5 reasons why you should use VirtualBox, instead of VirtualPC or VMware

VirtualBoxThis is the first time, I did something “significantly” useful with Linux, blogging. I had many past experience installing Ubuntu and many times I find myself either lost with all the UNIX/Linux commands or there are nothing much I can do as most of my files are on Windows XP.

Now I’m happy to say that, I’m starting to love Ubuntu, especially their font rendering engine. Have to agree with my friend – the font rendering in Ubuntu is much better.

So, the reason why I went back to Ubuntu again, is because I found the right virtual machine software, VirtualBox, that overcome all the limitations I face previously with VirtualPC and VMWare.

The 5 main reasons why you should use VirtualBox:

  1. Mouse Integration – Nothing can beat the feeling of not having to search for your mouse when you switch OS and the cursor moving at different speeds.
  2. Share Folder – There might be third-party software out there, but this feature comes with VirtualBox. Simple installation and your Windows files are available on Linux. Nothing change except the OS. 😉
  3. Super lightweight – Self-explaination. The smallest VM I ever seen.
  4. Free as in free beer – According to Andrew Min, VMware has free version but it’s slower compared to it’s professional edition. Thus, the VirtualBox takes the crown. (Needless to say, VirtualPC ain’t free, my mistake. it’s free)
  5. Easy and Fast – It takes me less than 30 mins to download, install and setup everything.

If you are still considering switching, maybe you should give this VM a try. I felt VirtualBox has everything to overcome the limitations of having multiple OSes. (I love the Linux font rendering engine, it makes blogging much better, do give it a try)

Update: This is merely my experience and my opinion after using both VMware and VirtualBox. Nonetheless, I acknowledge the lack of technical comparison here. So feel free to give it a try and do your own comparisons. Cheers.

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62 thoughts on “5 reasons why you should use VirtualBox, instead of VirtualPC or VMware”

  1. Errr,

    You do know that vmware has mouse integration right? You do know that vmware has shared folders right? You do know that vmware is free right? (player and server). You do know that vmware is easy and fast right? You do know that vmware supports ubuntu LTS (virtualbox doesn’t – see their website), etc, etc.

    I also can’t find the link to why I should virtualbox instead of vmware – could you highlight that please as all you’ve done is list what all of them can do and given zero reasons to use one over the other.

  2. Hi, maybe you are right, there might be such features available and I didn’t mentioned that there aren’t.

    However, one thing for sure, it’s not obvious enough. For VirtualBox, I need not require to read the tutorial and I can figure it out within a few minutes and the mouse integration is automatic set on. Also, according to Andrew Min, the vmware (free version) is slower as well.

    Lastly, what I’ve state above is my experience in setting up ubuntu using VMWare, VirtualBox and VirtualPC and I find it more hassle-free and intuitive as compared to others. Perhaps, if you are more interested in the technical aspect, I’m sorry that I couldn’t satisfy your hunger in that.

    Anyway, it’s free to give it a try. As a long-time Windows user, I find VirtualBox give me the least resistance in setting up Ubuntu Linux. 🙂

  3. Why are you using a virtual machine to run Ubuntu, though? You don’t get any of the performance boost features, the opengl support needed for compiz/beryl, or the faster boot times… Why not go for a standard install? If the problem is burning the CD or repartitioning your harddrive, try out Wubi at http://wubi-installer.org/ it has all the features of a standard Ubuntu install (only it installs to a file, rather than an actual partition, though that’s transparent to the user), it’s open-source, and doesn’t need a CD or harddrive repartitioning…

  4. Virtual PC “IS” free and so is Virtual Server. What they are not is open source. But free they indeed are….

    Microsoft provides both free of charge I would imagine that this is because these are used as testing grounds for the versions built into longhorn server or Vista Enterprise.


  5. Chicagrafo,

    Your reasons are too logical. Don’t interrupt the VB fanboyism going on here – light on actual facts but heavy on rah rah sisboom bah.

    Maybe he has a point that VB is a good beginner’s VM if you don’t need the power and configurability of VMWare or Virtual Server. But he should have said that instead of making a brain-dead post like that.

  6. VMware is years ahead of any other virtualization technology, period. The 5 “reasons” above are not legit reasons. By all means, try VirtualBox – but do your own comparisons.

  7. I agree with Lee. try it yourself. This post especially number 4 is not accurate. This is fanboism. Number 4 is only true if you compare VPC. Vmware run at roughly 80-90 percent of native speed in a VM. There are a bunch of benchmarks on the net to support this.

