual machines in my 3GB Windows XP host with Sun VirtualBox.

Winner – VirtualBox

3) Networking and Networking Options

Both have reasonable networking features.  VirtualBox recently started to allow network changes while virtual machine is on, but still there are some problems exist. VMware had same option from very early and networking is very simple in VMware Player 3 than VirtualBox. Performance of network also better in VMware Player3 specially after install VMware tools.

Winner – VMware Player.

4) Snapshots

Snapshots help to save virtual machine’s specific state and allow going back later. This feature is very useful to recover virtual machine if anything goes wrong. Sun VirtualBox got this feature and recently (with version 3.1) they introduced branched snapshots which is a nice feature. Read more here about branched snapshots. Unfortunately, snapshot feature is missing in VMware Player 3.

Winner – VirtualBox

5) USB Support and Transfer Speed.

USB device support for guest is available in both products. I feel, VMware Player got better feature to manage USB devices between host and guest. Also data transfer between guest and USB devices are slightly better than VirtualBox in VMware Player 3.

Winner – VMware Player

6) Other File Formats

If you want to open pre created virtual machines from different virtualization software, then the file format support will be an issue. VirtualBox Supports major virtualization software file formats such as VMware and Microsoft Virtual PC. VMware Player Supports Microsoft VirtualPC, Symantec backup files, Acronis true image files and some, except VirtualBox. Funny, isn’t it? There are converting tools available to convert any file types to required format.

Winner- Both

7) Mouse Integration and Full view, Unity and Seamless mode.

Mouse integration between host and guest and full view of virtual machines work fair enough in both products. VMware Tools for VMware Player and VirtualBox Additions for VirtualBox should be installed on Virtual Machines for this feature. Unity mode and Seamless mode which allow working in guest from host’s desktop is a good feature in both products.

Read more about converting VMDK to VDI

Read more about converting VDI to VMDK

Winner – Both

8) 64 Bit and Virtualization Support.

If you like to run any operating systems which require 64 Bit architecture or hardware virtualization support, then better go for VMware Player. VMware support these functions better than VirtualBox.

Winner – VMware Player

9) Windows Aero Support

VirtualBox is lacking in this feature. Windows Vista and Windows 7 Aero features nicely work in VMware Player. VirtualBox doesn’t support aero feature.

Winner – VMware Player

10) Free Product

Yes, both products are completely free to use at home. For production environment, you have to purchase Sun VirtualBox license.

Here is the summary of above facts.

factor_sheet1Though, both got same advantages and disadvantages but VirtualBox is the final winner. Sun VirtualBox wins in three major factors including, Guest Speed, Host Speed and Snapshots.

I might have missed some good or bad features on above products. Share your experience and correct me if I’m wrong on any points.

This comparison is completely upon my experience.

Comments

  1. Manfred Heinzius says

    Hello,

    I use XP Mode, Virtualbox and VMWare Player 3 on Host W7x64.
    Did you ever try to use USB on VB or VMWare. On both I could not use my USB devices but on XP Mode it works fine.
    I only had this problem on host W7x64, but on host W7x86 it works fine in VB and VMWare. It seems to be a problem on Host x64, as guest I tryed XP 32bit and W7x68.

    Thanks !

  2. says

    I’m sorry, I have Windows 7 64 Bit as Guest only, not host. So, I didn’t get chance to face this issue. Make sure you installed the correct 64 bit versions of VirtualBox additions or VMware tools. It may help you.
    Thanks for your comment.

  3. karatedog says

    If you don’t spend about 2 hours readings tutorials on VirtualBox’s snapshot function, all you’ll do is shoot yourself in the leg. Crappy logic, and documentation. If you are just clicking by hunch, you’ll be destroying a snapshot you intended to keep.
    Virtualbox supports a lot of USB device, but not the HTC Hero so I converted my existing VBox image, and went for VMPlayer.
    Result: enormous disk activity, which is killing my notebook. Either I turn to SSD, or wait for a working VBox version with HTC Hero support.
    On supporting 64 what did you mean? Vbox – in my experience – has no problem with 64 bit guests, even on 32 bit host.
    To the “Aero” support: when the guest OS is Linux it is the other way around. VBox supports both 2D and 3D graphic acceleration in Linux, which makes Compiz fanatics itch, and it is a lot of help in virtual machines. VMWare doesn’t support either acceleration in Linux.

  4. says

    Does anybody know which kind of video information are supported? I bear in mind the Intuition solely may dl 3gp utilizing opera mini. I downloaded the twist ap, maybe that is the problem? How can I watch videos from sites other than youtube? Which file sorts? Often I’m given the option of 3gp or mpeg4. Can’t get both to work. Thanks for your time! Rattling I wish I used to be eligible for the improve to EVO!

  5. dave f says

    Just upgraded from vmware 6.5 to vmplayer 3 to test the new features such as multi cpus etc. It appears that i have lost all incoming network access to the vms. If i have two vms running at the same time they appear to be linked. Minimise one they all minimise. What else is linked? Maybe that’s why the networking has died?

    Virtual box has for free all the features of vmware 7, it’s fast, it works!

