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The 6 Best Virtual Machine Software Programs of 2022

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Lifewire / Desing by Amelia Manley

Virtual machines emulate other operating systems in individual windows on a computer. You can run a Windows instance on macOS, or vice versa. These are the top virtual machine software programs that you can find in 2022.

The host is the name of the computer’s operating program. The guest is the secondary operating system that runs on the VM interface.

The Industry Standard: VMware Workstation

VMware

What We Like

  • A free evaluation version is available.
  • Once it’s set up, it’s easy to use.
  • It is widely used and highly regarded.
  • Use it for your personal use.

What we don’t like

  • Consumes a lot.
  • Some programs do not work in the emulator.
  • You may need to modify the default configuration.

VMware Workstation has been on the market for almost 20 years and is widely regarded as the industry standard in virtual machine applications. The robust features of VMware Workstation cover many virtualization requirements.

Advanced 3D solutions are possible by using DirectX 11, and OpenGL 4.1. This allows for image and video degradation to be eliminated even in VMs that use graphics-intensive programs. It supports virtual machine open standards and allows you to create and manage VMs from other vendors within the VMware product.

You can set up and manage complex virtual networks for VMs with its advanced networking features. VMware can integrate with other tools to create and implement complete data centers. This allows you to emulate an entire enterprise DC.

VMware snapshots can be used to establish rollback points for testing. The cloning system makes it easy to deploy multiple instances of the same VM. Multiple VMs allow you to choose between completely isolated duplicates and linked clones, which rely on the original partially to save space.

This package seamlessly integrates with vSphere enterprise server virtualization product. It allows for remote administration of all VMs within a company’s datacenter from a local machine.

The application is available in two versions: Workstation Player or Workstation Pro.

Player is completely free to use. You can create new VMs with it and support over 200 guest operating system. It supports file sharing between guest and host, has the graphical advantages listed above, and supports 4K displays.

VMware’s advanced functionality is not available in the free version, including access to cloning, snapshots and complex networking.

Workstation Player cannot be used commercially. To use Workstation software by businesses, you must purchase one or more Pro licences.

VMware Workstation Pro is available to you for these features and the ability to create and manage encrypted virtual machine. Unity Mode for Mac users is included in the Pro version. This hides Windows’ interface and allows you to use the Dock to launch Windows apps.

VMware Station can be used with these host platforms:

  • Most 64-bit Linux distributions.
  • Windows 7 and higher (64-bit only).
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 or higher

VMware Workstation Pro

Best for Mac Users: VMware Fusion

VMware Fusion

What We Like

  • Allows macOS to use VMware Emulation.
  • Fusion Plauer, the basic version, is available for free.
  • It supports a variety of macOS displays.
  • It uses the same virtual machines that non-Mac VMware products.

What we don’t like

  • Parallels is not as feature-rich as Parallels.
  • It can be slow.

How to create a new virtual machine with VMware Fusion

Fusion was created by the same people that created VMware Workstation for Linux or Windows. It offers the exact same experience as Workstation on the Mac platform.

Fusion Player can be used for personal purposes, just like VMware Workstation. Fusion Pro is available for purchase by businesses or individuals who need access to more advanced features.

Some Mac-specific features are available, including support for 5K iMacs, mixed retina and non-retina configurations. Fusion also includes Unity Mode. This hides the Windows desktop interface, and allows you to launch Windows apps from the Dock like regular apps to macOS.

Fusion, both the paid and free versions, can run Windows from a Bootcamp partition as a guest VM instance. This eliminates the need to reboot every time you switch between VMs.

VMware Fusion is compatible the following host platforms

  • macOS/OS X 10.13 or higher

VMware Fusion

The Best Free Option: Oracle VM VirtualBox

Oracle

What We Like

  • The base version of the software is completely free.
  • A simple interface and operation.
  • It’s stable.

What we don’t like

  • For efficient performance, you will need a strong hardware setup and plenty of RAM.
  • You will need to download Guest-addition software for additional features.

This open-source hypervisor was first released in 2007. It is free for personal and business use.

The extensions pack includes basic features such as USB support, but it is only available for personal use.

VirtualBox supports many guest operating systems including Windows XP, Windows NT, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2010. VirtualBox can run VMs running Linux 2.4 or higher, Solaris and OpenSolaris as well as OpenBSD. It can also turn back time and run OS/2/DOS/Windows3.1. This is useful for nostalgic purposes, or to play classics like Wasteland and Pool of Radiance within their natural environments.

VirtualBox allows you to run macOS in a VM. This feature is only available if the host operating systems is on a Mac.

Apple prohibits macOS from running on non-Apple hardware. If the host environment is macOS, you cannot legally run macOS on a virtual machine.

