VMware Fusion vs Oracle VM VirtualBox: Which is Best?
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As you know, desktop virtualization software is used as a sandbox for running Windows, Linux, and other operating systems on your Mac at the same time as macOS, without rebooting.
This is good, because you don’t need extra hardware to run your developement and test systems on.
But what is the best desktop virtualization software for Mac?
Could it be VMware Fusion?*
Or is Oracle VM VirtualBox better?
Let’s find out…
User Interface Comparison
First up, let’s take a look at the VMware Fusion* UI.
As you can see from the image above, VMware Fusion* uses the macOS look and feel and has been built using the native Apple Cocoa Framework.
Now let’s look at Oracle VM VirtualBox.
You’ll notice the VirtualBox UI is not as good as Fusion. That’s because it has been created with Qt, not the Apple Cocoa Framework.
If you’re an Apple user that only runs native apps, VMware Fusion* is the best option for you. If you’re not bothered about software following Apple’s human interface guidelines, so long as it works well, let’s find out if VirtualBox has Fusion beat on features.
Fusion vs VirtualBox Features
The main feature of the virtualization software you choose is it should support a wide range of operating systems. At a minimum, it should let you create Windows, Linux, macOS, and BSD virtual machines.
Both products are capable of this, but if you want to create vSphere labs, you’ll want to use VMware Fusion* because vSphere ESXi doesn’t support the VirtualBox network adapters.
Take a look at the table below showing what features are available for each of the products.
|Feature||VMware Fusion Player||VMware Fusion Pro||Oracle VM VirtualBox|
|Create Linux, Windows, macOS and BSD VMs||✓||✓||✓|
|Create Snapshots and rollback changes||✓||✓||✓|
|Create Linux KVM Hypervisor VMs (nested virtualization)||✓||✓||✓|
|Host/Guest File Sharing||✓||✓||✓|
|Virtual NVMe Device||✓||✓||✓|
|UEFI Boot Support||✓||✓||✓|
|UEFI Secure Boot Support||✓||✓||✓|
|Create vSphere ESXi Hypervisor VMs (nested virtualization)||✓||✓||✗|
|Convert existing Windows PC into a virtual machine||✓||✓||✗|
|One-Click SSH to Linux VM||✓||✓||✗|
|Unity View Mode (Windows guests only)||✓||✓||✗|
|Windows apps in the Mac Dock||✓||✓||✗|
|3D graphics with DX11 and OpenGL 4.1 support||✓||✓||✗ (experimental)|
|Large Graphics Memory: 8GB||✓||✓||✗|
|Metal Graphics Engine||✓||✓||✗|
|BootCamp Import / Launch||✓||✓||✗|
|vCenter Server Appliance Easy Deploy||✓||✓||✗|
|4K / 5K / Retina Display Support||✓||✓||✗|
|Create Full Clones||✗||✓||✓|
|Create Linked Clones||✗||✓||✓|
|Create/Manage Encrypted VMs||✗||✓||✓|
|Virtual Network Customization (NAT, network rename)||✗||✓||✓|
|Virtual Network Simulation (Packet Loss, Latency, Bandwidth)||✗||✓||✗|
|Buy Fusion||Buy Fusion Pro||Get VirtualBox|
As you can see from the table above, both programs support most features. However, if you want to create VMware vSphere labs, you should use VMware Fusion.
Another thing worth mentioning is the 3D acceleration is experimental in VirtualBox, so if you have an application or game that requires advanced GPU features, Fusion is a better choice.
What about the cost?
VirtualBox is open source and free for commercial use. However, you’ll have to decide if it has all the features you require from the table above. And don’t forget, even though it’s free, you still need to pay Oracle when you need support.
Fusion Player is free for non commercial use, so if you just need virtualization software for playing Windows games and creating labs for personal training, then use Fusion Player.
If you need to use VMware Fusion for commercial purposes, you’ll need to purchase a Fusion Player license*, if you need to manage virtual networks, create clones and encrypted VMs, you’ll need to purchase a Fusion Pro license*.
To conclude, VMware Fusion has more features, supports more guest operating systems, and has a user interface that Apple users are familiar with.
I can think of few reasons why you’d want to use VirtualBox over Fusion. One reason, is if you need to virtualize a workload for commercial purposes and don’t want to pay. Another, is if you need to create clones and don’t want to pay for Fusion Pro.
P.S. Are you new to VMware? Or do you have experience and want to expand your knowledge? We've put together a list of The Best VMware Books, which help you learn their data center products fast.