The 5 Best Virtual Machine Software for Mac Computers

Virtualization is now standard practice in almost every business. And why wouldn’t it be? To fully exhaust the benefits of Virtualization I would need a whole blog post. Everybody is talking about cloud computing but guess what drives it? Virtualization. With just one powerful physical server, you can create multiple virtual server instances allowing you to fully utilize the available physical resources while also saving on costs.

Or take our case for example. You have a Mac Computer but you need to use some applications that are Windows-specific. You could buy a Windows PC but that is the expensive option. Why not use Virtualization instead. With a good virtual machine software, you can create a virtual environment on your Mac that allows you to run the Windows OS and all the associated programs. And depending on the software, you can also run other operating systems such as Linux.

Why Virtualization is Better than Boot Camp

In case you are not familiar with Boot Camp, it’s an alternative way to run Windows OS on a Mac computer. The utility is already incorporated into Mac OS X so no installations required. All you need to do is open the Boot Camp assistant application and follow the onscreen instructions. This will enable you to partition your hard disk allowing space for the Windows OS Installation.

Virtualization in Mac vs BootCamp

Once done you can switch between Windows and Mac OS anytime by restarting the computer. And that is why Virtualization is better than Boot Camp. Having to restart the computer every time you want to access the other OS is tedious and counterproductive. Unlike in virtualization where both systems work together seamlessly.

Also, some iMac models will not allow you to upgrade the current version of your OS once you have set up Boot Camp. Finally, Apple’s current support is specific to Windows 10 which becomes a problem if you want to use Windows 8 or any other version

Then again, Boot Camp is better than virtualization in some regards. Since you are using only one OS at a particular time, you can utilize the full computing power of your machine. In Virtualization, the RAM will be shared between the two OSes and so will the CPU power. This is why I recommend using a multi-processor Mac with a minimum of two cores. It should also have sufficient memory, preferably 8GB RAM so that each OS instance has at least 4GB to use. You will get the best performance that way.

All factors considered, I believe virtualization is the more convenient alternative.

When to Use Virtualization and When to Use Boot Camp

If you want to use the Windows OS for business purposes then Virtualization is the way to go. Most business applications can smoothly run on the virtual OS and it’s also easier to manage.

But, if the reason for wanting a Windows environment is so that you can enjoy Windows games, especially the heavier ones, then Boot Camp is better since it gives you full system performance. Note that in both instances, you will still need to purchase a Windows license.

Follow along as we look at the 5 great virtualization software that you can use in 2020.

1. Parallels Desktop 15


Parallel Desktop is, without doubt, one of the most popular virtual machine software among Mac users. It is perfect for those instances when you want to run Windows application on your Mac and provides you with an easy way to transfer your files if you are switching from a Windows PC to a Mac.

Apart from Windows, you can also run other OSes like Linux and Ubuntu on the virtual machine.

Parallel Desktop has two operations mode that you can choose from. There is the Coherence mode which allows you to hide the Windows interface but continue using its application. Then there is the other mode where you make the Windows interface fit on your entire screen so that it seems you are using a PC.

Parallels Desktop 15

But what impressed me most about Parallel Desktop is how smoothly you can run even the heaviest Windows application like the Adobe Suite all without affecting the performance of your Mac applications. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it for heavy gaming.

But if you must, you can make use of the tuning feature that allows you to optimize your system based on what you are doing in the virtual machine. This could be gaming, software design, or development.

I also found this virtualization software easy to use for several reasons. The first is that it allows you to open your Windows application right from the Mac dock.

Launch Windows Apps in Mac Dock Using Parallels Desktop

Second, Microsoft Office 365 can be integrated into your Mac OS allowing you to open documents in Safari through their native Windows Office application. The alternative would be to download them and then transfer them to the Windows virtual environment.

But even better, Parallels Desktop allows you to transfer your BootCamp OS to your Virtual Machine which will save you a lot of configuration work if you decide to migrate from Boot Camp to Virtualization.

Once you purchase Parallels Desktop, you will also get two additional software as a bonus. The first is the Parallels toolbox which comes with 30+ one-touch tools for various purposes such as system optimization, downloading videos, taking screenshots and more. And then there is Parallels Remote Access which will allow you to remotely access your Mac computer from any iOS or Android device.

Parallels Desktop is available in three versions. Standard, Pro, and Business editions.

