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Best virtual machine software from 2019

Virtuality was once a possibility for mainframe computers, and now even smartphones can do this.

Being able to segment the computer into different virtual versions has many advantages, particularly with regard to isolating experimental code from other critical processes.

With the help of this combination of hardware and software, a system can allocate its resources more efficiently and distribute those functions that are aimed at the internet and those that have internal access to a network.

For IT professionals and software developers, virtuality is an important aspect of their computing activity and choosing the right tools for creating and managing virtual installations is of the utmost importance.

Here is our selection of software that is best suited for those who are trying to keep things real, virtually.

  • We have also marked the best workstations from 2019

Parallels Desktop 14

Boot Camp is Apple's free tool for running a virtual session under macOS, but those who need to do this on a regular basis use Parallels, now owned by software-based Corel.

It allows them to run seamlessly alongside Windows for those awkward moments when they need software that only works on that platform.

A few of the elegant things that Parallels can do is display Windows notifications in the Mac's notification center and use a uniform clipboard.

Most Mac users regard Parallels as a tool exclusively for using Windows, but it can be used to host a wide range of Linux distros, Chrome OS, and even other (and older) versions of Mac OS.

The lowest sport is $ 79.99 for the basic edition. Above is a Pro version that can use more memory and supports development environments such as Microsoft Visual Studio. And a Business Edition with centralized license management tools that IT professionals can use.

  • You can download Parallels Desktop 14 here

Oracle VM Virtualbox

Not sure which operating systems you are likely to use? Then Oracle VM VirtualBox is a good choice because it supports an amazingly wide selection of host and client combinations.

Windows from XP, any Linux level 2.4 or higher, Windows NT, Server 2003, Solaris, OpenSolaris and even OpenBSD Unix. There are even people who use Windows 3.x or even IBM OS / 2 nostalgically on their modern systems,

It also works on Apple Mac and for Apple users it can host a Mac-VM session for a client.

Oracle has been kind enough to support VirtualBox and offers a wide selection of pre-built developer VMs to download and use for free.

And all this is free; even the Enterprise release.

  • You can download Oracle VM VirtualBox here

VMware Fusion and Workstation

VMware offers a very extensive selection of virtualization products, with Fusion 10 for the Apple Mac and Workstation 14 for the PC.

Despite the difference in name, these two products effectively offer the same solution, although they are tailored for each host operating system.

For the Mac with a neat ' Unity mode ' that allows Mac OS to launch Windows applications from the Dock and make them look like they are part of the host operating system.

Workstation, as the version number suggests, is a more mature product and delivers one of the most advanced VM implementations to date.

As one of the few hosts that supports DirectX 10 and OpenGL 3.3, CAD and other GPU-accelerated applications can work under virtualization.

Workstation Player for Windows or Linux is free for personal use, but Pro is required for business users and for those who want to run limited VMs created with Pro or Fusion Pro. Fusion for Mac is a free trial period and $ 79.99 (£ 60.75) to buy.

  • You can download VMware Fusion and Workstation here


The QEMU website is not very advanced, but don't let that put you off.

Where this product is somewhat different from other VM solutions, it is both a VM host and a machine emulator. Together with x86-pc, QEMU can emulate PowerPC, MIPS64, ARM, SPARC (32 and 64), MicroBlaze, ETRAX CRIS, SH4 and RISC-V, among others.

This works without administrator rights, and the performance of VMs running on it is close to that of native installations.

What QEMU lacks are advanced interface tools, relying instead on CLI inputs to install and configure VM clients.

At the moment, it is also only possible to host on Linux, even if it can run a wide range of operating systems on it.

  • You can download QEMU here

Red Hat KVM

Before anyone writes with strict words, virtualization is inherently present in all major Linux distributions and not just in code that comes with a Red Hat distro.

However, Red Hat has expanded KVM with a number of very useful features that those already running Red Hat Enterprise Linux should know.

Red Hat has two versions; a basic model included in Enterprise Linux that can have four different VMs on one host and a more advanced Red Hat virtualization edition.

Red Hat virtualization requires no host operating system, can be deployed on bare-metal installations and spawns as many isolated VMs as needed.

With the potential for hundreds of virtual machines, it also has advanced management tools with which a supervisor can easily virtualize resources, processes and applications.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux Server costs $ 349 (£ 265) and the costs of virtualization depend entirely on the support plan you need.

  • You can download Red Hat Virtualization here

Microsoft Hyper-V

Originally codenamed Viridian and then Windows Server Virtualization, it was reused for Hyper-V Server when it was released at the end of 2008.

Nowadays it is supplied as part of Windows 10 Pro and Windows Server (2012 and 2016), without extra costs for the user.

However, what you get for free is a very simple hypervisor who cannot do the smart things that VMware offers.

The guest OS support includes Windows Server, Windows XP SP3 or later, Linux with a 3.4 or better kernel and FreeBSD. Although driver support for Linux is not great and there is no virtual GPU support.

Hyper-V allows relatively inexperienced users to create a virtual server environment, but does not expect miracles.

  • You can download Microsoft Hyper-V here

Citrix XenServer

Strangely enough, Citrix XenServer started life as an open source project and to this day it is free to download and install. Or rather, the basic version is free, but advanced functions are limited to paid tier releases.

Paying customers receive advanced management tools, the ability to automate and distribute live environments at will. It also has the GPU pass-through and virtualized GPU capabilities, allowing it to offer, for example, virtualized CAD.

The other driving force behind XenServer is to create virtual data centers that can handle planned and unplanned outages just as smoothly and maintain the high level of availability that the company expects.

A standard perpetual license costs $ 763 (£ 579.60) for one CPU socket with one year of support and the Enterprise version is $ 2,288 (£ 1,738) with the same maintenance period.

  • You can download Citrix XenServer here

Xen Project

Credit image: Xen Project

Xen Project is a free and open source virtual machine monitor (VMM), intended to serve as a type 1 hypervisor for multiple operating systems that use the same hardware. Originally developed by the University of Cambridge, the employees who created it turned it into a company that was later taken over by Citrix. The Xen Project is now working with The Linux Foundation to promote open source applications.

It is mainly used for advanced virtualization, not least for servers, both in commercial and in open source environments. This includes, but is not limited to, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) applications, desktop virtualization, and virtuzlised security. The Xen Project software is even used in car and aviation systems.

The service is especially suitable for hyperscale clouds and can easily be used with AWS, Azure, Rackspace, IBM Softlayer and Oracle. The emphasis is primarily on security by using the smallest possible code base, making it not only secure but especially flexible.

  • – You can download Xen Project files here
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