VMWare Fusion vs. Parallels

March 15th, 2008

In the spirit of full disclosure, this post is a direct result of  a previous post I made on falling back in love with my MacBook Pro. What happened is that within a few hours of posting, a representative of VMware contacted me and gave me a free license to their Fusion product, a virtual machine client for the Mac.

So, I am running both VMware and Parallels on the same VM. I did this by using the VMware Importer. I simply pointed the Importer application at my Parallels VM and 30 minutes later it had made the VMware PC I am using as I write this post in Live Writer. Not too shabby.

That said, the importer application will not create a Fusion VM from a Windows Virtual PC VHD, which is what I wish it would do. For that, you must download a different application, which installs on the machine you want to turn into a VM for Fusion and it builds itself. Parallels also has an application that does this, an both work the same way.

This is my most frequent way to get a VM onto my Mac, create one from a pre-existing physical box or a Virtual PC VM. It would be nice if either vendor would make a Mac VM out of the PC one by simply operating on the VHD file, but not at this time.

Advantage: None.

Neither VM application will let me use the extra buttons on my MS Explorer track ball, because they both emulate a PS2 mouse driver to connect through to the mouse.

Advantage: None.

In Unity mode, Cohesion in Parallels, my favorite windows app, RocketDock, looks very pixelated and is pretty chopped up. In parallels, it looks great. This isn’t a big deal in an of itself, but the implication is the graphics are somewhat choppy coming across the OS boundary.

Advantage: Parallels

While in Unity mode, there is a menu item for Applications, which works like the start menu in Windows, only a little better. In Parallels, the Windows start menu and whole lower menu bar show up right on your Mac desktop. The difference is simply a matter of personal preference, as the functionality is exactly the same. I personally like VM Ware’s execution of this feature.

Advantage: VMware, but subjective

What about the important stuff? What about performance? Reliability?

I have no way of knowing (at least I am not aware) of how to measure the actual performance of the 2 VMs while they are spooled up. I guess I could test them by timing a run of some application, but this is a little beyond me caring. I will say that the Fusion VM seems slower. This is totally unscientific, though. I almost feel uncomfortable writing it, because it may not be true. It may just be a perception on my part.

Advantage: None.

Here’s one: VMware has one file that represents the VM. Nice. I wish the other VM manufacturers had this instead of the myriad of little nugget files that they spawn off.

Advantage: VMware

Size on my Mac disc for the Parallels hard drive: 27.7G. Size for the entire VMware virtual machine: 24.4G.

Advantage: VMware

VMware has support for 64 bit operating systems. Parallels doesn’t. Yet.

Advantage VMware

Conclusion? Not really.

So what will I run with? I am not sure yet. It is pretty difficult to find an advantage other than the 64 bit OS support. Feature parity between the two is almost scary equitable. I guess it’s a tight race. Both solutions will obviously do a good job. With VMware’s penetration into the enterprise space, I am sure they will sell more licenses simply because people will have good interop with their corporate environment. Parallels isn’t a big name in the enterprise space at this time, although they are making inroads.

They are very comparable on price point, too.

The one thing that would sway me in a particular direction is the ability to dynamically re-size a VM’s hard drive without too much pain. This is a nightmare in MS Virtual PC. Parallels provides a 3rd party utility that does it for you when you buy the $100 Premium version. This is good, but I would rather just have that baked in to the base product.

I cannot find similar functionality in Fusion. Maybe someone from VMware would chime in here to let us know wassup wit dat? Maybe it’s there and I can’t find it?

If I find anything truly differentiating in either product I will blog on it, but for now both suit my needs fine.

  • arcu

    One nice feature from Mac is that you can make a picture of a part of the screen, using shift command 4.

    Well, I was surprised that you can use these commands with Parallels from the Windows screen. The only thing: once captured, you have to “refresh” the desktop for the picture to appear like a icon… I love Parallels, ’cause It is surprisingly solid for general pourpuses, MS Office, iExplorer, real data streaming, and audio video editing (SoundForge Vegas). Only sometimes needs to restart when too many applications and files have been opened. But this happen also in regular Windows.

  • Neelesh

    I used Parallels on my MacBook and have a couple of VMs running, 1 with Win XP and the other with Oracle Enterprise Linux.

    There is one problem though.
    in Win XP VM, I use Citrix Access Gateway to VPN into my client site. The VPN connects, but I lose my internet connectivity including connecting to the client’s intranet sites !! where as everything works on a Win XP which is not a VM.

    I am going to download Fusion and see if this is a problem.

    Has anyone encountered this ?