2. VMWare Fusion


VMWare Fusion is another excellent option that’s widely popular among IT Pros, Developers and Businesses. It allows you to run hundreds of Operating Systems on the Virtual environment with Windows and Linux being the most notable. Developers will particularly be pleased with the inclusion of a RESTful API that allows integration with modern development tools such as Docker, Vagrant, Ansible, among others.

VMWare Fusion

The latest VMWare Fusion also supports the use of MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar to control Windows applications. It also allows you to create a virtual machine on MacOS 10.14 and Mojave.

VMware Fusion comes with an improved hardware-accelerated 3D graphics engine which leverages on Apple Metal graphics technology to ensure that heavy applications and games run smoothly. Additional features that help boost application performance include the incorporation of DirectX 10.1 and OpenGL for Windows and Linux virtual machines.

This Virtual Machine software also has two operations mode. The Unity View mode that hides the Windows interface allowing you to use the Windows Application directly from the Mac interface. And the other mode where you use Windows in full-screen mode. Moreover, it allows you to launch the Windows app from Dock, Launchpad, or SpotLight and then view them in Expose, Spaces, and Mission control just like Mac apps.

VMWare Fusion Unity View Mode

Again with VMWare Fusion, you can easily convert your existing Boot Camp OS into a Virtual OS without having to reinstall it. Thanks to the seamless integration between the Windows virtual environment and OS X, file-transfers are as simple as a drag and drop. It also allows folder sharing and mirroring.

A distinguishing feature of this software is that it allows you to separate the two Operating Systems by disabling integration.

VMWare Fusion is available in Standard and Pro edition. The former will be perfect for home users while the Pro edition includes additional features that make it ideal for business use. For instance, it can be integrated with VMWare vSphere to allow the virtualization of servers. Of course, this will come at an extra cost.

3. Oracle VM VirtualBox


If you are looking for a free virtualization software to use, then Oracle VM VirtualBox is your best bet. It’s an open-source software that includes numerous impressive features such as 3D virtualization and Easy transfer of files between the guest and host operating systems.

Unlike the tools that we have already mentioned that only support Mac as the host OS, VM VirtualBox can also be installed on Windows, Linux, and Solaris.

The supported guest OSes include Windows, Linux, Solaris, and OpenBSD and you can run multiple of them at the same time. And what’s interesting is that you can transfer a VM created on one host computer to another host with a different operating system.

Oracle VM VirtualBox

As with most open-source software, VM VirtualBox may not be as easy to use as the other software. Therefore, I would not recommend it to a beginner user. Although they do try to make things a little easier by including some tutorial on their site and also offering pre-built virtual machines tailored for specific needs.

Nonetheless, you have to deal with the fact that there is no official support so you will be relying on resources that have been made available by other users. These may not be very useful when you have a unique problem that has not been experienced before or when you want a solution promptly.

4. QEMU


QEMU is also an open-source software that doubles as an Emulator and also a Virtualizer. The software was natively created to support Windows and Linux OSes but can now be installed on OS X through another tool called Homebrew.

QEMU

To do this install Homebrew from here, then open the terminal on Mac and enter this command. $ brew install qemu.

Next, copy the image file of the OS you want to run on your documents folder or any folder of your choice. Refer to this page for further clarification.

QEMU does not come with a far-reaching functionality like the other tools on our list but it is still a great option for running a guest operating system on a Mac computer.

5. Cloudalize


Cloudalize is not a typical Virtual Machine software. Instead of installing it on your Mac as the host, the Windows OS has been hosted on the cloud and all you need to do is log in to your account. And the beauty of it is that you don’t have to deal with software installations and maintenance. It’s also less demanding in terms of required resources.

Cloudalize

And the best part is that unlike the other solutions, the Windows OS in Cludalize has already been licensed and preconfigured. You will still have full administrative rights to install any application that you need and payment is based on your usage of the OS and GPU utilization.

But what I love the most about Cloudalize is that you aren’t just limited to one device. You can log in to the virtual environment from any Mac computer and access your Windows environment.

Cloudalize only supports the Windows OS.

Marijan Hassan


Marijan Hassan holds a BSc degree in Mathematics and Computer Science and over the past few years he has developed interest in Cyber Security. He is currently focusing on the threats the Tech Industry brings with it for a basic consumer.
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