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VMware vs. VirtualBox Print
Tuesday, 01 January 2008 17:34

Updated review here >>> VMware vs. VirtualBox Part 2

 

Windows 2000 as Guest OS on VistaVMmare and VirtualBox are both virtual machine software suites for x86 and x64 computers. They allow you to run a "virtual" or guest operating system (OS) inside your main (host) OS. For example you could run Debian Linux as your main OS while running a complete version of Vista in a separate window on your desktop. Additionally, the guest system can comprise of different hardware. You could create three virtual hard drives and two optical drives on your virtual computer. Currently, the top three offerings in the virtual machine market are VMware, Virtual PC, and VirtualBox. I used to use Virtual PC, but felt it went downhill fast after Microsoft acquired the technology in 2003. At that point, I switched to VMware 5 and haven't looked back until today.

For some, virtual machines allow them to use their OS of choice while still allowing them access to applications that wouldn't be available otherwise. For instance, a Debian user could run a Windows XP guest system and use Intuit's Quickbooks. There are endless possibilities. I mainly use virtual machines as a test bed. As a software developer it allows me to test applications on other operating systems. I might be developing an application on Vista x64, but would like to know that it runs smoothly on Windows 2000. Additionally it allows me to test suspicious files (i.e. virus) without worrying of any ill effects it may have on my primary (host) machine. I'm certain others have more elaborate uses for virtual computing, but you have an idea of how I use a virtual machine.

Today I thought I would test VMware Workstation 6.0.2 (Oct. 19, 2007) against VirtualBox 1.5.4 (Dec 29, 2007) to see if either presented an advantage over the other for my typical use. My test system was an ASUStek P5N32-SLI Deluxe with an Intel Q6600, 8GB DDR2 RAM, and Raptor 150 hard drives. VMware and VirtualBox were both installed on my C: drive and their respective images and virtual files located on D:.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Installing WinXP}

First test was installing Windows XP SP2 Professional. To even things up I enabled audio and USB 2.0 support on VirtualBox as by default these are disabled. I switched VMware network adapter to NAT mode from its default of bridged network mode. VirtualBox can accomplished bridge network mode but you must do so manually after the instillation.

 

There was very little difference in the install times of each. Enabling IO APIC and VT-x/AMD-V in VirtualBox, however, more than doubled the install time. I didn't include the time, because I got tired of waiting. I will look into this more in the future.

After installation I installed VMware tools on VMware and Guest Additions on VirtualBox. These tools enable enhanced support and control of the virtual machines. For instance after the installation of the tools, you can move the mouse in and out of the virtual machine without it "capturing" the mouse. To release a captured mouse you have to press the software host-key (ctrl-alt in VMware and Right Ctrl on VirtualBox) to release to mouse back to the main OS. The installation of VMware tools also allows you to drag-and-drop files between your main system and the virtual system.

{mospagebreak_scroll title=VirtualBox Installed}


VirtualBox running Windows XP

 


VirtualBox Device Manager

{mospagebreak_scroll title=VMware Installed}

 


VMware running Windows XP

 


VMware Device Manager

{mospagebreak_scroll title=File Copying}

Next I performed some basic file coping. VMware seems to always be a good bit faster here. The results below were very similar for small files. For reference the same one gigabyte vob file from the network to my local C: drive takes about 17 seconds.

 

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Synthetic Benchmarks}

Booting and using Windows XP SP2 felt fast on both VMware and VirtualBox. Only when performing file transfers did I notice a difference between the two. Since both felt the same, I thought some synthetic tests might shed a little more light on things. I installed SiSoftware's Sandra on both systems.

 

 

 

 

 

{mospagebreak_scroll title=Conclusion / Comments}

VirtualBox looks really really promising especially considering it's free for non-commercial use, but the extra speed and finesse of VMware still gives it the upper hand in my book.

VMware has a single window interface. The multi-window approach of VirtualBox is better in some ways but I believe I prefer the single window of VMware. Sometimes I have more than one virtual system at a time and the single window helps keep my desktop cleaner.

