If it hasn’t happened already, there will come a time when you’ll wish your computer was running a different operating system. Whether you’re a competent software developer or an average user desiring an application exclusive to an OS other than the one you have, there are plenty of valid reasons why you’d want to use another OS.
One of the best ways to do that is to use a virtual machine and as far as we’re concerned, the best virtual machine is Virtual Box. There are some others worth considering too, though. Read on to see why.
Assuming your machine touts the capabilities, intuitive software allows you to emulate your desired OS within a different OS, allowing you to run two operating systems alongside one another on a single machine. For instance, you could run the latest version of Apple’s MacOS Mojave on a Windows computer using a virtual machine. Below we’ve compiled our picks for the best virtual machine applications available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
VirtualBox is powerful, brimming with terrific features and, best of all, it’s free. It’s a lean piece of software requiring little more than a recent Intel or AMD processor that boasts seamless integration and switching capabilities within the host desktop. It’s also available on all major platforms, and features plain-text XML files for easy navigation. It remains coupled with special software packages designed to aid users with sharing folders and drives among guest and host operating systems.
The software functions nearly identically regardless of the host platform, and even offers 3D virtualization, multi-screen resolutions, and laudable hardware support, among other features. It’s not the quickest or most industrious when compared to similar offerings, but then again, you often get what you pay for.
VMware has been in the virtual machine game since 1998, and offers three different pieces of virtualization software: VMware Workstation Pro, VMware Fusion, and VMware Workstation Player.
The Workstation Pro package is ideal for professional users who desire a powerhouse virtual machine capable of simultaneously running applications on multiple guest operating systems. VMware’s Fusion, meanwhile, is a simpler application designed for home users who want to run Windows on their Mac machine and supports iMac displays. VMware Workstation Player, known until recently as VMware Player, is free for personal use, and caters to those looking to run virtual machines on their Windows or Linux systems–frequently used for training in alternate operating systems or a secure browsing portal.
None of the options are particularly simple to use, but the installation is quick, integration between operating systems is seamless, and the guest software runs at near-native speeds. Best of all, they remain the most stable and reliable options out there.
When it comes to delivering the Windows experience to Mac users, Parallels Desktop 14 is, well, unparalleled. The latest incarnation of the software is compatible with the most recent version of MacOS, allowing you to emulate Windows XP, 7, 8, and 10 as a guest operating system. You can also conveniently run Mac and Windows applications side by side without rebooting, while also providing tools for quickly moving files between operating systems, launching programs directly from your Mac dock, and accessing cloud storage.
The software features a simple setup wizard for beginners, as well as supports Retina displays and advanced 3D graphics. Parallels can also emulate the Linux and Solaris operating systems, but the tightest integration is when it’s coupled with the latest version of Windows. In addition to the basic version of the software, there’s also professional version with better integration, support and networking options, and a business version for enterprise-level management.
Gnome Boxes is a creation and management tool for virtualization that’s designed for Linux and can help you customize all kinds of virtualization tools, from specific workstation setups to enabling operating systems. The simple, elegant interface makes it easy to see what virtualization systems you have at any point, and how they are performing. If you’re looking for a user-friendly virtualization solution for Linux, give Gnome Boxes a shot: It plays especially well with QEMU and Virt Manager, which are ideal tools for more back-end work.
Apple’s Boot Camp isn’t a virtual machine in any sense of the word, but it’s worth a mention given people researching virtual machines are often curious about it. The software, which is included on all Macs, allows users to dual boot both MacOS and Windows. Instead of emulating an operating system, Boot Camp helps you set up a partition on the hard drive so you can install the Windows operating system of your choice. Since it’s running directly off the hard drive, running Windows via Boot Camp leads to a far better experience than any virtual machine offers.
However, your disk space will be split in half, and you’ll be unable to run the best Mac applications and Windows apps side by side considering the software requires disk partitioning. You’ll also need to restart your computer every time you want to switch operating systems.
It’s worth noting that, while Boot Camp itself is not a virtual machine, you can run your Boot Camp partition as a virtual machine with Parallels 14 (outlined above). This gives you quick access to Windows when you want it within MacOS, and full performance when you’ve got enough time to restart your computer and boot up Windows directly.