Best Virtual Machine Software: Top 10 Alternatives (FREE VM Programs)

best virtual machinesNow It’s Easy To Build Virtual Machines Like A Pro…

There was a time when you could Google “virtual machine software,” and only VMware and Java would come up.

But those days are long gone, and now almost everyone has gotten into the virtualization business. Nowadays, VMs are even being used to mine cryptocurrency

And though VMware is my favorite, I wanted to be fair to VMinstall readers and all the vendors who have virtual machine products.

So I’m recommending anyone considering a career in virtualization, or businesses reviewing solutions for their new data center or private cloud, to test and evaluate more than just VMware products before deciding which is the best virtual machine for your future.

Pick Your Favorite Color!

Listed below are 10 flavors of VM software.

Five will install on a desktop and can run various operating systems seamlessly within the same pane of glass.

And then there are 5 more choices that are better suited for installing on server hardware. They all have their pluses and minuses. Does and don’ts. Lovers and haters. Choose one software, or two, or three, or all 10 alternatives.

Before we get started with our list of virtual machine software products for you to review, I’d like to recommend reading my new guide to the best virtual software training. This guide covers salary ranges, job skills, and online training options for beginners to learn how to set up, configure, and support virtual servers and desktops. There is even a free training for VirtualBox.

Best Virtual Machines That Run on a Desktop OS

best VM Software1. VMware Player is a FREEWARE for personal use software that will allow you to mount and run VMs directly from a Windows or Linux desktop. Though it cannot create new VMs from an ISO, it is still a powerful virtual machine software.

There is also a VMware Player Plus version with enhanced features, but it will require purchasing a license. Click Here To Download VMware Player

Best Virtual Machine Program2. Oracle VM VirtualBox is another cool FREE virtual machine software if you’re looking for an alternative to VMware Workstation. And it’s an excellent choice for beginners. Great for lab testing and running from the desktop, VirtualBox installs on Windows, OS X, Solaris, and Linux.

Unlike VM Player this FREEWARE allows the creation of new virtual machines from ISO or importing. And will run most 32 and 64bit operating systems as a VM. Click Here To Download VirtualBox (Oracle also has OVM which is not listed in my top ten)

Best Virtual Machine

3. VMware Workstation is a full-featured virtual machine software that requires licensing. This software is for advanced users who require running multiple systems. For example, it works well for developers needing database, web and application servers all in the same virtual space. It also allows saving projects and cloning.


VMware Workstation also interfaces with vSphere via an API and is fully supported by VMware. And with too many features to list, I can say from experience it’s a robust solution for running virtual machines on a desktop.


Try VMware Workstation 10 FREE for 30 days!


4. Parallels is a full-featured virtual machine software which began primarily to run a Windows virtual machine on VM SoftwareApple OS X. It was a great way to have both worlds and run Windows applications on a Mac.


Interestingly, you can run Windows on a Mac now a couple of different ways, but legally you are still not allowed to run OS X on anything except Mac hardware. Although some have proven, it is possible. Parallels require purchasing a license. Click Here to Seamlessly Run Windows from a Mac.

5. VMware Fusion requires obtaining a license too and is another way to run Windows on a Mac!


Parallels Desktop 12 for Mac
Parallels Software - CD-ROM
$79.99 $59.99

Best Virtual Machine Software Products That Run on Server Hardware

6. Parallels Virtuozzo Containers has been around for a while and from what I can find it is used most by hosting companies for providing Virtual Private Servers aka VPS.

But to be completely honest with you, I’ve never used it or worked anywhere Virtuozzo was deployed. I’m not even aware of any business use cases running Virtuozzo for private cloud. Although after reading about it for this post, I would agree it seems like a good choice for hosting companies. Click Here To Download a Free Trial

VMware Alternatives7. (Microsoft Hyper-V) Once upon a time there was Microsoft VirtualPC, then there was Microsoft VirtualServer, and now there’s Microsoft Hyper-V.

A couple of years ago I remembered going to a demo and watching Hyper-V crash, but since then a lot has changed. Hyper-V can now do many of the same things most enterprise virtualization software boast about. Live migration, HA, templates, and importing VMs from VMware and EC2 using SystemCenter VMM. The only real hang up is the lack of popularity with the Linux community

Hyper-V works best with Windows operating systems, and it powers Microsoft’s Azure Cloud. Click Here To Download Hyper-V.

