Virtualization is a very common way for businesses to save money on server hardware or for home users to run alternative operating systems on a single computer. One of the more popular programs is VirtualBox. It is free for home use and very good at what it does but it isn’t the only kid on the block. Today’s IT support post will explore seven alternative to VirtualBox just in case you feel like a change.
VirtualBox is where you create a virtual environment within a host machine using software. That software creates a shell that fools an operating system into thinking it is being installed and run on its own hardware. In business, this means you can run multiple applications using the same hardware to save time, money and space. At home it means you could experiment with Linux from within Windows or the other way round. There are lots of uses for virtualization software.
Here at Dave’s Computers, our IT support team uses virtualization to troubleshoot enterprise applications, run MacOS from within Windows, Windows from Linux and all combinations of the three. All from a single computer.
So here are those alternatives to VirtualBox.
VMware Workstation Pro
VMware Workstation Pro is an enterprise level application and is one of the most established names in virtualization. It costs money but is very stable and has multiple uses across IT from development, testing to making the most of a server. The system does take a lot of configuration, but once set up, is very reliable and stable. It can emulate mobile or tablets, allows for resource sharing and a range of other advanced features.
The program is expensive, but if you use virtualization a lot is worth the investment. It costs $249 for a license making it the most expensive alternative to VirtualBox in our list.
VMware Workstation Player
VMware Workstation Player is the sibling of Pro with a few limitations. It can only run three guests but works in much the same way as Pro. It can run multiple instances, manage multiple OS types, run restricted VMs, work with portable virtual machines and can utilize multiple processor types and environments.
While cheaper than Pro, VMware Workstation Player is still $150 for a license so it only worth the investment if you use virtualization a lot or provide lower level IT support. As an added benefit, if you just want to experiment with virtualization at home, there is a free non-commercial version you can download.
Parallels is a MacOS X version of VirtualBox designed specifically to run Windows within a Mac. It is a very accomplished program that works well within the Mac environment and offers a stable shell to run Windows. Parallels is straightforward to configure and is a very polished product. While not as feature-packed as VMware Workstation Pro, it is nowhere near as expensive either.
While limited to working only with Mac, if you play with Apple and want to code for Windows or just run a Windows instance, this is your best bet.
Windows Virtual PC
Windows Virtual PC is exactly what the title says it is. Virtualization software that runs on a Windows PC. Produced by Microsoft, this software runs only in Windows and will only support Windows guests. So no running Mac OS or Linux from this shell. The upside is that it is free and works seamlessly within Windows as it should.
If you have to support legacy Windows versions or want to run an insider program machine without interrupting production or live, this is a way to do it. Installation is simple and setting up is easy. Ideal for beginner or pro.
QEMU is a free, open source virtualization platform that is very powerful in its use. QEMU stands for Quick Emulator and it certainly lives up to its billing. It works with Linux, Mac OS X and Windows either as host or guest and is quite stable. Despite being open source, QEMU is still supported and developed and is very capable. It is simple to install and configure and just works.
The only caveat is that the supporting documentation isn’t the greatest. If you are already familiar with VM and how they work, you should be okay. If you’re a beginner, you may find yourself fumbling around for answers. Aside from that downside, the program works well, has a range of powerful features and is free and open source.
KVM is a VM platform that runs within Linux and is very good at what it does. KVM (Kernel-Based Virtual Machine) offers full virtualization features that can run other Linux distros, Windows or Hackintosh should you require it. It is probably the most popular VM platform after VirtualBox so is a very viable alternative.
KVM is another platform that isn’t ideal for beginners but if you work in IT support or have worked with virtualization programs before, should be a breeze to work with. Having been around for over a decade, the program is mature, has a massive community and lots of resources to help you manage issues and develop your skills.
XenServer is our final alternative to VirtualBox. It is another open source platform that lends itself well to running multiple OS on a single host. Once owned and run by Citrix, the program is now free for home use and has a premium version for more involved environments.
Based on the Xen Project hypervisor, this platform is very powerful and works with both Intel and AMD. There is quite a learning curve to master it but once you do, you can run virtual servers of any flavor. If you’re using it to provide IT support or in a commercial settings, it might be worth buying the premium version as it comes with Citrix support as part of the package.
So those are my seven alternatives to VirtualBox. Each has its strengths and weaknesses and each has potential in different situations. If you want to make the change, at least you now have several options regardless of the environment you want to use. Good luck with them!