It is really fortunate that desktop virtualization on Mac has become effortless these days. For one, you don’t need technical expertise or intense training to set up a virtual machine within macOS. More so, Microsoft is now very supportive when it comes to using Windows 11 on virtual machines. Therefore, when you require an easy way to access Windows on Mac, it makes sense to get effective virtual machine software!
So, if you have searched for the best virtual machine software, you would have heard about Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion Player. These two tools have become so popular after the increasing demand for virtual machines on Mac. However, finding the right choice for your personal Windows-on-macOS setup might be difficult in some cases. We faced the same problem a while back and decided we would solve it.
In this Parallels Desktop vs. VMware Fusion comparison guide, we have covered different aspects of these virtual machine software. In the end, we have also offered some practical insights in light of our experience with these apps. Please keep in mind that we have written this from a consumer standpoint, giving more importance to how Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion handle Windows 11 virtual machines.
Parallels Vs. VMware: the Basics
Parallels Desktop for Mac is a desktop virtualization software that you can use to create and manage virtual machines on your Mac. It allows you to create virtual machines that use Operating Systems such as Windows, macOS, and Linux, among other options. However, the USP of Parallels Desktop remains that it offers a more effortless Windows-on-macOS experience. So, for most people, Parallels Desktop is known as a great way to use the Windows OS and apps without rebooting their Mac.
VMware Fusion, on the other hand, is a general-purpose virtual machine software from VMWare. Designed for both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs, VMware Fusion offers two editions. You can pick the VMware Fusion Player for personal use, whereas the VMware Fusion Pro variant is optimized for additional features. Both options let you run Windows or Linux virtual machines without rebooting your Mac, though. You can use the app to run some not-so-common Operating Systems as well.
For this guide, we tested Parallels Desktop for Mac (Standard Edition) and VMware Fusion Player for Mac (Personal use.) Therefore, the results may vary when you compare the Pro or Enterprise variants of both the apps.
Parallels Vs. VMware: the Workflow
We will quickly share our experience of setting up and getting started with both these virtual machine tools.
- Parallels Desktop for Mac
We found it incredibly easy to set up Parallels Desktop on our Mac. The process took only minutes, which is impressive. First, you have to download Parallels Desktop from the official website and finish the setup. At this point, you can use a wizard to set up one of the popular virtual machines, including Windows, Linux, and macOS.
The best part? Parallels Desktop for Mac can download these operating system files directly from the official websites. But, of course, if you already have an ISO file, you can use it to install the OS. We found it easy to manage multiple virtual machines using the control panel interface. So, you can further customize each of those virtual machines as you wish.
Overall, we were really impressed with how easily we could set up a Windows 11 virtual machine using this app. It is a major reason Parallels Desktop for Mac topped our coverage of the best virtual machine software for Mac as well.
We had a similar experience with setting up VMware Fusion for Mac. However, there were a few noticeable differences as well. As for the similarities, you first have to download VMware Fusion from its website and install it on your Mac. You may need some time to figure out the free personal license. Once you have set it up, you can use an existing ISO file to set up the virtual machine.
However, you do not have an option to directly download the OS from an official source. On the bright side, you get a few customization options. For instance, you can run some Operating Systems that you might not find working with Parallels Desktop. Therefore, we found that the lack of direct download options okay for what you get.
In the end, we do not have any complaints about the setup process for VMware Fusion. It works great, and everything is easy if you already have ISO files. We also think VMware Fusion offers better setup options for advanced users who may want to try non-popular operating systems.
Parallels Vs. VMware: the Performance
To test the overall performance capabilities, we installed Windows 11 on both virtual machine tools. Below, you can find some key takeaways.
- In general, Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion Player offer impressive performance with Windows 11 virtual machines. The boot-up times and program loading times are quick enough so that you do not feel any lag.
- However, we felt that Parallels Desktop does a better job emulating the native Windows 11 UI and UX. The difference becomes more noticeable while running applications on your virtual machine. Of course, you may not notice these differences while dealing with low-duty applications.
- On one hand, the core performance of the application seems almost identical. However, because the Parallels Desktop interface opens these applications quickly, you get a noticeable edge in snappiness of the UI.
In short, performance is not an issue while choosing between Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion Player for Mac. Instead, you must focus on what you would like to do with the virtual machines you create. If you’d like to, for instance, run heavy-duty apps that encounter compatibility issues, you have to make a choice. On the other hand, if you want a virtual machine that handles basic tasks well, you can pick either.
Parallels Vs. VMware: the Compatibility
Compatibility with apps is a different thing in the Parallels Desktop vs. VMware Fusion Player competition. Even though both these virtual machine software can run the fully-fledged version of Windows 11, the level of optimization for the OS varies quite drastically.