VMware networking is easier. VirtualBox requires you to manual create a bridge network if you want to be on the same subnet as your host system. No big deal for the techie, but this can be a daunting task for some. To accomplish this in VirtualBox requires you to install a host adapter in VirtualBox, then bridge it with your real adapter in your host's network configuration.

VirtualBox installation felt better. What do you mean you may ask. Well, sometimes when I install software it just feels good, safe if you will. VMware fells a little messier, especially with it weighing in at 314 MB compared to VirtualBox at a mere 20 MB.

I like the way VirtualBox stores its files on your hard drive. It places the virtual hard drives in a folder called VDI where each single VDI file is one drive. It stores the virtual computer settings in an xml file in a folder with the name of your virtual machine. This would appear to be a better approach, especially if you were using the same virtual disk drive in multiple virtual machines.

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Comments (33)

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Very informative. Thanks.
Runfer , January 04, 2008
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Agreed, very informative. Thanks. I am really curious how MS Virtual PC now measures compared to the other two given the time since the last use. I've tried using VMware Player, which is supposed to be able to use Virtual PC vmc and vhc files, but this resulted in an error message. Perhaps because I'm comfortable with Virtual PC I've continued to use it. Stephen
StephenB , January 04, 2008
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What about CPU Utilization when both host and guest OSes are idle? That would help me make a choice. Thanks
Ravi , March 03, 2008
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This is pretty good comparison, but I think it would be more productive to compare apples to apples by putting the free VMware server up against VirtualBox. I am willing to bet that VMware has cut back on some of the performance stats on the free version to try to get people to buy the Workstation or ESX Server.

Also, VirtualBox has some other "enhancements" over VMware since VMware has no seamless mode (at least not in the free version) which I find very useful when running Windows apps on my Ubuntu box.

Good article though, I really liked the charts... pictures are always good...
Bryan , May 02, 2008
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Under "file system" graph: why is lower transfer speed described as being better?

Why no testing of both SCSI and ATA emulation?
Phil , May 08, 2008
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Article was informative but I am still not able to conclude which one is better option.
Gyanendra , September 02, 2008
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Can you test latest versions from virtualbox and vmware (from octobre 200smilies/cool.gif?
root , October 29, 2008
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just a note: Page 4, "VMware installed", the device manager image is wrong, it is the one from virtualbox.
None , December 10, 2008
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Nice article! Have you considered doing an updated one with the new version of Virtual box now that Host Interface Bridging is built in (at least in the Linux version)?
Techfun , December 23, 2008 | url
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FWIW, VirtualBox has always "felt" faster on my system & the latest version definitely IS faster than previous versions. I've been running my browser in a virtualbox machine for weeks (to keep the host machine clean) and it works like a charm.
David E Meade , January 01, 2009
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I haven't really even tried vmware for ages and not really thinking to change that situation for a while. And that's because VirtualBox is working so good. I dont know how those performance figures have been measured, but I couldn't say that file system performance on my system was ever slow on Virtual Box. For example Windows Server 2003 sp2 boots up in under 10 seconds when virtualized on my server. But then again it may be that there were no bottlenecks on the host system or perhaps the first version that I installed for my new server was 1.6.x. Nevertheless I have never measured it with any benchmarks because never had any speed issues. The server running virtual machines has Q9300 processor on Intel S3200SHV and 8 gigabytes of ram. Host operation system is 64 bit Ubuntu Server 8.04 that has been slimmed down a bit. Virtual machines are being served from SW raid-5 that has three 750 GB disks. Server is dedicated for virtualized quests and file sharing only.

Mainly I use Virtual Box for heavier programs like Eclipse and NetBeans etc when working on my laptop, because 2 gigs of ram and amd dualcore (and slow io to hd of course) aren't enough for any serious use. Laptop has Windows XP and I use Xming to use X forwarded applications from Linux quests that run on a server. This works as a charm and the applications actually work a lot faster compared to speed that they run on the laptop natively. And they integrate to the desktop seamlessy. Of course situation would be the same for any other virtualization system.

