Comparing VirtualBox and VMware isn’t easy.
Both are excellent free and multi-platform virtualization systems, although with license differences, and it can be difficult to choose which product to use to create a virtual machine with.
In this post we will run two tests for installing two virtual machines having the same operating system; at first, we will install it on VirtualBox and then on VMware Workstation Player to deduce differences and similarities between the two systems.
VMware isn’t a single product but is more an ecosystem of various tools and applications. It also includes Hypervisor virtualization tools like ESXi, vSphere, vCenter, etc.
For the purpose of this comparison, we’ll mostly be looking at VMware Workstation Player.
Why you should install a virtual machine?
If you have to use an old software that does not work on your operating system, or if you want to clone your system to transfer it to another machine, or if, as a developer, you have been asked to develop and test a product on different platforms, a virtual machine is the solution.
You can use your hardware resources (RAM, CPU, and disk) to virtually create another machine on which you can install a new operating system.
Theoretically, the virtual machine has the same performance as a physical computer, but considering that it will use a part of the resources of the host computer, the functioning of both machines could be affected in terms of performance.
Before starting with the choice of any type of virtualization software, it is good to carefully plan which operating system we would like to have on the virtual machine.
Need to install Windows 10?
Verify the system requirements and try to understand if the efficiency of our host and guest machines is guaranteed.
In our example case:
CPU: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or more
RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
Hard disk: 16 GB for 32-bit OS, 20 GB for 64-bit OS
Graphics card: DirectX 9 or higher with WDDM 1.0 driver
Display: minimum 800×600
You will, therefore, need to have a host machine able to provide the resources for the amount required by the operating system that we want to install on the virtual machine (guest).
In the event that our host is undersized, we need to think to increase its resources, which, especially in the case of desktop computers, can be done with a few euros by integrating a hard-disk and a bit of GB of RAM.
However, it is advisable to perform the installation without other applications open on the computer, so as to be able to slowly test the performance of both systems (virtual and physical).
After defining these requirements, the first step is to install a virtualization software.
The most known and used are:
- VirtualBox, created by Oracle and dedicated to both personal and enterprise use under the GNU General Public License.
- VMware Workstation Player, developed by VMware and distributed free of charge for personal use only.
VirtualBox runs under Windows, Linux, Mac OS, and Solaris, and supports a wide variety of guest operating systems, from Windows to Linux, Mac, Solaris, OpenSolaris, OS / 2, and OpenBSD.
The download page shows the list of the latest distributions depending on the host systems.
For both Windows and other systems, installation is very simple because it is done with the specific methods for each platform.
VMware Workstation Player
VMware Workstation Player can be installed only on Windows and Linux.
However, it supports a wide range of guest operating systems and provides useful tools to check compatibility.
You can download the executables to perform the installation, depending on your system, by connecting to the download page.
While for Windows, following all the steps and the instructions of the wizard, the installation will be very simple, for Linux, being a “.bundle” package, we will have to remember to do the installation as root and use the “sh” command.
How to install Windows 10 on VirtualBox and VMware
We have, therefore, seen that installing VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player on the host system is quite simple.
Below we will show the installation of Windows 10 on a virtual machine hosted on an Ubuntu host.
Installation on VirtualBox
Once installed, VirtualBox appears as a container in which it is possible to create new VMs on which to install the operating systems of our choice (obviously within the limits of performance that the host hardware is able to guarantee).
Click on the “New” button to create a new VM where you can choose the name, the operating system type, and its version.
Here is the moment in which we also choose the first specifications, remembering to follow those required by the operating system we are installing.
You can still change these settings later.
Subsequently it is necessary to choose the size and the type of the virtual hard disk.
In our case, the size will be 20GB but we can choose between different hard disk formats.
There are three available formats:
- VDI, that is the VirtualBox native format.
- VMDK, that is the VMware native format, but also used by other virtualization systems.
- VHD, that is the format used by Hyper-V.
VMDK can guarantee a better compatibility and it is usually the preferred option.
In any case, it is possible, with appropriate tools, to convert the virtual hard disks into other formats.
