Do you know you can work with both Windows & macOS-exclusive programs or applications simultaneously on the same device? That’s the main perk of free VM software, i.e., a virtual machine (VM).
A VM is a type of software that runs programs/applications without being attached to a physical machine. A free virtual machine can essentially allow you to run programs/apps that wouldn’t otherwise be available on your Windows or macOS device because of differences in system requirements – for free!
Virtual machine software helps users make the most of their computing devices. With a good, free VM, you can use two machines at once: a virtual device on top of your original device. Here’s everything you need to know about using these software tools for free.
Do you have a particular question about best free VM software? Then use the table of contents below to jump to the most relevant section. And you can always go back by clicking on the black arrow in the right bottom corner of the page. Also, please note that some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. For more details, check the Disclosure section at the bottom of the page.
Here's what we'll cover:
- Are Virtual Machines Free?
- The Best Free Virtual Machines Of 2023
Are Virtual Machines Free?
Yes. Despite being incredibly complicated pieces of software, most virtual machines are free. We’ll discuss only the best free VM software tools in this article. Don’t worry. Every free software in the following list of virtual machines is 100% safe to download & use.
The Best Free Virtual Machines Of 2023
#1. The Best Open Source Virtual Machine Software: Oracle VM VirtualBox
Oracle VM VirtualBox is the best open-source virtual machine software of all time. Released in 2007, this open-source VM software has an ever-expanding online developer community that currently has 100,000+ registered members. These members regularly publish new releases, updates, & tutorials on how to use this tool.
VirtualBox supports Windows XP to 10, Windows Server 2003, & Windows NT. It also supports other guest operating systems like OpenBSD, Open-Solaris, Solaris, & Linux versions 2.4 & above. You can also use VirtualBox to run macOS but only on Apple devices. Apple doesn’t legally allow users to run macOS on non-Apple devices.
If you’re new to VMs & want to try out a virtual machine for free, VirtualBox is the best free VM software. VirtualBox offers an extensive library of free & easy-to-install Guest Additions. It recognizes most USB devices & it can run on very old hardware. Using VirtualBox is also easy. Here’s a good video guide that expertly explains how to use VirtualBox:
VirtualBox is #1 on this list because of its long track record of success. Here are my favorite & not-so-favorite features of this ultra-popular virtual machine software:
Pros of VirtualBox:
- Easy-to-use interface
- Offers stable performances
- Supports multiple operating systems
- Works on older hardware
Cons of VirtualBox:
- Requires ample RAM for lag-free performances
#2. The Best Free VMS for Developers: VMware Workstation (Player)
Similar to VirtualBox, VMware Workstation has consistently been one of the best free VMS tools of the last decade. The VM offers a robust & reliable set of functions that addresses the basic virtualization needs of developers. It also has advanced networking features that allow users to set up and administer their own sophisticated virtual networks for VMs.
You can custom-design & integrate VMWare’s built-in data center topologies with various external tools & emulate an entire enterprise-grade data center. Developers even use VMware’s cloning system to deploy multiple instances of similar VMs & save hard drive space. It’s complicated stuff. Thankfully, using VMWare is not as complicated as the video below explains:
The only problem I had with this free virtual machine is that the free version was not enough. VMWare has two versions: Workstation-Player & Workstation-Pro. Only Player is free to use & it comes with limited features. Yes, you still get to run 200+ guest operating systems, create new VMs, & share files effortlessly between the host & guest.
But, more advanced features like cloning, snapshots, or complex networking are hidden behind the paywall. Workstation-Player is also not legally allowed for commercial use. So, if you’re planning to use this free virtual machine at your office, prepare to pay for the VM’s premium Pro version. Here are my favorite & not-so-favorite features of VMware Workstation (Player):
Pros of VMware Workstation (Player)
Compatible with all 64-bit Linux distributions & Windows versions 7 and above (64-bit only)
- Easy to use
- Widely used across the world
- Free for personal use
Cons of VMware Workstation (Player)
- Resource-consuming software
- Requires a lot of RAM to run multiple programs
#3. The Best Free VM Software for Windows 10: Hyper-V
Many Windows 10 users need to learn that they already have a free Windows virtual machine pre-installed on their devices. That’s right, Hyper-V is a free virtual machine built into all Windows 10 and 11 devices, except for Windows 10 & 11 Home. Hyper-V’s features are pretty basic. That’s because the VM was designed to be easy to use.
Its best function is GPU acceleration. You can accelerate your GPU’s processing speed via Hyper-V for academic, professional, & enterprise versions of Windows 10 & 11. The VM, of course, supports deep-linking within the Windows 10 host OS. It also supports various guest operating systems, including various older versions of Windows, Linux, and even MS-DOS.
While Hyper-V provides a free virtual machine solution with GPU acceleration, it’s important not to forget about backup data. Using a third-party backup solution for Hyper-V can offer advanced features and options for backup and disaster recovery, helping to ensure the safety and
security of your virtual machines and their data.
Here are my favorite & not-so-favorite aspects of using Hyper-V:
Pros of Hyper-V
- Came pre-installed in my Windows 10
- Robust performance
- GPU acceleration feature is incredibly efficient
Cons of Hyper-V
- Not available on Windows 10 or 11 Home
- Other VM solutions can’t run at the same time as Hyper-V
#4. The Free VM for Mac Devices: VMware Fusion (Player)
Want to run Windows on your Mac device? Then, VMware Fusion is the best free VM software out there for you. Like VMware Workstation Player, VMware Fusion Player is 100& free for personal use. But, unlike VMware Workstation, this VM offers amazing Mac-specific functionalities, including support for 5K HD iMac displays.
The VM also offers a useful “Unity Mode,” which lets you launch Windows programs while hiding the desktop interface. Operating a Mac in this mode feels like using Windows apps & programs as if they’re native to macOS. Here are my favorite & not-so-favorite aspects of using VMware Fusion Player:
Pros of VMware Fusion Player
- Offers an easy way to add emulation capabilities to macOS devices
- Free to use
- Supports the latest macOS displays
- Uses the same VMs as non-Mac VMware tools (like VMware Workstation Player)
Cons of VMware Fusion Player
- Can be slow & laggy
- Requires a lot of RAM to run efficiently
There you have it: the best free VMS tools of 2023. Of course, several other free VMS tools deserve your attention. But these are the four VMS tools I’ve used before & I feel confident suggesting giving it a try!
Credits: Thanks for the photo to Canva.
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