    As far as easy of use VMware server has a pretty decent wizard setup. Dont’t get me wrong I enjoy VB and I use it often but I prefer VMware for more advanced setups (like 64bit and USB and firewire support for my devices)

  8. @James: Um, I can’t find anywhere where they say that their features aren’t available in other VMs, can you show a link that states that?

    I posted this on Digg, reposting it here:

    Since all of the comparisons above seem to be “Nyeh, VMWare is better since VMWare qualifies to the items in that list.” So, here’s a 5 item list that compares the two (albiet in VirtualBox’s favor)

    1) The free version of VirtualBox supports bridging of USB devices. Even more than that, you can use RDP to connect to VirtualBox and bridge USB devices connected to your remote computer, limiting it not just to the host machine.
    2) VirtualBox is a single piece of software that can not only create virtual machines but run them, it does not rely on a client server model (or creating them in a different piece of software so you can use it with the VMWare player)
    3) VMWare replaces any ring-0 code so that it will execute properly in ring-3 (usermode). VirtualBox instead tricks ring-0 instructions into running in ring-1 (generally unused) which provides a speed increase since most of the operating system does not have to be rewritten. If an instruction fails running in ring-1, VirtualBox falls back onto the traditional way of doing it (rewriting the instructions)
    4) This feature of running the guest OS at near native speeds includes workloads that require quite a bit of disk/network IO (a situation in which VMWare Server suffers a significant performance lost)
    5) Most importantly: Most of the code is GPLv3!

    Since I know it will come up: Yes, VirtualBox does not support SMP, but… neither does VMWare Player so, there’s not much reason to argue it.

  9. Can we get a credit rating system for the use of the term “fanboy” please. “I like daffodils. I prefer them to pansies, because I like my experience daffodils” “Oooh you are such a daffodil fanboy!.” -2 credit. Common, don’t expect to read a blog post without a matter of opinion.

    mickeyckm, thanks for checking it out and sharing your experience dude.

  10. Some points that are missing from comments and the original post:

    VirtualPC only runs on Windows
    VMWare has a free player that is extremly limited – VMWare server is quite robust, but is the OS (you install it first, then your guest OSes).

    Virtual Box seems to fit into a sweet spot based on features, capabilities, and TCO.

  11. L124RD-

    Your first point is not specific to VirtualBox, you can ‘bridge’ several local devices via RDP. We do it all the time with VMware VDI sessions.


    VMware ESX Server is what you describe, and it is very powerful; it offers great guest to physical CPU ratios. However, VMware’s Workstation and Server products (available for both Winnows and Linux) are very similar to VB. VMware server has a less robust feature set, but is quite free.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have been looking at VirtualBox, and I am very interested in downloading it and playing with it. I think it will be a good tool to have around for testing/playing and using at home.


  12. Some of you who speak on behalf of VMWare are wrong:

    SInce you are all referring to the free version of VMWare, i.e. VMWare Server, here are some corrections:
    1. Shared files are not a feature of VMWare Server. It’s available only in the paid version, i.e. Workstation
    2. Mouse support is a problem in VMWare. Yes, you can install VMWare tools, but it doesn’t work all the time. It works on my Ubuntu VM, but not on my Gentoo VM, Slackware VM, Xubuntu VM. Too many problems. But it works perfectly on my Win98, WinXP VMs.


  13. @Tim
    I’m sure there are several solutions that do it, I was unaware that it was supported with VMWare so, thank you for your comment. The list was mainly intended as a comparison between the free versions of VMWare and VirtualBox but, point taken.

  14. Another thing i like with Virtualbox, and I’m not sure if anyone else has mentioned this already is that it’s cross platform. I know you can get VMWare for both windows and Linux but I prefer to use OSS and Virtualbox fits the bill great. Easily setup in both Ubuntu and Windows and I can share the VM’s between the OS’s provided they are stored on a disk/partition that both can access!

  15. MagicLantern – You are incorrect. VMWare ESX server [1] is an OS based product (i.e. it provides the host OS). VMWare Server [2] is a application that installs on an existing host OS (Windows or Linux).

    As to the original article, the free VMWare products are no slower than their $$$ products. I regularly use all of their products (VMWare ESX server, VMWare server, and VMWare Workstation). They are just as fast. As far as ease of use VMWare is **significantly** easier to install and setup than VirtualBox.

