VirtualBox vs Hyper-V vs VMware | Detailed Comparison

Being an IT developer, one must be able to work across multiple development environments, so this is not the prime concern. The availability of development environments is the main issue. As a developer has to work on numerous things some operations can be performed on the system they are working on but for some operations, they have to resort to other systems. The advent of virtualization has solved this problem, increasing production and lowering developmental costs. Users can now run multiple OS on a host and perform operations across multiple OS to achieve the desired goals.

There are a couple of platforms that allow to run different operating systems on a single device; however, the top 3 platforms that can be an optimal choice for developers are:

  • Hyper-V
  • VirtualBox
  • VMware

A comprehensive comparison of the three platforms has been covered in the article which can allow the user to choose the best one as per the requirement. So let’s dive and explore what platform we need to work on that suits our requirements.

Types of Hypervisor

Hypervisor is a unique software that helps achieve virtualization. It helps to set the host so that the user can experience multiple development environments in one place. It allows the running of multiple virtual machines on the host machine by handling resource utilization effectively. Also, the guest VMs run independently of the source machine. Two kinds of hypervisors exist:

  • Type 1 hypervisor
  • Type 2 hypervisor

Hyper-V is a type 1 hypervisor as it operates on the system’s hardware and it is powered by system BIOS and UEFI after the machine has started. It starts the managing OS, which works independently of the host system. The virtual machines can be operated manually or automatically which can be adjusted as per user requirements.

Virtualbox is a type 2 hypervisor. This type has a pre-installed application that runs after the system has been functional. The host system operating system is functional when the system is powered on. To run the virtual machines the application (VirtualBox) is used to load the required virtual machine.

VMware offers various types of products from which VMware ESXi and VMware vSphere are type 1 hypervisors that operate on the system hardware and do not depend on the host system. The bare metal architecture allows efficient resource utilization and provides an optimized performance. It is always operational when the host is operational and gives consistent availability. However, VMware Workstation and VMWare Fusion are type 2 hypervisors.

Windows Specialized Hyper-V vs. Multiplatform VirtualBox vs. Multiplatform Vmware vsphere

The Hyper-V is a Windows-specialized software and operates solely on Windows OS or a specialized server. This functionality runs on Windows 8 and higher versions.

VirtualBox can run on multiple OS and it can be used in Linux, Windows Mac OS, etc.

VMware can also be used on multiple operating systems like VirtualBox. It is flexible and can be the optimal choice for IT environments.

So if users have a Windows OS they can use Hyper-V but if they have a multiplatform environment they can use VirtualBox or VMware to meet their needs and run multiple virtual machines.

Guest Operating Systems

The operating system that is set on a virtual machine is known as the guest operating system; while the host operating system is the machine’s operating system. They can be different.

Hyper-V scope is limited and can handle a few operating systems on the VM like Windows, Linux, and FreeBSD.

VirtualBox scope has a greater boundary and can hold more operating systems than the Hyper-V encompassing Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, Mac OS, and many more.

VMware vSphere has extensive compatibility and can power many guest operating systems on the VM. It can power Windows, Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, Mac OS, and many more.

VirtualBox Guest Additions vs. VMware tools vs. Hyper-V Integration Services

VirtualBox guest additions contain the necessary files to power and ensure smooth operations of a system. It is similar to Hyper-V integration services which scales the performance of the guest operating system.

VMware tools have a function similar to VirtualBox guest additions. These files and drivers are needed to power up a system and optimally control the operations considering the time and memory usage.

Hyper-V integration services are a set of basic instructions or drivers that are needed for the smooth functioning of an operating system. They enable consistent operations on the guest OS and are installed on the virtual machine.

  • An ISO file to the virtual machine that contains an installer can be used to install it in Windows.
  • On Linux, it is configured with the kernel of the Linux operating system and the integration services are updated when the kernel is updated.

Virtual Disk Format

The data from the virtual machines is stored on the virtual disk. The three different software in this article have different virtual disk formats. Let’s explore the formats of each.

Virtual Disks of Virtual Machines in Hyper-V are of two types:

  • VHD: an older form of Virtual Hard Disk
  • VHDX: the latest form of Virtual disk which was introduced in Windows Server 2012 for Hyper-V

However, VirtualBox provides four types of Virtual Disks for Virtual Machines:

  • VDI: VirtualBox’s format.
  • VMDK: VMware’s native Virtual Disk format.
  • VHD: Hypr-V’s native Virtual Disk format(VHDX not supported)
  • HDD: Parallels’ image Files (HDD format)

VMware only has one disk format which is the VMDK format. It is efficient and compatible with the VMware environments.

Disk Allocation types

There are two types of disk allocations:

  • Fixed: the fixed virtual disk takes up all the space when the space has been allocated and it allows more smooth functioning. It is also faster and provides more optimized performance.
  • Dynamic: the dynamic allocation does not take up space at the time of disk creation, instead the disk size increases depending upon the requirements and when new files are being written on the disk.

