I'm curious for all your Mac users out there which virtualization software you use and why? I've been a VM Ware user for Windows for years and have been running Parallels on my Mac (mainly because VM Ware was in Beta when I got Parallels).

I'm curious if many folks have had experience with both, which may be better, pros and cons of each, etc. The one thing that seems to be nice about Parallels is that you can run a Bootcamp partition virtually. Not sure if you can do that with VM but that seems like a nice option to give you the best of both worlds if you want to switch between Virtual and Bootcamp.

+3  A: 

I have been a vmware fusion/workstation user for the last two years and love it. There are very few problems.

I hold all my virtual machines on an external hdd (wd passport), so I can run my virtual machines on my mac, laptop, home pc or work pc. vmware fusion can run vmware workstation images with a slight tweak.

Sean Chambers

I've use vmware workstation on linux for nearly 8 years and love it. Fusion works great for me as well.

Good luck with whichever one you choose!

Mark Harrison

I've never used it on a Mac, but on Windows (Vista, in particular) I use Virtual Box and it's an excellent virtualization tool. It's available for every major platform out there (including packages for several Linux distros). If you give it a shot on your Mac, let us know how it goes.

Justin Bennett
Virtual Box is much slower than both (Fusion and Parallels) on Mac, at least on my 4GB MacBook.
+34  A: 

We use VMware very heavily at work in all its forms--Server, Workstation, and Fusion.

The main reason we use Fusion on the Mac is that VMware is unquestionably the more mature virtualization product overall. It's been around far longer, has a much larger user base, and has a larger collection of features. Because VMware is available on a wide range of platforms, chances are pretty good that there's a VMware image we've already got lying around the office that I can use. I've found the native integration superb. Plus, although this isn't really something I need at work, I've found its DirectX emulation is wonderfully solid, making it possible for me to play some of my games on my iMac after-hours. And, yes, in answer to your inquery, VMware Fusion can use a Boot Camp partition.

My experience with Parallels has been positive, and if you don't anticipate using virtualizaton on any non-Mac platform, I'd definitely say it's worth a look. If you do, however, then VMware's portability may well make it worth a look.

@Justin Bennett: Virtual Box is a good virtualization tool, but rather barebones compared to VMware Fusion and Parallels. It lacks 3D acceleration and had comparatively poor integration on a Mac the last time I tried it (right when it came out, shortly after the Sun acquisition). That said, I use VirtualBox extremely heavily on my Linux box at home, and have nothing but praise for it on that platform.

Benjamin Pollack
Update: Virtualbox has supported 3D acceleration in all its versions released since 2.0
Agile Noob
+9  A: 

Which is 'best'? "It depends." :) had a great comparison of performance and features between the Parallels, Bootcamp and Fusion at which I found useful.

Stu Thompson

According to this page, VMware will run from boot camp as well.

This benchmarking test may be of interest to you as well - in summary Parallels was better for XP, VMware was better for Vista. Note: This was last year, so may not be entirely accurate anymore.

+2  A: 

Using Parallels - it's awesome. Shared clipboard, shared Desktop and documents between the VM and my normal Mac. You can run apps in a floating Windows desktop or have them integrated with your normal Mac apps if you want, so you can see them in the Task Switcher. It's been seamless to install and works perfectly, making Windows apps work just like Mac ones.

+2  A: 

VM Ware can indeed run a boot camp partition virtually. I'm doing this on two machines, so this is first hand information. One caveat is you must run the VM Ware Tools in Windows or you could experience authentication problems.

I can't give any first hand experience with Parallels, but I did just go through a lot of internet research to pick which I would use. What I found was VM Ware slightly edged out Parallels in performance (which is more important for my purposes) where Parallels interface seemed to be more pleasing to a lot of people. Also, there were lots of posts from frustrated Parallels users trying to get tech support and finding it less than responsive, whereas VM Ware support seemed to have no complaints.

For my purposes (a build machine which would build both Mac and Windows builds) I required script support for launching Windows applications. Parallels may do this, but I couldn't find a reference to it in their online documentation nor though asking on forums. VM Ware mentioned it in its docs and I got a positive reply on their forums as well.