And if I want to use whole desktop from the virtualized machine I can connect to it via Windows' remote desktop, because Virtual Box's own WRDP interface. I'm not sure if other virtualization products have this kind of feature, but it is really helpfull as I can use same machine from any desktop that I have available. And when Remote desktop client is tweaked to send events between 4-10 ms instead of default 100ms, remote machine's UI response is in par with a local desktop. And of course I was almost able to make my friend shit bricks when I connected with windows remote desktop to an ubuntu installation smilies/smiley.gif
Pukki , January 11, 2009
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"VirtualBox looks really really promising especially considering it's free for non-commercial use"

Not true! There are two licences GPL and commercial. If using GPL you can use in any kind of commercial use. But this version has some lack of functionality. But if using commercial license then it can be use free of charge for one user using his/her's own computer. Read the license at www.virtualbox.org
grof , January 24, 2009
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As my Leadtek WalkieTV usb Box does not have 64 bits driver, so I try to use Virtual PC to solve problem. I tried vMware workstation 6.5.1; It was sucessfully installed to 32bit XP, but there was no video streaming - no picture at all - only sound.

Then I tried virtualbox today, everything works fine and normal. And, I find that the xp os starts faster than workstation, especially, to and from saved/paused mode.
JoJo , February 19, 2009
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About Leadtek WalkieTV ..... mentioned previously:

After some more trying, it is discovered in workstation 6.5.1 the problem comes from the setting of codec - mpeg-2 will not work in playing and capturing; mpeg-4 works.
JoJo , February 28, 2009
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vmware v6.5.2 for some reason kills permanently my hp deskjet 6980 network printer, the moment i install this crap app, and no efforts whatsoever succeeded in restoring the printer back to life. No such problem with VB.

Of course i have to admit that vmware v6.0.4 i think i previously tried on my older pc did not do anything of the sort, but this sort of thing just puts off so much, i'm probably back to VB now for good.
aleex , May 24, 2009
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I find that running virtual box on a system with alot of bottlenecks out performs running vmware.. 1.4 dual core 1meg ram smilies/smiley.gif virtual box crushes it for some odd reason.
chris , September 09, 2009
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To solve the bad filesystem performance in virtualbox just switch to SATA mode on the drives. IDE adds some really nasty overhead. The speed difference is like night and day. Also IO APIC should be turned off unless the guest OS isn't working without it. You have to turn this off before installation on some OSes.

The best part is that VirtualBox can use ALSA where in vmware you can hardly get any audio at all on a linux host smilies/smiley.gif Seamless mode is pretty nifty too
pun , October 20, 2009
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Just discovered:

Host: W7 x64 Guest: XP x86
In workstation 6.5.3 or 7 RC, when installing vmware tools without SVGA II driver, video problem (if any) may be solved.

smilies/cheesy.gif
Jo Jo , October 20, 2009
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Thought I'd share this. It was only today that I tried VirtualBox for the first time. Never really had the time to look into it, but finally decided to give it a shot.

Long story short, I loaded an XP64 Guest from VMWare 7 into VirtualBox 3.1.2. Using SiSoftware Sandra Professional Business 2009, I ran benchmark tests to compare the performance and was AMAZED to find that Virtual Box outperformed VMWare 7 in pretty much every test. I will be running more tests to confirm my findings with different guests, but the results thus far are definitive and I am excited to see the results of more extensive testing.

I encourage others to run their own tests and post their findings.
Ben , December 20, 2009
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Thought I'd share this.

Decided to try VirtualBox for the first time today. Long story short, I pulled in an XP64 Guest that I have been using on VmWare 7 into VirtualBox 3.1.2 and ran SiSoftware Sandra Professional Business 2009 benchmark tests to compare performance. I was AMAZED to find VirtualBox outperformed VMWare 7 in every test.

