Do you want to run multiple operating systems without going through multi-booting? The most popular way to do this would be virtualization. I previously compared the free VirtualBox against the premium VMware Workstation. But VMware also offers a free version of their virtualization product, known as VMware Player. How would these two free products compare to each other?
The results in this test are relative to my own Windows 7 Ultimate system with a 2 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 Processor with 3 GB of Physical RAM. Results for different system configurations may vary.
Guest OS System Specifications:
Windows XP Professional: 512 MB RAM and 20 GB Virtual Hard Disk
Windows Vista Ultimate: 2048 MB RAM and 40 GB Virtual Hard Disk
All time measurements (besides installation time) are made after the respective ‘Guest Additions’ which improve performance and add useful features are installed.
The main VirtualBox for Windows download weighs in around 71.5 MB compared to the VMware Player for Windows download which is around 89.9 MB.
It is also good to note that the VMware Player download does not include VMware Tools, which is separate download as an “update”. VirtualBox already has the guest additions/tools with the download.
If you’re downloading from the VMware site, registration is required which includes providing a lot of information, including a phone number. For those who do not wish to register, download if from sites like Softpedia instead.
The final installation of VMware was 488 MB indicating very high compression was used for the download (89.9 MB). On the other hand, the VirtualBox installation is only 85.8 MB, which isn’t that much larger than the download (71.5 MB).
VirtualBox: 4 (8.5 total)
VMware: 4 (7 total)
Guest Installation Speed
VMware offers a special feature known as “Easy Install”, which handles all user interaction for the user so they can just click Start and sit back, grab a coffee, and watch everything be installed with absolutely no user interaction, including the product key, username, and password, which can be entered in during VM setup.
For the purpose of this test, I selected “I will install the operating system later” to avoid using Easy Install.
I started the stopwatch when everything that requires user interaction is done and automated installation starts.
So how long did each take to install? I expected VMware Player to be faster since its based on the VMware Workstation engine which I had tested last time to be faster. However, my results this time told a different story.
VirtualBox installed the operating systems about one minute faster than VMware Player did.
VirtualBox: 5 (13.5 total)
VMware: 4 (11 total)
Guest Startup Times
Startup speed is always very important. Nobody likes to wait very long for a computer to start. The stopwatch started once the BIOS splash screen fades away and stopped when the login screen came up on XP and the Vista Orb on Vista.
The average startup time for the two guest systems was 38.5 seconds on VirtualBox and 40.5 seconds on VMware Player.
VirtualBox: 5 (18.5 total)
VMware: 4.7 (15.7 total)
Guest Shutdown Times
Like startup times, who wants to wait forever to shutdown their computer? I certainly don’t. The stopwatch was started once it finished logging off and stopped once it fully shut down and the guest window closes or returns to the home screen.
VirtualBox was slightly faster for both operating systems with an average of 16.5 seconds compared to 19 seconds. Every second counts when it comes to startup and shutdown.
VirtualBox: 5 (23.5 total)
VMware: 4.7 (20.4 total)
700 MB Ubuntu ISO Transfer from Desktop to Flash Drive
Both programs support USB Devices. Simply click on the USB Device icon in the status bar of VirtualBox or VMware and select the respective device. It will then disconnect from the host and attach to the guest. Additional drivers will be installed as needed.
I used an 8 GB Sandisk Cruzer Flash Drive and transferred ~700 MB Ubuntu 9.10 ISO file from the guest Desktop to the flash drive.
VirtualBox was slightly slower at transfer speed with an average of 343.5 seconds compared to 309.5 seconds.
VirtualBox: 4 (27.5 total)
VMware: 5 (25.4 total)
700 MB Ubuntu ISO Transfer From Desktop to C:\ Root
I transferred the same 700 MB ISO file used above from the desktop to the root of the hard disk.
VirtualBox had a faster average of 63 seconds compared to VMware’s average of 71.5 seconds.
VirtualBox: 5 (32.5 total)
VMware: 4.3 (29.7 total)
Special Feature: Unity/Seamless Mode
Both VirtualBox and VMware let you run the operating system without the program’s window so each of the guest windows are integrated into the host system. VirtualBox calls this Seamless Mode and VMware calls it Unity.
With VirtualBox, its basically hiding the desktop background and placing the guest taskbar on the host desktop.
In addition, there are strange issues with Seamless and Windows Desktop Gadgets, with part of the guest desktop background showing as a border to gadgets. In addition, there is often a lagging trail of the guest desktop background when moving seamless windows.
VMware takes it further and rather than just hide the desktop, it hides the taskbar too and attempts to integrate guest applications into the host taskbar, which is similar to what Windows XP Mode does.
Windows Vista in Unity Mode was a bit strange since I had Windows Aero enabled on it. Rather than having the Aero be translucent to my host desktop background, it used a plain dark blue background to place behind the Aero instead creating a strange effect.
VMware takes the crown for this round providing a more seamless virtualized experience than VirtualBox offers.
VirtualBox: 4 (36.5 total)
VMware: 4.5 (34.2 total)
Shared Folders and Transferring Files Between Guest and Host
Both VMware and VirtualBox offer shared folders between the guest and host and both are quite confusing to implement without digging into the long user manuals. VirtualBox at least mentions it when users hover over the folders list in settings, though there isn’t a very detailed explanation. Replace “sharename” with the name you gave the folder during the shared folders setup.
Windows-Map Network Drive:
sudo mkdir sharename sudo mount.vboxsf sharename ~/sharename
My Network Places\VMware Shared Folders\.host\Shared Folders\sharename
Windows-Map Network Drive:
But with VMware, if you just need to transfer files, its even easier. Just drag and drop! The files can be copied to and from the guest system. In addition, the virtual hard disk files (.vmdk) can be mapped on Windows and be used as an actual hard drive. This isn’t possible with VirtualBox disks.
VirtualBox: 4 (40.5 total)
VMware: 5 (39.2 total)
VMware disks (.vmdk) are compatible with VirtualBox, although VirtualBox disks (.vdi) are not compatible with VMware.
The score so far is 40.5 points for VirtualBox and 39.2 for VMware Player. It’s very close. So it looks like it’s time for…
Windows Aero Support
VMware fully supports Windows Display Driver Model and therefore supports the Windows Aero interface given that the guest is provided enough RAM and the host supports Aero.
VMware: 2 bonus points (41.2 total)
Snapshot Support and Management
The free VMware Player does not support Snapshots beyond the state saving and suspension. VirtualBox however provides full snapshot support. While it is not as powerful as VMware Workstation, it is still a very useful feature similar to Windows Restore Points, only better and quicker.
VirtualBox: 4 bonus points (44.5 total)
As mentioned earlier, Easy Install lets user sit back and watch all the work be done for them during OS installation. A feature that many will definitely love.
VMware: 3 bonus points (44.2 total)
So what’s the final scores?
VirtualBox: 44.5 points
VMware: 44.2 points
Extremely close, but the winner is… Sun VirtualBox!
Supports Windows, Mac, and Linux
And… that completes this first edition of First Class Flyer. Join us next Friday for our next First Class Flyer!