Modern computers have so much processing power that it’s possible to run multiple emulations of a computer system on a single physical machine using virtual machine software programs.
The ability to emulate an entire computer system allows you to run different operating systems side by side, which is useful for testing purposes. You can also use virtual machine software programs to separate work from leisure or to test unknown software to determine whether it’s legitimate, just to give a few examples.
As complicated as virtualization may sound, modern virtual machine software programs make it increasingly accessible. Even if you’ve never created a virtual machine in your life, you can do so right now using any of the top 5 best virtual machine software programs listed below.
VMware Workstation is a commercial virtual machine software program that runs on 64-bit versions of Windows and Linux operating systems. Just like VirtualBox, it allows users to create virtual machines with their own operating system, including Windows, Linux, BSD, or MS-DOS.
VMware simplifies virtualization by offering many ready-made virtual machines that run on VMware Workstation, such as the Browser Appliance ready-to-use VMware virtual machine, which allows users to safely browse the web using a recent version of the Firefox web browser.
VMware Workstation can also securely connect to VMware vSphere, which is VMware’s cloud computing virtualization platform that provides a powerful, flexible, and secure foundation for business agility.
VMware also offers a virtual machine software program for macOS, VMware Fusion. With it, you can run operating systems such as Windows, Linux, NetWare, or Solaris on Intel-based Mac computers using a combination of paravirtualization, hardware virtualization and dynamic recompilation.
VMware Fusion makes it easy to test software designed for other operating systems on macOS, and it even includes a RESTful API to integrate with modern development tools like Docker, Vagrant, Ansible, Chef, and others.
VMware Fusion can also connect to VMware vSphere, VMware’s cloud computing virtualization platform, and transfer remote virtual machines for local execution.
VirtualBox is a free and open source virtual machine software program for Windows, Linux, macOS, Solaris, FreeBSD, and several other operating systems. It supports the virtualization of Windows, Linux, BSD, OS/2, Solaris, Haiku, and OSx86, and it can also virtualize Apple’s macOS in a limited manner.
VirtualBox was initially developed by Innotek and later sold to Sun Microsystems and, finally, Oracle. To preserve the GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) license of VirtualBox, Oracle provides support for USB 2.0 and 3.0 devices, Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), disk encryption, NVMe, and Preboot Execution Environment (PXE) as a separate extension pack, called VirtualBox Oracle VM VirtualBox extension pack.
Although VirtualBox doesn’t offer the same performance as the next virtual machine software program on this list, the fact that it’s free and open source makes it perfect for people who are new to virtualization and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars to accomplish something that can be done for free.
Parallels Desktop is a virtual machine software program for Mac computers with Intel processors and a popular alternative to VMware Fusion. Parallels can seamlessly integrate Mac and Windows applications side by side, and it even gives users the option to launch Windows applications right from the Dock.
Regardless of whether you run Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop or Internet Explorer, you can always expect a native-like level of performance and support for all your USB, Thunderbolt, and FireWire devices.
Parallels Desktop is very easy to set up, and it takes just a few minutes to get started. Included with this virtual machine software program are over 30 one-touch tools to simplify everyday tasks. Included among them are a hard drive cleaner that helps you keep your Mac clutter-free and running at max speed, a GIF maker that allows you to create and customize animated GIFs from videos, and a video converter capable of optimizing video files for iPad or iPhone.
QEMU is an extremely powerful virtual machine software program capable of performing hardware virtualization. In other words, it can emulate a processor to run a variety of guest operating systems at near-native speed. It can also run programs that were compiled for one architecture on another architecture, making it popular among tinkerers.
QEMU is free and open source, licensed under the second version of the GNU General Public License. Unlike other virtual machine software programs on this list, QEMU is far from user-friendly, and we don’t recommend it to people who are new to virtualization.