    Never used VPC, so I can’t comment on that.

    [1] http://vmware.com/products/vi/esx/
    [2] http://vmware.com/products/server/

  16. Until it VirtualBox works on Vista/x64 as host, I’m stuck with Virtual Server 2005 R2

  17. Also, virtual box will not run as a service, so every time your PC reboots, you have to log in and restart your VMs. Not necessarily good if you’re running a server.

  18. VirtualBox is free for personal use only. That’s a big no-no under many circumstances including mine. VMWare Player is free for both personal and commercial use. You can find free 3rd party tools for pretty much all the features Player is missing from the Workstation version. Virtual PC is a joke in terms of speed compared to VMWare so it’s out of question to begin with.

  19. I am running Ubuntu FF, and have installed VirtualBox and VMserver.

    Both are free.

    I haven’t run any benchmarks, but I can’t see a significant speed edge with Vbox.

    VirtualBox is a pain to add network, and USB, on Ubuntu.

    VMserver automatically sets up network and USB…network works perfectly with absolutely no user input needed…USB devices are selectable on the fly within the VMserver while running.

    VirtualBox only allows set screen resolutions…set via normal windows menus. (gives you the choice after mounting the virtual drive with the vbox drivers)

    VMserver (after you install the VMtools) lets you resize the Windows desktop by dragging the VMserver window…so you have an unlimited number of screen sizes available…like 250×2500 or whatever your kink is…mine is 1623×923…to remain a window…or I could full screen it.

    It is possible Virtualbox is faster…

  20. Sorry…I am using “VMware Server”…that is free…don’t want to confuse anyone.

  21. I did used VW Workstation 5.x before.

    After I tried VirtualBox 1.4 myself. Honestly, I am supprised with it’s speed and stability compare to VW. It’s really built with a true German engine.

    I don’t care about Bench Marks, only personal feeling tells you the truth.

  22. BTW, USB, and Network support is also good. Supports up to 4 Virtual Network Interface.

    You can even use NAT, and transparently using the host network connection.

  23. I have been advising and training programmers for three years on cross-platform coding with the use of virtual machines an absolute essential. VirtualBox is a great piece of software and I’m afraid my clients all agree that it runs quicker than VMware server in almost every aspect. As far as we can tell this is due to the small resource footprint of the program compared with VMware server.
    However, using shared client-host folders on VirtualBox is a nightmare. We’ve had consistent problems with losing settings allegedly even farting to close to the computer can crash this link. Also, to take full advantage of your guest O/S you have to install Guest Additions. These extra functions are great if you can get them to install on a Linux host.
    If you have a separate computer that can be used as a VMware Server (check the name guys) then this is a better option for professional use due to the networking and automation tools. If you are running a laptop or a single desktop and use VM’s for checking out new O/S’s or educational purposes then VirtualBox is the boy, even if it’s just for the easy interface and extra speed.
    Lets just get it straight that VMware can be faster due to guest kernel integration enhancements in ESX Server and Workstation, and with some little extras too….. but why else would you pay for them?
    (Don’t get me started on VPC, Microsoft obviously thinks Windows is the only operating system you might want to run as a virtual machine).

  24. I know it isn’t the main point of your article but I, too, prefer the font rendering engine in Ubuntu. People talk about eye candy and other features in an OS but when you spend long hours looking at your computer screen one of the most significant features is how easy the text you read is on your eyes. The first thing I noticed when I switched from Windows to Ubuntu was the font rendering.

  25. Get rid of the Snap Shots software. It will not go away, and it’s completely useless. If I want to see a website, I just *gasp* click the link! I know, it’s a foreign concept to some people.

  26. How would one go about importing a virtual machine, which was created with VMWare Server, into Virtualbox? This is the only thing that is keeping me from ditching VMWare for VirtualBox, because I am rather impressed by it.

  27. VMWare, even VMWare Player, has more features than VirtualPC or VirtualBox.

    The big one for me is the ability to use real/dedicated hard-disk; this is a must for dual-booters. (e.g. I can run on linux install from windows and windows from linux).

    1. Mouse Integration
    VMWare & VirtualBox have drivers for many OS’s
    VirtualPC seems to only work with Windows (i.e. useless)

    2. Share Folder
    VMware has this feature, works as a Samba share inside *nix.
    VMWare has the broadest support for integration drivers; Windows, Linux, Netware, etc…
    VirtualPC has the worst… just Windows.