VirtualBox can run multiple guest windows at once and offers a high level of portability. VirtualBox allows you to transfer a VM that has been created on one host to another host running a different operating system.

It can be used on older hardware and recognizes most USB device. There is also a list of guest additions that are easy and free to install. You can transfer files and clipboard content between the host operating system and the guest, as well as 3D virtualization and video support.

The website contains several tutorials as well as a collection of virtual machines in canned form that can be customized to suit specific development needs.

Oracle VM VirtualBox is home to a growing developer community, which publishes new releases frequently, and a user forum that has almost 100,000 members. VirtualBox’s track record is proof that it will continue to improve its capabilities and be a long-term VM solution.

VirtualBox can be used with these host platforms:

  • Most Linux distributions.
  • macOS/OS X 10.13 or higher
  • Solaris 11 and higher
  • Windows 8.1, Windows 10, Server 2012 and Server 2012 R2, Server 2016 and 2019.

Oracle VirtualBox

Parallels Desktop is the best for running Windows and macOS.

Parallels

What We Like

  • It runs Windows, Chrome OS and Linux as well as a second instance macOS.
  • Three versions for different applications.
  • You can monitor and adjust your memory usage.
  • This allows the MacBook Pro Touch Bar in Windows to function.

What we don’t like

  • Considerable resource consumption.
  • Sometimes adjustments are not intuitive.
  • Subscription pricing means that users must upgrade annually.

How to get the best performance from Parallels

Parallels is a long-standing favorite among Mac enthusiasts who sometimes need to run Windows. It seamlessly runs Windows applications and Mac apps side-by-side.

Parallels optimizes your Windows system and hardware resources based on what you use Windows for the most. This makes Windows feel more like a real PC.

Parallels has many of the same features as a paid VM product, but also features that are specific to Macs such opening websites in IE and Edge from a Safari browser. Also, Windows alerts will display in the Mac Notification Center. You can drag files between the two operating systems as well as clipboard contents. Parallels includes a dedicated cloud storage space that can be shared between macOS and Windows.

Parallels is often misunderstood as a Windows guest VM that can only be used to run Windows. You can run Chrome OS, Linux and another instance macOS.

Parallels is available in three different versions, each one suited to a specific audience. If you’re switching from a PC or Mac to Windows, the standard edition is best. The basic toolset is included, along with 8GB of VRAM and four vCPUs per guest VM. The one-time cost is $79.99

The Pro Edition is for software developers, testers, or other powerful users. It integrates with Microsoft Visual Studio, well-known developer tools like Jenkins, as well as other QA and development tools like Jenkins. You can access business cloud services, email and phone support round the clock, and advanced networking tools. Each VM has 128 GB and 32 vCPUs. Parallels Desktop Pro Edition costs $99.99 per annum.

The Business Edition offers all the above and more, as well as central administration and management tools. You can also use the volume license key to allow you to distribute Parallels instances within your organization. Parallels Desktop Business Edition is $99.99 per year.

Parallels can be used with these host platforms:

  • macOS/OS X 10.13 or higher

Get Parallels

The Best for Windows 10 Users: HyperV Manager

Microsoft

What We Like

  • Supported versions of Windows 10 are free and can be installed for no charge
  • Strong performance and deep hooks into host OS.

What we don’t like

  • Windows 10 Home is not compatible with this feature.
  • Deep hooks can prevent other VM solutions from running simultaneously.

Microsoft offers Hyper-V Manager to support Windows 10 in professional, enterprise and academic editions. It supports deep linking within Windows 10, as well as a variety of guest OSes such as Linux and older systems like MS-DOS.

Microsoft provides a fully licensed, free developer edition of Windows 10 for HyperV Manager.

This powerful hypervisor is available for Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education.

Windows 10: Activate HyperV

The Best for Linux Users QEMU

QEMU

What We Like

  • It’s free.
  • It acts as both a virtual machine host, and a machine emulator.
  • Simulates a variety of machines

What we don’t like

  • Interface is outdated and confusing.

QEMU is often the preferred hypervisor for Linux users due to its low price and easy-to use full-system emulator tools. Open-source emulator emulates hardware peripherals using dynamic translation to achieve optimal performance.

When using QEMU to virtualize KVM virtual machine can deliver near-parity performance with the right hardware. You may almost forget you are using a VM.

Only certain situations with QEMU require administrative privileges, such as when you need access to USB devices within a guest VM. This type of software is very flexible, so it’s not common.

QEMU can be customized for both macOS and windows. The majority of users have Linux computers as their host.

QEMU can be used with these host platforms:

  • Most Linux distributions.
  • MacOS 10.5 or higher (10.7 recommended) via the Homebrew package manger.
  • 32-bit Windows, 64-bit Windows (newer versions do not work with Windows XP).

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