Comparing VirtualBox and VMware Workstation Player


Virtual machines often provide various features for the desktop to make the handling of the guest system as pleasant as possible. These features include, for example, adjusting the size of the virtual desktops to the surrounding window: If you change the size of the window, content proportionally changes. This technique works easily with both programs (Figure 5) but requires the installation of guest extensions.

Figure 5: In Automatically adjust the guest display mode, the desktops of the guest systems comply with the size of the surrounding window. Player is in the foreground; VirtualBox is behind.

VirtualBox had several setbacks in full-screen mode: A small menubar appeared at the bottom of the screen in the guest, but it was not operational. The change between the scaled and full-screen mode led to strange and difficult-to-reproduce effects. Sometimes, everything seemed to be working smoothly; other times, the application minimized the screen to the size of the program window, and the host desktop occasionally froze.

Full-screen mode, as well as the switch to the window view, worked better in Player. The Help menu was also easy to use.

VirtualBox offers a seamless mode, in which the software displays a guest-launched application as a window on the host desktop and the virtualization application displays the guest start menu to run other programs. In our case, this seamless mode didn't work. On one occasion, the software partially displayed the Windows menu in the file explorer; another time the virtual machine crashed. Seamless mode is not available in VMware Workstation Player, although you could get something similar if you upgrade to a commercial-grade VMware version.

Additional VirtualBox Features

VirtualBox has several other features that are not available in the free version of VMware Workstation Player, although some of these features are available the commericial VMware Workstation.

VirtualBox allows the encryption of a virtual machine with AES128 or AES256. The encryption takes about two minutes for a 30GB virtual drive. However, the negative impact proved to be considerable: Adding encryption increased the boot time from 16 to over 45 seconds, and the system ran significantly slower than before.

VirtualBox also lets you create a system snapshot, which you can later restore (Figure 6). A snapshot allows for the safe testing of new software – one click is enough to restore the original state. The restoration only succeeds in the switched-off state.

Figure 6: VirtualBox allows you to create snapshots that will help you restore a virtual system to a safe state.

VirtualBox has a built-in recording function for documenting processes. You can enable recording under View | Video Capture. In the default setting, the software saves videos in WebM format in the directory of the running virtual machine.


Looking for a simple-to-use and robust virtualization tool? You certainly can't go wrong with the VMware Workstation Player. The program may have relatively few options, but it is easy to configure, stable, and well designed. If you need the broader range of functions associated with VirtualBox, you can access the VMware Workstation commercial version, which costs around $250 (EUR200).

VirtualBox displayed a wider range of additional functions, but it seemed to have more problems. The previously well-functioning seamless mode was practically impossible to use, the encryption of the virtual machine reduced its pace considerably, and drag and drop from the guest to the host only partially worked. On the other hand, snapshots support and powerful tools for the command line speak in favor of using VirtualBox.

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