Originally Posted by PritchTheStitch
I am not very experienced in this but can someone explain what I am missing. There seems to be a choice between Paralles and Fusion which both will cost in terms of initial outlay and ongoing upgrades. Then there is the free alternative of VirtualBox. Why should I pay when I can get a recognised product which does the same thing for substantially less ie nil. What is wrong with VirtualBox for there even to be a decsion?
Sorry for being simple but it usually works for me.
Parallels and Fusion offer some integration features not found in VirtualBox. My experience with Fusion is pretty old so I can't speak to its features (I found it to be horrendously buggy back in the day, while my experience with Parallels has always been good), but I can speak to some of what Parallels offers...
With Parallels you can choose which applications (Windows or Mac) open certain files. If you have Office for Windows but not for Mac, you can tell Parallels to always open Office documents using Office for Windows - meaning you can double-click on a Mac .doc file, or click a XLS attachment in Mail.app and Parallels will automatically fire up the corresponding Windows application. Likewise you can double-click a file in your Windows VM and it will be opened using a Mac application (if you choose to do so). You can also right-click on documents in either guest or host operating systems and choose which application (under either guest or host OS) to open the document with.
With Parallels you can drag files back and forth between OSX Finder windows and Windows Explorer windows to move/copy files between guest and host operating systems. It should be noted that, while this adds a level of convenience, it does so by opening up your host operating system to the guest. As such, if your guest OS (such as, say, Windows) becomes infected with a virus, that virus potentially has access to the files on the host operating system (but only if you enable this integration).
Parallels most likely has better driver support, meaning graphics performance is no doubt better.
Parallels offers "MacView" which makes your Windows applications look almost like Mac windows (the controls all take on the look of Mac controls, although each window has its own menu bar, just as in Windows). The Start Menu takes on a Mac appearance as well. This is just eye candy, and I've found that performance suffers in this mode. Besides, it's nothing more than lipstick on a pig.
In Coherence mode, individual windows not only blend in with Mac windows, but they behave well in Spaces. I'm not sure if VirtualBox windows behave this well.
If these features are not important to you (and admittedly some of them can be easily worked around in VirtualBox - shared files for example, as your Mac folders can be easily shared with your guest OS in VirtualBox), then VirtualBox is a very fine alternative. Parallels and VMWare also offer technical support with their products. VirtualBox is community supported.
One big advantage of VirtualBox over Parallels is that VirtualBox VMs can be moved between Mac, Windows, and Linux hosts. VMWare VMs can also be shared, but my experience with using a VM on Fusion that had been created under VMWare Workstation for Windows was less than spectacular.
Another advantage is one that you already know of: VirtualBox is free. VMWare does offer Server for free, but that edition does not run on OSX.