    3. Super Lightweight
    VirtualBox is the smallest, but it is also lacking in feature and capability… this isn’t a + for most people and all 3 are pretty small if you compare against VMware player.

    4. Free as in beer
    All 3 have free versions

    5. Easy and fast
    All 3 are pretty easy to set something up with.
    VMWare has a performance edge on the other 2.

    The thing really unique about VirtualBox is that it’s open source… it significantly trails VMWare Player in features, nevermind VMWare workstation.

  28. Well, I’ve been using VirtualPC for a while, and while I’m really quite happy with it, it has one shortcoming that bugs me: its emulated graphics card (Trio S3 32/64) does not support my monitor’s resolution (1680×1050). Why Microsoft would keep this in the 2007 version is beyond me.

    VMWare is incredibly bloated with a UI that sucks, and doesn’t appeal to me at all. So I’d like to take a look at VirtualBox. Does anyone know:
    – if VirtualBox performs as well as the others
    – if VirtualBox supports hardware virtualization
    – if VirtualBox can support my screen resolution


  29. Ah, downloaded and installed VirtualBox, then Ubuntu 7.10 – a singularly pleasant experience. I have to say VirtualBox is very sexy indeed, and performs just great! The only thing i miss is undo disks. But what the heck – a real harddisk doesn’t do that either…

    Oh, and the answers to my own questions below are yes, yes and yes.

    I say go for it guys.

  30. i have been using VirtualPC ever since it was with Connectix. Never had any complaints with it and to some it up, is very satisfied with it. Tried VMWare Player for a while to compare against VirtualPC. However, I was not satisfied with it. Thought it was slow (too slow even compared to VirtualPC).

    Then tried VirtualBox just now. And the verdict.

    Love it. VirtualBox was faster than my VirtualPC. Installed XP on both systems including updates and the VirtualBox installation was the fastest (took less than 1 hour) compared to VirtualPC (more than 3hours).

    Note: I even enabled Hardware Virtualization on VirtualPC and VirtualBox was the fastest so far.

  31. I have one question. I’ ve got Win XP, and on VirtualBox i have Mandriva and it’s too slow. can somebody help me? tnx

  32. VirtualBox and VirtualPC are both made by Innotek, good for testing stuff os, software, runnning win&Lin.
    For server/server-client piloting or testing, a server product would be better (everything runs as services, you can configure machines to auto start etc.)

    VMware products you can use different versions for different needs eg.

    Player – preconfigure os and software to someone and give it as a whole package. Lighter and free

    (WKS – multiple snashots) not so much use anymore. (not free)

    Server (“old gsx”)- for runing test (servers) for longer periods (better linux beneath, less reboots)
    This (v.2b2) is asuperior product that you manage as good remotly as localy with a browser. Could be also used in production as long as you don’t violate the license.

    Esx – for production (HA, DRS, vmfs, san boot, Networking….)

    One of the great things is that you can use the images between different versions.

    The minus with vmware is the prices of licenses (the “not free” ones).
    VMware is defacto and there is areason why 😉

    I used all of the hypervizors (or virtualisation softwares) discussed here and they are all usable.
    Vmware is the one that I started with (the only one in this market) in the beginign of the millenium. And in production i would not recomend anything elese (exept offcourse for testing).

  33. Hmm, i tested and compared all virtualisation software, don’t lie guys, virtualbox slowest 🙂

  34. I really like VirtualBox but, just to play Devil’s advocate for a moment, the first two features are common to all three applications compared. All three require that guest additions be installed for mouse integration and all three offer an easy way to do this through the GUI.

    I agree completely about speed. VirtualBox is fast. It’s also free. VirtualPC is free as well, though not open source.

    The one reason that makes it hard to completely do away with VirtualPC or VMWare Workstation is the ability to create differencing images. This is a huge feature, especially when dealing with Windows guest OS’s that require activation. If you want various configurations of Windows Server, you can install it once as a base image, activate, and then create all the differencing images you want for the various configurations. Both VirtualPC and VMWare Workstation offer this.

  35. I have used MS VPC and VirtualBox but VMware workstation 6 is currently the top product for home & home office use.

    1. USB devices work in VMware without a struggle.
    2. It can clone your physical PC.
    3. It works on Vista 64 bit hosts and Linux guests.
    4. VMware player allows you to copy a VM to another PC in the home.
    5. No need for a slow shared folder – you can map the entire real drive from within the VM.

