I'm new to the Mac platform and need to figure out which virtualization platform is best for me.

Is there a comparison list of features (and missing features) for each of the major virtualization platforms? (VirtualBox, VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop, Microsoft VirtualPC, or VMware ESX?

I have a license for each and am running on a retina MacBook Pro with 16 GB of RAM. I need to run a number of Microsoft operating systems in 64-bit mode.

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    Microsoft VirtualPC doesn't run on Intel Macs and VMware ESX is for enterprise computing and clusters, so neither of those will be any help on your Mac. – Cajunluke Aug 10 '12 at 14:06

As you've pointed out, there is plenty of virtualisation software. However, the most famous are Parallels and VMware Fusion (the other ones I haven't used, so I can't give you an opinion about them).

In my opinion, Parallels is the more robust one and gives me the best performance. There are a lot of online battles going one between both camps and there both apps have their (dis)advantages. For me, Parallels is the best way to go, because it has the most functions.

For most people it's a close race and they let the price decide. Both companies often hold special sales, so you should look for those kind of things.


VirtualBox is free so the downside to trying it is just your time. I did, and stayed with it. I primarily run XP but I did play with a couple of Linux flavors on it as well.

Its seamless mode works well, showing only the application's windows on your OS X desktop among whatever other OS X stuff is there. I point my few remaining Windows apps to shared folders on the OS X file system which means I don't have to backup the Windows VDisk very often; my data is safely included in my OS X backup scheme.


VirtualBox is free. I’ve used it with various Linux distro’s, but didn’t find it too stable. It crashed way too often.

Parallels is a good solution, but they force ads on you. I don’t like that. This solution is reputed to have the best performance.

Fusion is a good product, not free, but no ads. As a bonus, you get the VIX API for controlling virtual machines across the entire VMWare product line. For some, that’s very important.

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