We should remember that Parallels Desktop for Mac is not just a general-purpose virtualization tool. It has been designed and optimized to create an effortless Windows-on-macOS experience. Therefore, Parallels is known for its wide compatibility for applications. For reference, the company claims that you can run over 200,000 Windows applications and games on a Parallels Windows 11 virtual machine. Moreover, all these apps have been tested and optimized to some extent. It is also impressive that you can download apps from the Microsoft Store.
However, VMware Fusion Player is a general-purpose virtual machine tool, and the customization options on the app are limited, especially for Windows 11. Here is an example. We faced trouble running some third-party Windows 11 applications on the VMware Fusion virtual machine. However, the same apps didn’t face any issues on the Parallels Desktop VM. Similarly, while Parallels Desktop for Mac lets you launch Windows apps from the macOS dock—thanks to Coherence Mode—, such an option is not available with VMWare.
Therefore, even when you install the same build of Windows 11 on both these tools, Parallels Desktop offers the edge in terms of compatibility.
Parallels Vs. VMware: the Experience
At this point, we can provide you with a clear idea about the overall experience from Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion.
Parallels Desktop for Mac offers an unparalleled experience when you use it for running a Windows 11 virtual machine on your Mac. For one, Windows virtual machines are optimized for performance and compatibility on Mac, especially the ones running Apple Silicon chips. More importantly, features like Coherence Mode add so much value to the experience. So, if you are looking for a virtual machine software that lets you easily shift between macOS and Windows resources, you can have a better experience with Parallels Desktop. But you should keep in mind that many of these features, including compatibility advantages, are available only for Windows 11 virtual machines.
On the other hand, VMware Fusion Player for Mac is promising as a general-purpose virtual machine tool. It works great with almost all Operating Systems that you would want to try, including Windows 11, Linux, and macOS. The best part? You can also try Operating Systems that are better optimized for virtualization. But, as you can guess, VMWare has not optimized this tool for any particular OS, say Windows 11. Therefore, the overall experience you can expect from a VMware Fusion virtual machine would be standard. We also noticed some issues with compatibility, making it a less ideal option if you want to run as many Windows-only apps as you want.
To sum up, it is clear that Parallels Desktop for Mac offers a better virtualization experience, at least when it comes to running Windows 11. You cannot expect these value-addition elements from VMware Fusion for Mac. Even though the VMware Fusion Pro package leaves room for further customization and control, OS-optimized features are not its strongest forte.
Parallels Vs. VMware: the Pricing
Different pricing plans of Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMware Fusion Player make them a crucial point in making a choice.
Parallels Desktop for Mac does not have a free version. You must purchase a license, which starts at $99.99 for the standard edition. However, during sale times, you can get it for as low as $79.99. But if you are looking for advanced features like improved virtual hardware capacity, email support, and central administration, it makes sense to go for the Pro or Business editions of Parallels Desktop, which costs $119.99 and $149.99, respectively.
VMware Fusion Player offers something better, though. As we said, you can get a non-commercial license of the virtual machine software free of cost. It means you do not have to pay for this app if you want to use it to run a Windows 11 virtual PC on your Mac. However, as we said, you may have to spend a few minutes to get the license and activate VMware Fusion Player on Mac. Similarly, the Pro version is available if you’re looking for advanced features.
Therefore, you have to decide whether the additional features of Parallels Desktop, namely better Windows integration, Coherence Mode, and additional compatibility, are worth a premium purchase. If you don’t think so, you may better value with VMware Fusion Player. For reference, the paid version of VMware Fusion Player is available for $149.
Pros and Cons of Parallels Desktop
- It offers incredible integration with Windows-macOS
- Coherence Mode lets you launch Windows apps from the dock
- The virtual machines support over 200,000 Windows apps
- You get best performance without technical expertise
- There is no free option available for personal use
- Some features are available only through a subscription
Pros and Cons of VMware Fusion
- You can run a wide variety of Operating Systems on your Mac
- It offers comparatively more room for customization and control
- VMware Fusion Player offers a completely free version for personal use
- Dedicated support for Apple Silicon Mac desktops with M1/M2 chips
- It lacks additional compatibility options for Windows apps
- Performance with certain Windows elements can be improved
In the end, here is what we think about Parallels Desktop for Mac and VMware Fusion Player for Mac.
Parallels Desktop is an excellent choice if you want to do more than managing your Windows VMs. You can expect incredible compatibility, improved performance, and better integration with macOS. However, you must be ready to pay for a premium subscription for these features. However, we believe the additional fee is reasonable, considering that the features save the money you would otherwise spend on a new PC.
VMware Fusion Player, however, is a general-purpose choice for most people. It gives you more room for customization and flexibility, and you do not have to pay for a personal license. However, you cannot expect the same smooth experience between Windows and macOS that you will find with Parallels Desktop. So, you have to decide whether you should get these features for the extra price.
We believe this guide helped you understand which among Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion Player is a better choice for your VM needs.