Hyper-V Checkpoints vs. VMware Snapshots vs. VirtualBox Snapshots

Hyper-V checkpoints are the marks where the system info can be saved and can be returned to that state if needed. This is particularly useful when some unnecessary changes have been made and the user needs to return to the last state.

Regarding checkpoints, in the updated version of Hyper-V, there are two kinds:

  • Standard
  • Production

In a standard checkpoint, the problem of data inconsistency arises that happens when the data is changed on the disk with the creation of the checkpoint.

In production checkpoints, the VM is halted before creating the checkpoint that stops the writing operations on the disc. On Windows-based VMs, the VSS is used while on Linux-based VMs the File System Freeze is used.

A different virtual disk is created for each VHD in the machine, whenever a checkpoint is created. Since the checkpoint has been created all the changes are now made to differencing disks. The differencing disk is present in the same folder as the parent one.

VMware Snapshots offer more in-depth control for the system snapshot capturing by aligning it with the time. So user can return to a more specific version by using the time factor. The snapshots are used for testing purposes. When one snapshot is created at a specific point in time a differencing disk is created, if another snapshot is created then another differencing disk. Users can take multiple snapshots which slows down the performance of VM.

VirtualBox Snapshots have the same functionality as the Hyper-V checkpoints. Users can save the system state using the snapshot and can return to the previous versions. Like Hyper-V checkpoints snapshots also create a differencing disk to store the data after the creation of the snapshot. If the user deletes the differencing disk then the content of the file is merged with the parent disk or the file content for multiple differencing disks is merged into a single one. These are primarily used for testing purposes and do not serve any purpose in the production.

Hyper-V VMConnect vs. VirtualBox Remote Display vs. VMware vSphere client

Hyper-V VMConnect is a tool that allows users to engage with the VM’s GUI and manage it. The Windows Management Instrument is used to accomplish this task. Users can interact with the guest operating system on the VM in the same way as the host OS using a mouse and keyboard. You can connect to the virtual machine either locally, where the Hyper-V is installed, or establish a connection over a remote network

The installation of the Hyper-V role enables the VMconnect by default. The Add Features Wizard can be used to enable it manually. To establish a connection, the Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol is used by the VMconnect.

VirtualBox has a variety of tools for managing VMs through a user-friendly graphical interface on the host.VirtualBox has the VirtualBox Remote Desktop Extension that supports many third-party extensions and also has compatibility with the Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol.

The VRDP (VirtualBox Remote Display Protocol) is configured with the RDP that allows the RDP users to control the VMs remotely. To connect to a VM remotely, the user has to provide the host machine’s IP address and the RDP port number which is 3389 by default.

VMware vSphere Client serves in the graphical management of virtual machines. The vSphere Client ensures smooth VM and host interactions providing a scalable environment to the developers.

Hyper-V Live Migration vs. VMware vMotion vs. VirtualBox Teleporting

Hyper-V Live Migration allows the shifting of operational VMs from one host to another without any time delay or problem. The Hyper-V Failover Cluster can be employed for this purpose as it provides maximum availability for the Virtual Machines. A dedicated network should be used in the migration process. The files on the virtual disks can also be shared using the Storage Migration.

VMware vMotion is the vSphere’s live migration feature that allows the seamless movement of an operational VM from one host to another with minimal downtime like the VirtualBox Teleporting. This feature ensures maximum availability and efficient resource utilization.

VirtualBox Teleporting is the migration feature in the VirtualBox with the same functionality as the Hyper-V Live Migration. To move VMs between hosts, the TCP/IP network is used based on the condition of having the same shared storage of source and destination. There is very little downtime during the migration.

Hardware Virtualization and Software Virtualization

Hardware virtualization is supported by Hyper-V, which is a technology that uses a hypervisor to create a layer of abstraction between the software and the physical hardware to simulate computers. The special software displays all of the devices required for the smooth working of a system. UEFI/BIOS enables the hardware virtualization on the system.

The VirtualBox supports both hardware and software virtualization; however, software virtualization is only operational in VMs that are running on 32-bit OS on x86 architecture. While the hardware virtualization is available only on 64-bit guest OS. The major advantage of software virtualization is that it allows the VirtualBox to run many guest operating systems on old computers and lacks hardware virtualization support.

VMware vSphere has the same functionality as VirtualBox and also supports both hardware and software virtualization providing a flexible environment for running guest operating systems including the older systems that lack hardware virtualization support.

Remote Management with GUI

Hyper-V Manager is a GUI tool that allows numerous functions like creating, importing, starting VMs, etc. The user can configure the virtual switches and virtual hard disks, create checkpoints, and many more functions. It can also be used to control virtual machines hosted on a distant Hyper-V server by establishing a connection with it.

With the help of virtual machines and an open-source program called phpVirtualBox, you can control remote VirtualBox VMs. Its interface resembles the VirtualBox interface and users can resultantly manage VirtualBox instances using a web browser. If the user is running a VirtualBox on a server that has no GUI then this tool can be used in place of VirtualBox GUI.

The vSphere Client is VMware’s graphical management tool which offers a user-friendly interface for managing VMs and hosts. The GUI-based environment simplified the process management in the virtualized environment.