Chris Blackwell
+6  A: 

From first hand experience, I find VMware Fusion much more flexible, stable, and performant. I started with just Boot Camp, then used Parallels to run my Boot Camp partition as a VM, corrupted Boot Camp, re-built Boot Camp and used Fusion for months without booting natively into Boot Camp. Just two weeks ago, I used VMware Converter to turn my native Boot Camp partition into a full-fledged VM. Can't wait for 2.0!

Three guys at my office had Parallels corrupt their bootcamp partition. VMWare has yet to cause a problem.
Matt Dawdy
+5  A: 

I bought Parallels before VMWare Fusion was released. It is a great product, but I'd recommend VMWare Fusion now, since it allows you to transfer vms to a windows station running vmware.

+4  A: 

I've been running VMWare on my Mac for the last few months to do my Windows dev work, and I don't have a single complaint yet.

Greg Hurlman
+1  A: 

I took Parallels for a trial run, and then VMware released Fusion with a discount that brought it below the price of buying Parallels, so I bought Fusion.

I was already familiar with VMware's desktop virtualization software on non-Mac platforms, so I'm comfortable with its interface. Some say that Parallels feels more like a native Mac app than Fusion, but that doesn't trouble me. For me, the major distinction is that Fusion allows at least two CPU cores to be devoted to a virtual machine, while Parallels still limits the VM to one core. My Mac has four cores, so I don't see any reason to go with Parallels.

That being said, it'd be worth your while to try both of them out and see which one meets your needs best. They're both pretty reasonably priced.

+4  A: 

I tried Parallels first and it was awful, VMWare Fusion is way faster. Parallels is a complete mess with memory management.

Shawn Simon
+1  A: 

I tried Parallels and found it really didn't seem to work well; installed VMware Fusion the other day and it's been fantastic.

James Inman

I'd have to chime in on the VMWare Fusion side. I actually bought Parellels like some of the other guys have said, but now I think Fusion is the better option. Seems to be being developed quicker, the latest beta has some really nice features, and it just feels better integrated with the whole system.

+1  A: 

I bought Parallels when I first got an Intel Mac. It's great! However, I eventually bought VMWare Fusion too and switched over to that. Parallels had major problems with Leopard when that was released - kernel panics, etc - and a huge list of bugs. The progress in fixing them seemed glacial (at least it seemed so to me when I needed a VM to do any work), whilst Fusion ran without any problems.

There isn't much to choose between them. Fusion feels a little faster in some circumstances. Having said that, I've got another Mac running Tiger and Parallels and I can't see a reason to switch it to Fusion.

My recommendation would be Fusion, but Parallels is an excellent product and you won't be disappointed with either.

+1  A: 

Vmware fusion 2.0, released today, has the vmrun utility which allows you to programmatically control your virtual machines (reverting to a snapshot, starting the machine, etc). It also supports multiple snapshots.

+1  A: 

I have Parallels but I'm planning on switching to Fusion when the next version comes out.

Parallels may have great Windows support but I only use Windows for games. I spend more time in Linux. But Parellels' support for Linux, or any other non-Windows OS, is pretty lacking. You don't have a shared directory between OS X and Linux, you can't share applications, and some of the general support seems weak. For example, my USB thumb drives aren't recognized all the time when I plug them in.

For programming, this is a pain. I like many of the tools available in Linux and would prefer to program in Linux. But I can't easily move files from into/out of Linux, so I end up using it rarely.

The support for the dual-core MBP is also weak. You can't adjust the performance based on core dedication or sharing. You can't use the Firewire ports and you have to jump through hoops to make USB hard drives work.

What was said about the support from Parallels is true also. It's nearly impossible to find anything useful in their knowledge base; you really have to rely on the user forums. But quite often there are just long threads of people complaining about the product.

That's why I will be moving to Fusion.

+1  A: 

I was using VirtualBox until I got a free VMware Fusion license. I have also used Parallels, but I find Fusion the best out of three for Mac OS X. I am using both Linux and Windows XP guests.

However, for Linux I would still recommend VirtualBox, at least for now. VMware Workstation hasn't updated its kernel modules since a long time ago, so it isn't working with newer Linux kernels (at least for 2.6.26). Maybe the stable version of 6.5 will correct this, I'm not sure if it's out yet.


