Virtual machines are very useful today. Thanks to them, it is possible to test new operating systems (both other versions of Windows, such as Linux, and even macOS) without altering the original configuration of our PC. And they can even help us to test programs that are possibly dangerous and, if something goes wrong, by deleting it and creating it again we will not have endangered our main system or data. To virtualize it is necessary to use a hypervisor. But which of them?
When installing an operating system, we can find different programs that allow us to do so. For example, Windows has its own hypervisor, called Hyper-V, which allows us to install other operating systems on top of Windows without having to resort to other programs. This, in addition, is responsible for running the Windows Subsystem for Linux, Android apps (in Windows 11) and other functions such as the Windows Sandbox.
In addition, we can also choose other programs, such as VirtualBox or VMware, to carry out this same task. These programs have their own hypervisors that are responsible for virtualizing the hardware and controlling everything so that the systems can function properly.
Simple Hyper-V, but for advanced users
The hypervisor that is included in Windows will allow us to virtualize different operating systems without problems. However, only Microsoft has been able to create such a simple, and equally complicated, tool.
Hyper-V it has a much more complicated interface than the other hypervisors. It has many administrative tools, but it offers users very little control over the properties we want the machines to have.
What’s more, this tool is very useful to virtualize versions of Windows, but a drag to virtualize, for example, Ubuntu. Instead of data access to the desktop, like any other program, it forces us to connect to Linux through a remote VNC. It is not at all practical. And we can forget about virtualizing macOS.
VirtualBox and VMware, much simpler
On the opposite side of Hyper-V we have two alternative programs for creating virtual machines. On the one hand, the well-known VirtualBox, from Oracle (developed by Apache) as a free and open source alternative, and on the other hand VMware, a commercial solution for professional use (which has a free version, Player, for home users).
These programs are more complete than Microsoft’s solution when it comes to creating virtual machines, and they offer us a much better performance than Hyper-V. In addition to having almost total control over the hardware that we want our machine to have, it will also allow us to install any operating system, from typical Windows to the strangest Linux distros. And even virtualizing macOS, although the process is more complicated.
It’s true that VirtualBox is lagging behind VMware lately. Without going any further, Oracle software is not compatible with TPM 2.0, a requirement to install Windows 11, while VMware Workstation has been, for a long time, and recently it can even be installed in VMware Player. But, despite this, both are excellent options, much simpler for an average user, and they offer us many more possibilities.
You can have Hyper-V activated, and use these programs
What happens, for example, if I want to use the Windows Subsystem for Linux, or the Sandbox, and use VirtualBox or VMware at the same time? Until recently we had to choose, or use one hypervisor, or use another. Luckily, the latest versions of Windows 10 (from May 2020 Update onwards) finally allow us to use two hypervisors at the same time so that we can take advantage of native Windows virtualization (WSL) without turning our back, for example, to a full virtualized system in VirtualBox.