    • says

      @dave,
      Yes, possibly both linked or teamed on VMware workstation.
      Since you don’t get all features on VMplayer as Workstation, after upgrade some conflicts would be there.

  6. Ahmed says

    Thank you for this useful information. I just want to add two important features. The first is the ability to copy/past pictures between the host and the guest. VBox does not support it. The second is files drag & drop between the host and the guest. Again VBox does not support it. Thanks

    • says

      @Ahmed,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes I agree with you.
      Already I mentioned your point in another post, called ‘ Oh.. VirtualBox still you are missing these all’
      Just check, it may be interest for you.

      @karatedog
      Thanks for your comment too.
      For some reasons copy and paste never worked for me in VirtualBox, but I’m sure it should work since a option available for ‘ bidirectional clipboard sharing’.
      Yes, drag and drop works well in VMware if you have the updated correct VMware tools on guest.

  7. karatedog says

    @ahmed: Copy/paste works, just “sometimes”. Which means if it doesn’t work, I usually restart both the host & guest OS, and then it will work in VBox.
    Drag&drop is not available in VBox by design, however I cannot do it in VMware either. Are you sure it works in VMWare?

  8. karatedog says

    @dinesh: Did you change the default Host key from Ctrl? If not, then pressing Right Ctrl+V won’t work (^_^)

    • says

      @karatedog, from where you got this name? ;)

      No, I didn’t change host key. Anyhow Thanks for your tip. I understood one thing with your comment. Till now I was trying to copy and paste files and folders from host to guest ( how it used to work in VMware), but VirtualBox ‘bidirectional clipboard sharing’ is little different, it allows to copy and paste contents of file.

      I can copy the content of a notepad file from host computer to guest computer notepad, this is what meant by ‘sharing clipboard’.

      Anyhow, copy and paste (file content) is working for me in VirtualBox with your tip.

  9. Kirby says

    I’d tried VBox in the past a number of times but never used it much. The reason why is that when I would fire up Dreamweaver (2008, CS4, and even CS5) my host CPU would get to about 50% even if no activity was occurring in DW.

    I just tried the latest version, 4.0.8, again today to see if the problem had been fixed. NOPE. Still sucks. To add to the problem DW CS5 would hang up tight.

    The only reason I’d tried VBox again was for seamless window support. Then after a little research I found that VMware Player has seamless window support. It’s called Unity.

    I’m sticking with VMware.

    VBox has always been a bit buggy in my experience when using it under a Linux host. And I’ve tried numerous hardware/kernel combinations with Vbox. It has never been all that stable.

    I’ll take stability over speed any day. So I chose VMware.

  10. Kirby says

    I’d tried VBox in the past a number of times but never used it much. The reason why is that when I would fire up Dreamweaver (2008, CS4, and even CS5) my host CPU would get to about 50% even if no activity was occurring in DW.

    I just tried the latest version, 4.0.8, again today to see if the problem had been fixed. NOPE. Still sucks. To add to the problem DW CS5 would hang up tight.

    The only reason I’d tried VBox again was for seamless window support. Then after a little research I found that VMware Player has seamless window support. It’s called Unity.

    I’m sticking with VMware.

    VBox has always been a bit buggy in my experience when using it under a Linux host. And I’ve tried numerous hardware/kernel combinations with Vbox. It has never been all that stable.

    I’ll take stability over speed any day. So I chose VMware. And it’s really not all that much slower.

  11. Jim Aploush says

    VMware touts Player as an alternative to XP Mode, but they forget to point out that an XP license is required to run XP in Player, which makes VMware solution no longer ‘free’.

    Microsoft includes an XP license in XP Mode. If you convert an XP Mode VM to Player, you’ll have to enter a license code to use XP.

  12. Peter says

    License:

    “For production environment, you have to purchase Sun VirtualBox license”

    This isn’t true. Their definition of “personal use” does not mean non-commercial.

    Read about the license here:
    https://www.virtualbox.org/wiki/Licensing_FAQ
    “What exactly do you mean by personal use and academic use in the Personal Use and Evaluation License?”
    “It doesn’t matter whether you just use it for fun or run your multi-million euro business with it. Also, if you install it on your work PC at some large company, this is still personal use.”

    Performance / scalability:

    And about performance, they both perform okay for me when not so heavily used, but in my testing of VMware player and server on Windows 7 and Ubuntu host systems, no matter what sort of VM I am running, if I start using the disk heavily, the system crawls. With VMware player (Windows 7 or Ubuntu), the system eventually becomes completely non-responsive. The vmware-vmx processes hog all the cpu, and setting the process priority to very low has no effect. With VMware server (only tested it on Ubuntu), the system gradulally slows down, and eventually runs horribly slow, but doesn’t seem to ever completely fail. With VirtualBox and with VMware ESXi, I haven’t had any problems like that at all so far (but I don’t have long running VirtualBox server VMs yet.)

    And off topic (servers, not desktops), but I am considering switching from using ESXi (a whole OS, not a desktop app) to VirtualBox because the ESXi NFS client is terrible with ZFS. And that is why I read this page. Thanks for all your info.

  13. agtrier says

    Maybe it’s just me, but I value performance a bit higher than bling-bling. For me, VirtualBox is the right choice.