I switched from Parallels to VMware Fusion earlier this year. Parallels was OK and actually had a few extra features over VMware Fusion, but in my experience Fusion has been much faster and more reliable. And with the recently released VMware Fusion 2.0, there is no reason to use Parallels in my opinion.

Paul Lefebvre
+1  A: 

I am in the process of switching my work-related VMs from Parallels to VirtualBox.

Having followed Parallels for six months or so, it seems unmaintained, undeveloped, slow and buggy. There forums are full of posts from people at Parallels who give no confidence. Version 3 is behind VMWare and VirtualBox (in some important areas, eg. performance), yet nobody can predict when version 4 will be released.

Linux support in Parallels is terrible.

I've not tried VMWare on the Mac, so I cannot comment there. But if you need Bootcamp support, it seems you should explore VMWare. Otherwise I can say nothing but good things about VirtualBox.

Edit I have now used VMWare fusion, it is excellent. I recommend it over VirtualBox, if you can afford it, since it has all the niceties of Parallels but the performance of VirtualBox And as noted above it has "unity" too. I like VirtualBox because it is open source, but the reality is with virtualisation, that it isn't too tricky to switch between virtualisation solutions should your propriety vendor disappear.

Edit Parallels 4 came out. Totally unannounced as far as I'm concerned, amid all sorts of promises to fix certain bugs in version 3 that they now will never do. Parallels is a lying company. You can not trust them and should not give them your money.

Also a further conclusion. Try them all out. It's pretty easy to move vm images between the competing products.

Max Howell

Vmware fusion does not support OpenGL, only DirectX. Parallels suports both. If you do not need openGL, go with vmware as it is more stable and just has better quality overall.

+1  A: 

i chose fusion for stability and it can share with bootcamp. The only issue i have with fusion are its quirks with spaces.


I use VMware Fusion because it has better multicore support and works with 64bit OSs.


let me share my experience with parallels. i bought a macbook pro two weeks ago (late october) and took some time to research how to use windows with it. i didn’t want to use bootcamp, as i didn’t wantt o partition my hard drive and reboot to switch systems. i thought about vmware and some others, but felt parallels would be best option. i liked everything i heard about it.

so off i went in search of parallels website. i paid $87 for the download version of parallels desktop 5 and the extended download service. i installed it and thought great. i created the virtual machine and then tried to install windows xp. at this point, our experiences become very similar. the installation of xp stopped at less than halfway and i got a message that parallels tools had not been installed, and i got an option to click the button to install the tools. what happened next was surreal.

the program began searching the xp disc, in the dvd drive, for the parallels tools. i thought it was odd as i had downloaded the program. but after i had clicked the button, i could do nothing. parallels froze my machine. i figured i had just had bad luck until i tried to contact parallels for support.

unlike most reputable companies (for example, hp has the most excellent after-sales service i have ever encountered), parallels was a bust. first, they say there is a 30-day free support. that, in my case was bullshit. when i tried to make contact to make use of that 30-day support, i was asked for my purchase order id number. when i typed it in and click submit, i reeived a notice that the number was invalid. i tried several times, but got the same result.

i then tried to find an e-mail address but, conveniently for the company, they do not offer one for north america, from where i bought the download. unfortunately foe me, i am a journalist working in china, so it is not practical for me to call their phone number. when i uninstalled the program, i got a feedback form asking why i removed the program.

i sent a detailed e-mail back, explaining the situation, how the program did not work right and how their lack of any semblance of customer support left me with NO confidence in either the product or the support team and i asked for a reply.

i did receive an automated reply with the typical promise to read the e-mail etc etc, but have not received a reply. i have reopened that automated e-mail and sent a reply again asking for a refund, confirmation that i will receive a refund and confirmation from a person that they received my e-mail.

only once have i experienced such an abysmal product and even worse customer support. can’t even refer to it as customer support, as with customer support there is some form of communication and response to the complaint. and for the life of me, i can’t understand how the purchase order number was invalid. the activation key they sent me worked fine and registered the product.

i would like to hear from others who have had bad experiences (or even good) with this product and company representatives. i am thinking about writing an article about my experience with parallels for the tech pages. i might not get my refund, but i will be able to warn others what could be in store for them if they purchase this product.

Rob Miller

Refer to this post Parallels vs Fusion vs Boot Camp for Visual Studio comparison.

Parallels is a clear winner here!

Silence of 2012