Best Virtual Machine Software of 2021: Virtualization for Different OS

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The best virtual machine software allows you to run multiple operating system installations on the same computer or workstation.

Best virtualization software

Virtual machines have become an important part of IT, especially for businesses and especially for cloud computing. However, virtualization is also available for home users.

For personal use, virtualization allows users to run different operating systems on their home PCs, like running Windows on a Mac or running Linux on a Windows PC – and vice versa.

One of the main advantages of running a virtual machine is that it allows you to run applications that would not be available otherwise due to very different system requirements, which is one of the reasons for why virtualization has become so important in businesses.

Another, surprisingly, concerns security concerns, as malware cannot function properly in a virtualized environment and will often shut down if it detects that it is part of it.

All in all, virtualization has become a powerful tool in computing and computing, and here we will present the best of virtual machine software.

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(Image credit: VMware)

1. VMware desktop drive

20 years of development show through

Reasons to buy

+Free for personal use+Supports GPU virtualization+Windows, Mac and Linux

VMware offers a very comprehensive selection of virtualization products, with Fusion for Apple Mac and Workstation Player for PC.

Despite the name difference, these two products effectively offer the same solution, although suitable for each host operating system.

For the Mac, this includes a neat “Unity Mode” that allows Mac OS to launch Windows applications from the Dock and make them appear as if they are part of the host operating system.

Workstation, as the version numbering suggests, is a more mature product and offers one of the most sophisticated VM implementations ever seen.

Being one of the few hosts to support DirectX 10 and OpenGL 3.3, it allows CAD and other GPU-accelerated applications to run under virtualization.

Workstation Player for Windows or Linux is free for personal use, although Pro is required for business users and those who want to run restricted virtual machines created using Pro or Fusion Pro.

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(Image credit: VirtualBox)

2. VirtualBox

Not all good things cost money

Reasons to buy

+Release+Windows, Mac and Linux+100,000 registered users

Not sure which operating systems you are likely to be using? Then VirtualBox is a good choice because it supports a surprisingly wide selection of host and client combinations.

Windows from XP, any Linux level 2.4 or higher, Windows NT, Server 2003, Solaris, OpenSolaris and even OpenBSD Unix. There are even people who nostalgically run Windows 3.x or even IBM OS / 2 on their modern systems,

It also works on Apple Mac and for Apple users it can host Mac VM client session.

Oracle has been kind enough to support VirtualBox and provide a wide selection of prebuilt development virtual machines for free download and use.

And, all of this is free; even the Enterprise version.

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(Image credit: Parallèles)

3. Parallels Desktop

The best Apple Mac virtuality

Reasons to buy

+Integration with macOS+Affordable+Much better than Boot Camp

Reasons to avoid

Mac host only

Boot Camp is Apple’s free tool for running a virtual session in macOS, but those who need to do so regularly use Parallels, now owned by software giant Corel.

This allows them to run Windows seamlessly with their native operating system, for those tough times when they need software that only works on that platform.

Some of the fancy things Parallels can do are bring up Windows Alerts in the Mac Notification Center and operate a unified clipboard.

Most Mac users consider Parallels to be a tool exclusively for using Windows, but it can be used to host a wide variety of Linux distributions, Chrome OS (which the best Chromebooks run), and even other versions ( and older) of Mac OS.

The lowest rung is the basic edition. Above that is a Pro edition which can address more memory and supports development environments such as Microsoft Visual Studio. And a Business edition that includes centralized license management tools for IT professionals.

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(Image credit: QEMU)

4. UEMOA

A virtual hardware emulator

Reasons to buy

+Release+Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

Command line installation

QEMU’s website isn’t very sophisticated, but don’t let that put you off.

Where this product differs slightly from other VM solutions is that it is both a VM host and a machine emulator. With the x86 PC, QEMU can emulate PowerPC, MIPS64, ARM, SPARC (32 and 64), MicroBlaze, ETRAX CRIS, SH4 and RISC-V, among others.

It manages to do this without administrator privileges, and the performance of virtual machines running on it is close to that of native installations.

What QEMU lacks are sophisticated interface tools, relying instead on CLI entries to install and configure VM clients.

Right now, it can only host on Linux as well, although it can run a wide range of operating systems under it.

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(Image credit: Citrix)

5. Citrix hypervisor

A highly scalable solution from Citrix

Reasons to buy

+Free (if you like the basic)+Bare installations

Reasons to avoid

Limited support for third-party operating systems

Oddly enough, Citrix Hypervisor started life as an open source project, and to this day it remains free to download and install. Or rather, the basic version is free, but the advanced features are limited to the paid versions.

Paying customers benefit from sophisticated management tools, the ability to automate and distribute live environments at will. It also has GPU pass-through and virtualized GPU capabilities, allowing it to offer virtualized CAD for example.

The other goal of XenServer is to create virtual data centers that can handle both planned and unplanned outages so smoothly, and maintain the high levels of availability expected by businesses.

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(Image credit: Project Xen)

6. Xen project

Reasons to buy

+Free and open source+Advanced virtualization+Works with hyperscale clouds

Xen Project is a free and open source virtual machine monitor (VMM) intended to serve as a Type 1 hypervisor for multiple operating systems using the same hardware. Originally developed by the University of Cambridge, the staff who created it turned it into a company which was later acquired by Citrix. The Xen Project is now working with the Linux Foundation to promote open source applications.

It is particularly used for advanced virtualization, especially for servers, in commercial and open source environments. This includes, but is not limited to, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) applications, desktop virtualization, and security virtualization. Xen Project software is even used in automotive and aircraft systems.

The service is particularly applicable to hyperscale clouds and can easily be used with AWS, Azure, Rackspace, IBM Softlayer, and Oracle. The emphasis is on security by using as small a code base as possible, which makes it not only secure but particularly flexible.

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(Image credit: Microsoft)

7. Microsoft Hyper-V

Microsoft’s core hypervisor

Reasons to buy

+On Windows 10 and Windows Server+Release

Reasons to avoid

Linux support is limited

Code name originally Viridian, then Windows Server Virtualization, it was renamed Hyper-V Server when it was first released in late 2008.

Nowadays, it is part of Windows 10 Pro and Windows Server (2012 and 2016) at no additional cost to the user.

However, what you get for free is a very basic hypervisor that cannot do the smart things VMware offers.

Guest operating system support includes Windows Server, Windows XP SP3 or later, Linux with kernel 3.4 or later, and FreeBSD. Although driver support for Linux is not great and there is no virtual GPU support.

Hyper-V allows relatively inexperienced users to create a virtual server environment, but don’t expect miracles.


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