These three types of hard disks (VDI, VMDK, and VHD) support the dynamic allocation of used space, another option that is usually selected at this stage. This means the VM hard disk file on the host system will only take up the space actually used.
In the case of dynamic allocation, the “Split into files of less than 2GB” option is usually chosen to ensure better performance.
At this point our virtual machine is ready so we can proceed with the installation of Windows 10.
By right-clicking on the name of the newly created machine, you can select the “Settings” option if you need to change or see the current VM settings.
Thanks to the NAT option, that is automatically activated by VirtualBox, it is possible to access the Internet through the Host system.
To start the Windows installation, select Start and then select, from the file system of the Host system, the start-up disk or the disk image.
Once you select Start from this panel, the classic Windows installation starts.
First, you will be asked for the product key and for the acceptance of the Windows license.
Then the choice will be on: Update or Custom.
The first can be used only when you already have an installed system on, so in the case of the first installation, you have to proceed with the second choice.
At some point in the installation, the system requires the creation of the administrator user and other options such as the creation of a Microsoft account and the sending of statistical data for diagnostics.
At the end of the installation, we will have a properly functioning guest system.
It is recommended to install the VirtualBox Guest Additions extensions inside the VM, a useful software package to ensure better performance of the guest machine and a better interrelationship between guest and host, including for example:
- Mouse pointer integration: all mouse actions when the pointer is over the VM are automatically routed to the guest system.
- Shared folders: exchange of files between host and guest.
- Shared Clipboard between host and guest.
The installation package of the VM VirtualBox already contains the Guest Additions, but these must be activated.
In the event that the package has not yet been downloaded, the system detects the lack of this add-on and requests its download.
How to install Guest Additions on VirtualBox
While the VM is running, select the Device menu and then “Insert Guest Additions CD Image”.
Enter the required image path (which for Linux host systems is ~/.config/VirtualBox/VBoxGuestAdditions_5.2.32.iso), which we will find in drive D of the computer, as shown in the following image.
Double-click on the CD drive (D) to start the installation.
Once the installation is complete, a couple of small operations still need to be performed to see the desired features activated.
We choose Machine -> Settings option and then Shared Folders.
Here we can add a shared folder of two types: Machine Folders and Transient Folders
While the first is a permanent shared folder with the Host file manager, the second is a folder that only keeps sharing until the VM is shutdown.
After setting the shared folder, you will find it under the name of VBOXSVR in the PC Network folder.
From the Devices menu (Shared Clipboard option), you can choose the clipboard sharing mode with the host system.
Installation on VMware
Once VMware Workstation Player is installed, select “Create a New Virtual Machine” to create a new instance where to install your virtual operating system.
In the following steps, it is possible to select the ISO image from the Host system, insert the windows key, the administrator user (which by default is identified without a password) and choose the name of the VM.
At this point, remembering the specifications, you can set the size of the hard disk, whereas the size of the RAM is set by default to 2GB.
After the disk is created, the process proceeds with the installation of the operating system.
The VMware tools package (the equivalent of the Guest Additions for VirtualBox) is already installed.
If it is not (it can happen in other guest systems and for previous versions of Windows), it is enough to install it from the Virtual Machine command -> Install VMTools.
While the clipboard sharing functionality is already active, for shared folders it is necessary to operate as follows:
There are not many differences between the two systems. Both turn out to be excellent products, fast (if we always keep in mind the necessary requirements) and rather intuitive.
An important difference is the type of license: VMware is free only for personal use, while there are no restrictions for VirtualBox.
The VMware tools package is already installed and the clipboard sharing is already active (which should not be underestimated, for example, for entering the Windows activation code, that you can copy and paste from the host system).
As often happens, however, the choice will fall on one or another solution also based on personal needs, minimum installation requirements and ease of use of the documentation supporting the product.
Finally, remember that it is always advisable to back up virtual machines to NAS or Cloud, in order to restore virtual systems with just a few clicks in the event of a problem, without having to repeat the installation process described in this tutorial. Iperius Backup is a complete software for backing up virtual machines running on Windows hosts, thanks to the possibility of copying VMDK, VHD or VDI disk files using VSS technology. Iperius is also a powerful software for backing up professional virtualization environments such as Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESXi.