VMware Fusion is a virtual machine manager or software hypervisor developed for macOS that enables Mac devices running on either Intel Core processors or Apple M series system-on-chips to run virtual machines or emulate guest operating systems such as Windows from Microsoft, Linux distributions such as Debian and Ubuntu, and older macOS versions or releases within the host macOS operating system. It is one of the popular software hypervisors for Mac computers and competes with Oracle VirtualBox, Parallels Desktop for Mac, and QEMU. This article reviews the pros and cons or advantages and disadvantages of VMware Fusion, and compares its features and limitations with alternative software hypervisors.
Pros: Advantages of VMware Fusion and Important Features
1. Stable Hypervisor For Mac Computers
One of the notable advantages of VMware Fusion is that it is one of the most stable software hypervisors for Mac computers. This comes from its long history of development. Performance is smooth and reliable overall. This is notable in Mac computers based on Intel Core processors. It is compatible with a wide range of Windows and Linux applications. It also supports the most latest Windows and Linux distribution versions or releases.
2. Straightforward and Intuitive Software
The user interface and entire user experience are intuitive. There is also a library of pre-configured virtual machines. The seamless integration with macOS is another advantage. It supports drag-and-drop file sharing, copy-paste actions, shared folders, and USB device pass-through between macOS and the virtualized OS. Unity Mode allows Windows or other OS apps to run on Mac or within macOS without using the virtual machine window.
3. Enables Multiple Virtual Environments
An interesting and important feature of VMware Fusion is that it can run multiple operating systems. A user can use macOS and other operating systems such as Windows and Linux simultaneously. It also has support for different virtual environments. It is possible to explore containers and Kubernetes clusters along with virtualized operating systems. This can be a useful feature for software developers and IT professionals
4. New and Enhanced Encryption System
Version 13 of this software hypervisor has a new encryption scheme called Fast Encryption. It provides maximum security with reduced performance overhead. The older scheme called Full Encryption encrypts all virtual machine files. This consumes more system resources and requires a higher power consumption. The newer Fast Encryption encrypts a minimal and selected set of virtual machine files for improved overhead performance.
5. Feature-Limited Free and Paid Versions
Another advantage of VMware Fusion is that it comes with a free version that is suitable for personal and non-commercial use. This version has limited features but it is decent enough for average use cases. However, for those who want the versions with more expansive features, the Player version costs USD 149.00 and the Pro version costs USD 199.00. These are still affordable compared to purchasing a new device.
Cons: Disadvantages of VMWare Fusion and Key Limitations
1. Special Apple M Chip Requirements
VMware Fusion 13 introduces native support for Mac devices running on either Intel Core or the Apple M series chips. However, when running on Apple silicon, a user needs to obtain and install the specific ARM variant of Windows 11. This also requires a valid license key from Microsoft. The Apple M chips are based on the RISC-based ARM instruction set architecture while Intel chips are based on the CISC-based x86 architecture.
2. Instances of Software Compatibility Issues
Remember that M-powered Mac computers have a different instruction set architecture and it will only run the ARM version of Windows. This version does not have the strongest software library when compared to the more popular x86 version of Windows. Running Windows on a Mac computer running on Apple M chips via a hypervisor can have instances of compatibility issues and bugs or glitches with some Windows applications.
3. High Hardware and System Requirements
Another disadvantage of VMware Fusion is that it works best when running capable processors. The latest version requires macOS 12 Monteray or later. It also requires at least 8GB of RAM and 16GB or more of storage space depending on the virtualized operating system. Running multiple virtual machines would need at least 16GB of RAM. Mac computers with lower and older hardware would experience performance issues.
4. Slower Than Parallels Desktop for Mac
Parallels Desktop for Mac is another software hypervisor. It has notable strengths and edge over VMware Fusion that include stronger optimization for Apple M chips and better system resource management. These capabilities translate to better overall performance. A comparison between the two would reveal that VMware Fusion tends to be slower than Parallels Desktop for Mac because it has more demanding system requirements.
5. User Interface Can Still Be Complicated
The user interface of this software hypervisor is indeed straightforward but it is not as intuitive as Parallels Desktop or Oracle VirtualBox. It has a lot of options and features that can overwhelm beginners and even intermediate users. Resolving compatibility issues or performance problems might require technical expertise. The advanced management feature found in the paid versions needs some time and active tinkering to get used to.
Takeaway: Advantages and Disadvantages of VMware Fusion
VMware Fusion is one of the recommended software hypervisors for Mac because it has a free version. The other alternative is VirtualBox from Oracle but this software hypervisor has a slower performance and it does not support Mac computers running on Apple M chips. It is still true that VMware Fusion works best on Intel-powered Mac computers but support for Apple M chips is improving with each update and new version releases. It is also suitable for developers and IT professionals who require a complex virtual machine setup. However, when compared to Parallels Desktop for Mac, some of the disadvantages of VMware Fusion become more evident. It tends to be slower and feels heavier to use in some cases. It can also be more complex than both VirtualBox and Parallels Desktop for Mac for more advanced use cases.