  36. […]VirtualBox free (FOSS) edition has some serious limitations. I’ve listed what you get in the closed ie what is missing from the FOSS version: […]

    Note that both versions are free, just not both open source . (albeit the first one with some restrictions)

  37. VirtualBox makes it impossible to share your network IP address with the Virtual Machine. In VirtualPC you get a 192.168.1.x IP but not VirtualBox you get some off the wall 10.x.x.x Ip address.

    Also, I only have XP64 and it will not load it. I don’t get it, you download VirtualBox for AMD 64 but it can’t install a 64Bit Os. what the heck is the point of this? useless.

  38. 1. Mouse Integration – Nothing can beat the feeling of not having to search for your mouse when you switch OS and the cursor moving at different speeds.
    – Every VMs has this feature once you installed the guest additions

    2. Share Folder – There might be third-party software out there, but this feature comes with VirtualBox. Simple installation and your Windows files are available on Linux. Nothing change except the OS. 😉
    – VirtualPC 2007 has the same feature as well

    3. Super lightweight – Self-explaination. The smallest VM I ever seen.
    – Yes, this is the best part of VirtualBox

    Comparing the free VMs, if you hosted it in Linux undoubtedly VirtualBox is the best but that is not the case if it’s in Windows. Whenever you upgraded your VirtualBox, chances for your guest image to get corrupted is high (ONLY in Windows)

    Another nice feature in VirtualBox is the USB support (VMWare has this capability as well).

    Bridging the network is a bit complicated for VirtualBox whether it’s in Linux or Windows (VMWare and VirtualPC won this part).

    In the end, it doesn’t matter what we use as long as it serve the purpose to finish our jobs 🙂

  39. VirtualBox causes frequent BlueScreen of deaths, over and over and over for me, VirtualPC is junk, it miscalculates data all the time and has many bugs. If you schedule a task for rebooting the system every 2 hours in VirtualPC, it reboots WAY before 2 hours (maybe instantly or about 5 minutes) it’s just useless. I’m going to try VMWare next. I hope theirs is decent.

  40. You lost me on this blog article dude… Virtual PC has all the features you mention except maybe “lightweight” whatever that means… VPC seems pretty lightweight to me. So, I’m thinking this is just advocacy rather than useful information but please feel free to correct me.

  41. There is a VERY nice feature about Virtual PC that I like, and that it the ability to drag and drop files from the host OS onto the guest OS. I used VM’s for testing software all the time and to attempt to live without this capability or have to setup a network share for it just seems like a hassle.
    I know it sounds petty, but no more so than some of the other comments posted here. Oh well, just my 2 cents.

  42. I am giving VirtualBox a try. I have using Virtual PC since 2006 without any problems except when I ventured to use Linux. It should be pointed out that Linux will run acceptably on Virtual PC but only with a bit of maintenance, however it runs much slower and is unsupported for file sharing etc. VM Additions for Linux are available, but only with MS Virtual Server 2005 (free), which is more resource intensive and not suited to my needs right now.

    While VMWare server is clearly far more feature-rich that VPC or VB, it is not suited for desktop casual use. Workstation was impressive though I found it notably slower than Virtual PC hosting Windows Server 2003 as a VM, so that a few years ago I found myself testing complex network management server running on several Windows 2003 servers in Virtual PC instead!

  43. Does virtual box support VPN yet? Last time I tried it, it couldn’t handle GRE for VPN. Surprise surprise, VMware does.

  44. I use virtualbox for everything and it is defidentally my preference. I have a Dell poweredge 750, 4gb of ram and a 2.8GHZ P4 with Hyper Threading. It runs ubuntu desktop 9.04, and plays host to 4 Windows Server 2003 machines VIA virtualbox. Essentially every piece of my domain with the exception of Exchange is virtual. It is very fast and very reliable. Dont attempt to do a similar setup with a Windows host. Always use a linux Host.

    As far as network connections and IP addresses go. You can either have virtualbox NAT which provides you the bogus 10.X.X.X address. Or you can link the vitualboxes to individual host adapters allowing you real DHCP from your server.

    I fully support and stand behind virtualbox.

    But I will say that VMware has the neat ability to transfer your VM’s from one vmware server to the other while the OS is in use. So if you are a large corporation, you might consider VMWare. But small corps (like mine, 20 people) Virtualbox is great.

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