Comparing VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player

Guest Extensions

Both VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player provide guest extensions for Windows and Linux. These extensions include specially adapted drivers that better integrate the guest system into the virtual machine. In addition, the extensions provide advanced features such as drag and drop between guest and host.

In VirtualBox, you can find these extensions in the launched system under Devices | Insert Guest Additions CD image. If you select this item, the software mounts an ISO image with the drivers included and makes it available as a CD drive. VMware Workstation Player has a similar approach, but the package is called VMware Tools, and it is available in the menu under Virtual Machine.

With Player, the boot time increased from around 16 seconds to almost 30 seconds after installing the extensions – no comparable effect occurred in VirtualBox.

Virtual Systems

Bootable CDs or DVDs, as well as locally stored ISO images, are suitable for setting up a new virtual system in both applications. VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player also support booting via Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) on the local network. However, both candidates fail when booting from a USB drive.

You can add support for USB boot with the Plop Boot Manager [6], for which you will find a detailed description on YouTube [7].

As an alternative to manual configuration for a virtual machine, fully configured guest images are available for download at various sources on the web. Many of these preconfigured guest images are equipped with special features, such as Nextcloud, WordPress, or Joomla [8]. But you will also find plenty of classical systems [9].

Both applications support the Open Virtualization Format (OVF, OVA), an open format for packaging software in virtual images. To open a virtual machine, click on Open a Virtual Machine in Player; under VirtualBox, navigate to Import Appliance in the File menu. Only VirtualBox allows the export of installed virtual machines.

Data Exchange

Both programs offer a range of possibilities for exchanging data between the guest and host. Both use the network or CIFS/SMB, and shared directories are mounted accordingly in the host.

The transmission rate for VirtualBox was over 60MBps on average from the mapped directory to the host system – and more than 100MBps in the opposite direction. The transfer in Player ran a tad faster; I copied the file in both directions at over 100MBps in the test.

Another way of exchanging data is to connect to a USB drive. Both programs support the 1 to 3 defaults and allow devices to be mounted and unmounted during operation. With VirtualBox, an important detail should be taken into account, because otherwise the system will not detect any USB devices at all (see the box titled "USB in VirtualBox").

USB in VirtualBox

VirtualBox creates the vboxusers group, but it does not add any users to the group, which means you cannot access USB devices under the basic settings. Use the command in Listing 4 to add users to the group. Logging into the system again will activate the changes.

Listing 4

Adding Users to the vboxusers Group


The 2.5-inch removable drive from Western Digital used in the test has a capacity of 2TB and supports USB 3.0. Transfers to the host system can be done in both directions at about 30MBps. In Player, the measured speed was about 20MBps when transmitting in both directions. In the VirtualBox, the drive reads and writes at the same transfer rate, however, the rate was significantly behind the Player rate at 14MBps (see the box titled "Benchmark" and Table 1.)


The virtual machines used identical parameters for the tests: A CPU, 2GB of RAM and 30GB of disk space. To rule out the influence of activity on the network, such as the automatic download of updates, the network interfaces were disabled. The tests revealed a fairly balanced picture: Both programs performed at roughly the same speed. However, Player's launch time significantly increased after installing the guest extensions, which was not the case with VirtualBox.

Table 1

Comparing Values



VMware Workstation Player

Installation (operational and logged in)

11:41 min.

9:03 min.

Boot time until login (without extension*)

25 sec.

16 sec.

Boot time until login (with extension*)

18 sec.

27 sec.


11 sec.

17 sec.

Reading USB



Writing USB



Shared folder (reading)



Shared folder (writing)



* Extensions: VirtualBox guest extension/VMware tools

Both VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player support the use of a shared clipboard for the guest and the host, which makes it easy to copy text passages or URLs back and forth between the systems.

Player even goes a step further and allows the transfer of arbitrary data via copy and paste. You can also transfer data using drag and drop: Files of any type can easily be transferred from the guest to the host and back.

VirtualBox struggled with some significant clipboard issues: It only copied snippets of text from the clipboard but no files. When moving files from the guest to the host using drag and drop, a dialog opened with the options to unpack or link the file. The unpacking option had a tendency to crash the Dolphin file manager, but creating a link seemed to work.

Moving files from host to guest worked without any issues in the test.

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • Virtual Windows 8.1 on Linux

    For occasional Windows users, a virtual machine is the ideal solution. But will Windows 8.1 work in VirtualBox and VMware?

  • Virtualization Tools

    Running server systems in virtual environments is a popular approach, but the technology offers benefits to desktop users. In this article, we investigate some virtual desktop alternatives.

  • Virtualizing Windows 8

    How does the latest Windows work in a virtual machine? We tried out Windows 8 as a guest system in vMware Workstation and virtualBox on Linux.

  • VirtualBox Introduces New Features, Some Experimental

    The free virtualization product VirtualBox has released a new version 2.1 that not only supports 3D graphics, but the full VMDK and VHD formats from VMware and Microsoft.

  • phpVirtualBox

    Putting all virtualization tasks on a separate server saves significant resources on the client. phpVirtualBox makes it possible to create, configure, manage, and use remote VMs in a browser window.

comments powered by Disqus
Subscribe to our Linux Newsletters
Find Linux and Open Source Jobs
Subscribe to our ADMIN Newsletters

Support Our Work

Linux Magazine content is made possible with support from readers like you. Please consider contributing when you’ve found an article to be beneficial.

Learn More