Virtual Networking

In Hyper-V, virtual switches are used to connect virtual machines to the network, both within the virtual environment and with the host machine. Following are the three types of virtual network modes:

  • Private
  • Internal
  • External

Compared to Hyper-V, VirtualBox offers more network modes and a variety of networking options.:

  • Not Attached
  • Bridged Adapter
  • NAT
  • NAT Network
  • Host-Only Adapter
  • Internal Network
  • Generic Driver

VMware vSphere also provides many networking options through Standard Switches and Distributed Switches. The network modes of VMware are:

  • NAT
  • Bridged
  • Host-Only

VM Network Traffic Analysis

Hyper-V network traffic analyzer tool is port mirroring. This feature allows the cross-transfer of packet copies for packet analysis. The main thing done using this tool is troubleshooting. User can create a VM over a virtual network adapter which is connected to a virtual switch port, now install the packet analyzer on the receiver VM, and send network packets to the receiver VM from multiple VMs for analysis.

Similarly, VirtualBox has a tool that allows one to track and log network activity in the VM. The data is recorded into the PCAP files and the files can be analyzed using the tool Wireshark. This tool can be turned on using a command but it is to be noted to turn it off to avoid filling the computer’s memory with the network log files.

VMware vSphere uses features like NetFlow and Port Mirroring and these features allow users to log and record data over the virtualized network. It also helps in troubleshooting and optimization.

Shared Folders, Drag and Drop

Shared folders help exchange data between different systems and the technique can be employed to copy files from the host OS to the guest OS or guest OS to the host OS.

Hyper-V doesn’t have a built-in feature for seamless sharing of files across OS. if users want to share files then they can manually access them using the graphical interface or the PowerShell. Users can also use a PowerShell command, Copy-VMFile, to copy files between host and VM. Hyper-V also allows to connection of USB storage devices to the virtual machine.

VMware has a feature known as Shared Folder, allowing seamless transfer of files between the host machine and the guest machine. Follow the steps below for enabling it in the VirtualBox user interface:

  • Open VM Settings, and select the Shared Folders.
  • Mention the folder path on the host machine.
  • Set a name for the folder that will be shown in the guest OS.
  • Some additional features can also be availed from the checkboxes that appear. The user needs to install VirtualBox Guest Additions on the guest OS for this feature to work.

VMware tools also have the feature of Shared folders that allow seamless file exchange between the host and the guest OS. Moreover, it supports a drag-and-drop feature making it easier to transfer files between the VM and the host system.


Hyper-V, a technology for running VMs in Windows servers, offers security features to protect your virtual environments. Encryption technology can be used for enhanced security. Newer VMs support virtual Trusted Platform Module(vTPM) for encryption, while older ones use a key storage drive. Secure boot ensures that only trusted software boots on the Generation 2 VMs. For maximum overall security, Hyper-V uses Shielded Virtual Machines.

VirtualBox provides a way to encrypt data stored on the VM disks for added security. Users can use 256-bit or 128-bit encryption keys for encryption. It’s important to keep the VM configuration file, which stores the encryption key, in a secure location to avoid data loss. Encrypted disks in VirtualBox can’t be used with other virtualization software. VirtualBox employs the AES algorithm in the XTS mode for the encryption of VM data that asks for the password from the user.

VMware vSphere gives great importance to security VM encryption, Secure Boot for VMs, and the use of virtual Trusted Platform Modules. These functionalities provide a secure virtualized environment and meet the enterprise-level security standards.


Hyper-V has two versions Windows clients and server versions which have the requirement for a paid license to use. An alternative to it is Hyper-V Server. It is a hypervisor with a command-line interface and has fewer functions as compared to the full-featured paid version of Hyper-V for Windows.

VirtualBox is a free and well-reputed virtualization platform governed by the GNU General Public License, version 2 and it helps in powering VMs on the machine. There is another free but non-open source feature called the VirtualBox Extension Pack which is distributed under the VirtualBox Extension Pack Personal Use and Evaluation License. It provides extra features like USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 device support, PXE boot, VM encryption, and many other functionalities.

A variety of licensing options are available for VMware vSphere, including paid licenses for advanced features. Different editions can be used as per the need and are mostly used at the organizational level making it a scalable and customizable solution for virtualization.

That’s all about the comparison of the three virtualization environments.


To sum up, when it comes to choosing the right virtualization environment it specifically depends on the needs and preferences. Hyper-V is great for Windows-based OS, while VirtualBox is versatile and free with some extra features available through the VirtualBox Extension Pack. VMware is more scalable and optimal and is used in larger organizations. Users can choose the right environment by factors like the operating system they want to use, the types of features needed, and their budget. Each has its strengths so considering the requirements and the differences users can choose the virtualization solution that meets their needs.

About the author

Shehroz Azam

A Javascript Developer & Linux enthusiast with 4 years of industrial experience and proven know-how to combine creative and usability viewpoints resulting in world-class web applications. I have experience working with Vue, React & Node.js & currently working on article writing and video creation.