I will be running more extensive tests using other guests, but the results are definitive thus far. I encourage others to test themselves and post their findings.
Ben , December 20, 2009
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Personally, i think yre a little biased, because i dont believe that vmware can trump almost evrything in virtualbox, and i cant test it out myself since i aint got no cash to buy vmware. man well if iz better, i feel rather sad. man i pray that one day virtualbox gets better, If iz bad. someone get me a free copy of vmwaare if yall can, so i can test it out
ANNONYMUS , December 25, 2009
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ANONYMOUS: This is an old review. It doesn't now. If you look at the first page of the article there is an updated review of newer versions of both. VirtualBox out performs VMware in some areas now.
Grant Brown , December 25, 2009 | url
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There was one word for Sun's Virtual Box: i.e. "Excellent".

My suggestion is : 1st try your-self, then you decide which product is suitable for you.
Guddu Pandey , March 01, 2010 | url
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Hi VmWare is Good if your system has high end processor and Virtual box will run in Old Cpu's, like hmmm hmm hmm.....
smilies/cheesy.gifsmilies/cheesy.gifsmilies/cheesy.gifsmilies/cheesy.gif
Hari , March 12, 2010 | url
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I hit this article when i gave a try to use VMwae(workstation). I have been using VirtualBox about 2-3 years on linux host until now. my pc CPU quad9550 and 8G RAM nvidia98000GT

Virtualbox is fine as i expected, otherhand VMware has some stucking morment when i play movie on it. i never had such a experience with Virtuabox. I think Virtualbox is more good performance than Vmware at common use. Except To mounting phisical harddisk pertition as virtual OS drive. and it is very nifty feature of VMware that can drug & drop files form host PC to guest

i think i got these feeling because i have very enough RAM on host and guest. well, i can say whatever personal use or bussiness use, if you spend $140 for VMware(workstation) you better save money to upgrade your CPU or HDD (if you believe Virtualbox is slower than VMeare...)
no name user , March 17, 2010
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Does anybody know how to setup a network with virtual box or VMware with 2 physical machines and 4 or 5 different host on each machine? does all 10 hosts will be able to communicate just like a regular network on these 2 different physical machines? And if this is possible, how much memory will I need to allocate for each host and how much memory will I need for the physical machines? Is there any tutorial out there also that can guide me through or tech me the basics. Also which virtualisation will be better for my project, VMware or Virtualbox. I am planning to use Windows 7 64X, maybe later windows server 2008 x64 or X32, any suggestions will be welcomed.
Thanks everyone.
Thanks
madock , April 13, 2010
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i think i got these feeling because i have very enough RAM on host and guest. well, i can say whatever personal use or bussiness use, if you spend $140 for VMware(workstation) you better save money to upgrade your CPU or HDD (if you believe Virtualbox is slower than VMeare...)
Rockon , August 04, 2010 | url
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I have been using VirtualBox for last 2 years. From the time I used it for the first time, I became fan of it. It is just cool and easy. Thanks to Sun Micro for bringing such a great product and yet making it Free for non-commercial use.
Sunil , December 15, 2010
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Very informative! Thank you for this review.
Jan , January 04, 2011 | url
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The problem I have found with virtual box is you cant run VM's when you are not logged in. Everytime you log out, they shut down, unless I am missing something. This kind of defeats the purpose of using VM's, at least from a server standpoint. Plus try running headless, not that hard really, but should be just the click of a button, not write a batch, then write a script, then create a custom shortcut. Again not server worthy.

If you have the hardware, none of them touch Hyper V. I dont have the hardware to do any kind of testing, but I would like to see some testing in this regard.

I once had my gaming machine setup with Hyper V R2. With only 8gb RAM and dual core processor it would run 6 VMs smooth as silk.
Me , March 03, 2011
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It is time you review this article, VirtualBox (Oracle now) has really improved (Remote Desktop featues and all), and so is VMWare.

Remove outdated article please, or update.

Thanks
drax , April 11, 2012
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Hi,
very good comparaison test,
but I wonder which difference allow me to install and activate a software like Diagbox with Virtualbox, and deny activation process (error 0) with VMware or virtualPC (Windows XP mode) ?
migwell2 , May 21, 2012
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very informative...
i appreciate the detailed study done by author ....
rawl , October 22, 2014

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