Virtual Machine Software8. XenServer (XenSource) is popular open sources virtual machine software that was acquired by Citrix. But then Citrix made the mistake of trying too hard to make a profit from XenSource and lost many of their key supporters in the process. Since then Citrix has seen their error and has reopened the source code.

XenServer is available for FREE, but you can also buy the fully supported version as well. It’s a robust solution used in many enterprise environments for hosting servers and desktop operating systems. And linked to XenCenter it can do just about everything vSphere can such as live migration, HA and importing and exporting VMs to the cloud.

The critical need to know is Amazon’s EC2 Cloud uses a highly customized version of Xen. Click Here To Download XenServer.

Free Virtual Machine9. KVM (Kernel-Based Virtual Machine) is another of my favorites. I guess you can say it’s the second best choice. KVM is a full virtualization solution for Linux and is found already on most Linux Distros. It’s preferred by more Linux guru’s than VMware or XenServer, and it fits perfectly into OpenStack.

There are FREE or fully supported versions from RedHat, and it does all the cool stuff too. But like Hyper-V with Linux, KVM has limits with virtualizing Windows.

KVM’s popularity has been moving up on the list of virtual machine software’s due to its success with OpenStack. Marrying the 2 products together gives similar functionality as VMware vSphere, although there are some limitations with hosting Windows VMs, which are now taken care of by OpenStack’s ability to also support Hyper-V and ESXi. Click Here To Download KVM.

Best Virtual Machine10. VMware ESXi does it all and more. For large enterprise virtual server deployments of Windows or Linux, VMware ESXi is the best solution in my opinion.

I’ll tell you upfront it is not a cheap solution, but VMware does offer a FREE version of ESXi to get you hooked. And don’t expect too much from the FREE version because most of the valuable features rely on vCenter and shared storage integration, as well as licenses for HA, vMotion, DSR, and storage DRS.

Since the 90’s VMware has been evolving. It started as a clumsy little software that used to be installed on a Windows desktop. Then from there, it changed into GSX for Windows Servers. And then again it morphed into ESX which eliminated the need for Windows and booted to a Redhat kernel. And later in version 4, it became ESXi which now runs on a custom Linux kernel.

VMs on ESXi run Windows and Linux operating systems near flawlessly. It’s also a powerhouse for many sizeable virtual desktop deployments running on VMware View or Citrix XenDesktop. And more recently VMware was in the news because they will soon power Google’s Chrome virtual desktop cloud and provide access to Windows application. How cool is that!

VMware Engineers are well paid and in some datacenters, they run the show. Designing and building software defined datacenters consisting of best-of-brands servers, network and storage hardware. With dedication and online VMware training, you could become a vSphere expert and join in the fun.

A final highlight about ESXi is that it is used in the majority of private clouds. And more recently many public clouds have been offerings services that allow flexing private vSphere infrastructure directly to public vSphere infrastructure. Click Here To Download ESXi.

Free Virtual Machine Tutorial To Get You Started

Top 10 VM Software Alternatives (Try Them Out!)

As you can see, there are many options and features to choose from when considering the best virtual machine software that performs hardware virtualization. And aside from my obvious bias for VMware, here’s what you need to ask yourself:

  • Will it be for running on a desktop?
  • Will it be for running Windows on a Linux OS or OS X?
  • Will it be for testing and learning or production?
  • Will it be for hosting VPS or building a cloud?
  • Will it need to support HA, live migrations, and transition to the public cloud?
  • Will it be a virtual machine software for a desktop or a server?
  • Will it be for Windows or Linux, or Windows and Linux?
  • Will it be a free VM software?
  • Will it be a VMware alternative?

So whether you’re  running one instance of Windows on a Mac, or hosting hundreds of Windows or Linux VMs on Whitebox Servers in a data center, there’s an alternative for the best virtual machines for you.

Update! Done For You Virtual Machine

Over the last year, I’ve spent days testing and reviewing multiple virtual private server platforms for the best VPS option. If you don’t want to deal with installing software on a desktop or server, and you just want a VM to run your application now, then these 3 done for you virtual machine software solutions are guaranteed to work. Spin up a VM in the cloud on SSD storage for as little as $5 per month

More Related VM Topics:

Last update on 2018-01-17 at 02:48 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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