(This question was originally posted at Server Fault, but Super User seems a more appropriate place to ask.)

I use a MacBook Pro as my primary machine, but my work targets Linux servers. I'm currently on a project with multiple dependencies, and which is configured for Ubuntu.

  1. Configuring all these dependencies on OSX is a pain. I've been through Macports, Fink and Homebrew. They are all nice, but they don't provide a 100% drop-in replacement for Ubuntu packaging. Rewriting all the deployment scripts just to accommodate one Mac developer seems like a waste of time.

  2. Dual-booting Ubuntu on this Mac doesn't seem like an option yet. The current hardware generation (7,1) is not fully supported.

  3. Using an Ubuntu VM for all my development work seems to be the way to go. I'm using VirtualBox at the moment. Seamless mode is nice, but I wonder if VMware Fusion or Parallels will be nicer.

So here is the question: what's the best VM app for Linux desktop guests on a Mac OS X host? VirtualBox, VMware Fusion, Parallels, or any other? What do you like about it?

Update: Learning some hard lessons:

  1. VirtualBox disk images are not resizable. VMware Fusion disk images are.
  2. VirtualBox locks the keyboard until you press the host key (Command). Very annoying.
  3. VMware Fusion 3.0's Unity is far nicer than VirtualBox's seamless mode. Fusion is also just a $9.99 upgrade until Dec 31, 2010.
  4. VirtualBox's guest tools installation is far smoother than VMware Fusion's. The latter's was somewhat intimidating. VMware needs to bundle nicer distro-specific installers.
  5. Shared folders in VMware Fusion mount automatically at /mnt/hgfs and carry through file ownership, POSIX permissions and symlinks. No such luck with VirtualBox.

My pick: VMware Fusion 3.0.


VirtualBox is awesome if you're looking for a free option. Parallels and VMware are good if you require better 3D performance.

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  • I'll give a +1 for Virtualbox. Give it a go to start with (after all, it is free) and it doesn't meet your needs have a look at Parallels. – tombull89 Sep 13 '10 at 8:14
  • I'm using VirtualBox already, and don't need 3D. Do VMware Fusion and Parallels have any other advantages over VirtualBox? VMware disk images are resizable, so that's one plus. – Jace Sep 14 '10 at 11:14
  • Parallels and Fusion both integrate with OS X much more than VirtualBox does but if you're running your linux OS without a GUI, just command line, then it's not really something you should worry about. There's also several comparisons that state that Parallels is faster at many operations but I've only seen subjective comparisons nothing scientific. – chunkyb2002 Sep 14 '10 at 13:22

1) Parallels

2) VMware

They both seem equal but I prefer Parallels as parallels looks cool in visual too (just my personal opinion)

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  • + 1. Parallels has been proven many times to be significantly faster than VMWare Fusion – JT.WK Sep 13 '10 at 6:40
  • Any particular features for Linux guests? VirtualBox has seamless mode akin to Fusion, but VMware Fusion doesn't support it for Linux guests, so it's VirtualBox 1, VMware Fusion 0 at the moment. – Jace Sep 14 '10 at 11:16

I use VirtualBox -- but to avoid disk resize issues, I split the VM into multiple disks. The OS partition is on one VM disk (usually 8gb suffices for this). I put /home on a different virtual disk (and give it sufficient size e.g. 20gb according to my needs ).

This setup is useful because I can keep the primary disk with the OS and swap between different secondary disks (containing /home/.... ) if required (you may have to manually edit your fstab file for this... ).

I tried parallels a while back but linux support was very poor.

for a non-free option vmware fusion is pretty good.

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  • An additional plus for virtualbox is that I find the guest tools being updated more often; with vmware i frequently had build failures, and i had to resort to getting the guest tools open-vm-tools and trying out different combinations to make them work. Havent had such issues with virtualbox. – user49310 Sep 14 '10 at 13:07

To answer my own question: VMware was offering upgrade licenses at $9.99, so I bought one and upgraded to 3.0.

Holy cow! Is this one awesome upgrade! Not only have they added Unity support for Linux guests, but they even integrate Linux apps into OS X. Apps show up in the dock and in the new menu bar icon.

Also, VirtualBox locks my keyboard until I press the host key (Command). I can't switch apps with Command+Tab or spaces with Ctrl+Arrow until I release the keyboard first. VMware Fusion doesn't have this annoyance. It seamlessly fits into my OSX desktop.

I'm therefore picking VMware Fusion 3.0 as the best choice.

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  • There are much better answers than this. It might suit you, but for the random visitor other answers are better – code ninja Sep 24 '14 at 19:10
  • 1
    It's been four years... – Jace Sep 25 '14 at 19:57
  • lol. sorry :).. – code ninja Sep 25 '14 at 21:34

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