How you can run Windows on your Mac: Virtualbox vs VMware vs Parallels Comparison

With today’s more advanced computer technology, you could run Windows on your Mac’s OS X. A virtual machine helps you run Windows on your Mac computer with a lot of ease, without disrupting your Mac’s normal setup. Sometimes, there could be some apps that are available on Windows but absent on your Mac OS X. Or, you could find using Windows easier than using OS X. You could resolve this small problem by using a virtual machine. And for you to use a virtual machine on your Mac’s OS X so that you can run Windows on it, you will need one of the following computer apps or virtualization software: Virtual Box, VMware or Parallels. Each of these virtualization software have its own strengths and weaknesses, and what it’s best used for. All you need to do if you want to use Windows on your Mac desktop is to install a virtual machine from one of the software mentioned herein, and then choose Windows as your operating system. These software lets you use Windows on your Mac without rebooting it.

You could as well use Boot Camp to run Windows on your Mac desktop. Boot Camp, however, needs you to reboot your computer before you can begin using it, thus, it’s less convenient. But, we’re not going into deeper details about the Boot Camp. It’s just an honorable mention of another option that you have when you want to run Windows on your Mac desktop. So, what’s an overview of the three software which you could use to create a virtual machine on your Mac computer?

Virtual Box

Virtual Box is one of the software that will allow you create a virtual machine on your Mac computer and run Windows on it. It’s, however, the most complex of the three software, but not too complex for you to handle. It comes with all sorts of customization options for your virtual machine, but doesn’t have fancy integration features like VMware and Parallels do. Basically, that’s what it does. You could get a free version of this virtualization software!

VMware Fusion

VMware Fusion is another option that you have when you want to create a virtual machine on your Mac computer. It provides you as a user with tons of options of tweaking your virtual machine as it guides you through the initial setup process. It basically walks the line between Virtual Box and Parallels. You could get full features of this virtualization software at $79.99, for unlimited number of Macs.


Parallels is very similar to VMware Fusion in that they both guide you through the installation process, only that this software guides you more. It focuses on home users who are looking to use Windows on their Mac computers easily without any hassle or rebooting their Macs or getting a new computer. For $79.99, you could get this software for only one Mac computer.

What are the main differences between these three virtualization software?

For you to note the key differences between these three major virtualization software, let us look at the following points:

Ease of setup

Let’s start off with Virtual Box software. Setting up a virtual machine using this software isn’t a complex task. You will start by creating a virtual machine, and then customize the virtual machine according to your own preference. Once you have created the virtual machine, you will select the operating system such as Windows, which you want to run on your Mac computer. You will then tweak or customize the virtual machine. While customizing the virtual machine, you will select how many processor cores the virtual machine will have; how much ram and graphics card ram the virtual machine will have from your Mac’s system.

After you have selected the Windows and you have tweaked it, you will then install the Windows as you normally would in other computers. This means that you will need an installation disc; USB drive; or an ISO file from which you’ll install the windows. That’s it!

Both VMware Fusion and Parallels are similar since they walk you through the installation setup, thanks to their wizard setup. They go an extra mile to let you import your Boot Camp partition from your Mac computer only if you have one; or you could import your old Windows PC into your Mac as well. With Parallels, you can automatically optimize it for productivity or while gaming! Also, if you prefer installing Windows from scratch, it’s very possible when you’re using Parallels. Installing and setting up virtual machines using these software is simple, only that Parallels is the simplest since it guides you every step of the way, thus it’s the most user friendly.

Features of these software

All these software have windowed mode support, which lets you run each Windows app in its own window, on your Mac computer. This feature makes the windows apps you’re running on your Mac look like some of your Mac’s native applications! Virtual Box calls this feature the Seamless mode; VMware Fusion calls it Unity; while the Parallels calls it Coherence. When you’re using this windowed mode feature, you will be able to copy and paste data between your Mac’s native apps and your Windows apps. You will also be able to move, resize and close down apps without shutting down your windows! How convenient is that?

Another key feature to note is how these software lets you open windows programs right from the Dock. Both Parallels and VMware lets you open windows programs direct from Dock, while the Virtual Box doesn’t. Instead, it needs you to open up the whole virtual machine if you want to open a particular windows program. Furthermore, Parallels and VMware support DirectX 10 and gives you access to Cortana to issue voice commands, if you’re running Windows 10. You will therefore, be able to run most games though you might not have an excellent game performance. On the other hand, Virtual Box doesn’t support these features which the Parallels and the VMware support. It merely lets you run your Windows on your Mac computer as a whole.

Even though Parallels and VMware are similar, they have some subtle differences. For example, Parallels do support OS X’s Quick Look feature when you’re running Windows, while VMware doesn’t support this feature. Also, VMware do natively support 5K monitors of fancy iMacs. The differences aren’t much but they’re worth mentioning.

Their Performance and their Benchmarks

Virtual machines always share resources such as processor, ram and graphics chip ram with your Mac computer system. As such, looking at their individual performance is very important. They preform differently, making them suitable for different tasks.

In 11 out of 18 different performance tests, VMware outperforms both Parallels and Virtual Box. However, the performance margin is small, meaning all these virtualization software perform greatly. VMware software performs better in graphics related tests than Parallels and Virtual Box, while Parallels perform better in CPU or processor related tests than the other two apps. This makes these two paid software (VMware and Parallels) suitable for the tasks that correspond with their tested fields. In both graphics related and CPU related tests, Virtual Box took the last position, which is number three in this case.

Also, Parallels boot faster, transfers files faster, and saves battery better than VMware and Virtual Box. VMware on the other hand, performs better in 3D graphics and gaming than Parallels and Virtual Box. In CPU and graphics related tests, Virtual Box came in at position 3.

Having these differences in mind, you know which option to choose when you want to do what task. If you need Windows on your Mac computer to run an application which doesn’t need a ton of 3D graphics or processor, then Virtual Box is your best chance. But if you want to run a Windows apps that uses a lot of CPU or graphics, then you could choose Parallels or VMware respectively.

Both Parallels and VMware tend to be similar since they walk you through their installation processes, and they also perform better than Virtual Box. You will get the value of your money if you decide to choose either Parallels or the VMware. Their major difference comes from their prices and the number of Macs that you could install them on. So, if you need to install a virtualization software that could run Windows applications that demand more graphics, and also you want to install it in more than one Mac computer, then VMware is your number one software. But if you need a virtualization software that processes fast or run windows app that need more CPU output, then Parallels is the software to look for. However, you will install Parallels in only one Mac computer or desktop.

Parallels and VMware fusion software are paid or licensed software while Virtual Box are free software. And since they’re paid software, they always come with yearly upgrades which will need you to upgrade your software for you to get newer features that come with the annual upgrades. The yearly upgrades could be costly and tiring to you as a user or subscriber. If newer Windows version don’t come out, you could use your previous software version to run your Windows on your Mac desktop or computer.

But the good news is, both Parallels and VMware normally have trial periods that you could take full advantage of. You could try them out and see which software is best for which task before spending your hard-earned cash licensing a particular virtualization software. If your need is very limited, you could start with the Virtual Box before you can consider VMware or the Parallels software.

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