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VMware Fusion 3 vs Parallels Desktop 5

200807203584For many Mac users, it is inevitable that Microsoft Windows will be needed at some point or other. There are a few solutions to running Windows on a Mac hardware. I much prefer the virtualization solution than running Bootcamp because I can still access the Mac OS X system at all times. The two main virtualization solutions are basically VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop. Then, the next inevitable question is, which is better? Which is faster? Which is more integrated? Which is more interoperable with various guest operating systems?

For some time now, I’ve been using VirtualBox. It works pretty well. It’s integration with the host operating system (i.e. Mac OS X) is a little lacking. The handling of USB devices is a little clumsy. But it is free, and if it is free, you tend to make do with some minor inconveniences. It’s not really a big deal if you need the virtualization only occasionally.

But a friend recently started evaluating VMware Fusion, and my interest in it was piqued. I’m not new to VMware. I’ve used various flavours of VMware on both Windows and Linux. But so far, not Fusion on Mac OS X. So, alright, it was time to give it a try. It worked good enough for me. You can read plenty of reviews of VMware Fusion on the Internet, so I’m not going to write another one.

While evaluating VMware Fusion, I thought about Parallels Desktop. It has also received favourable reviews. A bit question on my mind was, which is faster? Put features aside for a while, let’s see which virtualization platform runs faster. Speed, inevitably, is going to be one important consideration.

So, I put together my very simple benchmark of VMware Fusion 3 vs Parallels Desktop 5 carrying out a few simple tasks.

VMware Parallels
Time from VM start to Windows login window 38s 40s
Time from login window to desktop ready 11s 10s
Time to start MSIE until MSN webpage loaded 21s 9s
Time to start Firefox until homepage loaded 13s 7s
Time to shutdown 18s 15s

Yes, I know this is not the most professional or comprehensive benchmark, but it tells me a few important things I want to know. It appears like Parallels Desktop 5 is quicker at getting things done inside the guest OS once the VM has started up. I suppose if you tend to leave a VM running for long periods and do a lot work inside it, this will be an important advantage.

Interestingly, I noted previously that Parallels Desktop 5 was a lot faster at restarting itself than VMware Fusion 3. It can take VMware Fusion 3 about the 38s it scored in the above table to restart itself, but Parallels Desktop 5 would take only like 12s. It is quite remarkable.

If you need a more professional benchmark comparison, check out this article from MacTech, and another one in Wikipedia.

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