VirtualBox vs. Parallels: Full Comparison

virtualbox vs parallels

VirtualBox vs. Parallels: Full Comparison

There is no doubt that Apple has a vast fan base, and many individuals who have upgraded from Windows to macOS believe they have it all. But it’s only until they discover that some of their favorite applications are only available for Windows. This is where our VirtualBox vs Parallels comparison comes in.

You no longer have to worry if you have found yourself in this situation. That’s because there is software available that enables Mac users to run Windows on their machines. Namely, virtualization software allows you to run multiple operating systems on the same computer.

VirtualBox and Parallels are the two dominant virtualization products available today. However, while the two perform similar functions, they both target different markets with different features and prices.

In this VirtualBox vs. Parallels guide, we compare the two software in terms of speed, performance, and other factors to help you discover one which will meet your needs. Let’s get started!

VirtualBox vs. Parallels: Side-by-Side Comparison

What it isA software that lets you run nearly any OS on a single machine and easily switch between OS instances that are running concurrentlyAllows you to simultaneously run both Windows and macOS applications with speed, control, and confidence
PriceFree-to-use technology for individual users (business license start at $50 per user)A business license costs $120 per year per user (free trial for businesses available for a limited time)
FeaturesProvides a high level of customization, allowing users to specify which hardware resources are allocated to the virtualized machineProvides excellent CPU and GPU performance (runs demanding applications on virtual machines)
System RequirementsMicrosoft Windows 10 (32-bit or 64-bit) 4 GB RAM, 25 GB Disk Space recommendedIntel Core M or Xeon processor, 4 GB RAM minimum, 600 MB disk space for Desktop application installation
UsabilityEasy and quick to use (even with 5-6 VMs running, it maintains a sufficient speed)Has good integration, including peripheral connections (availability of a few different display modes)
infographic for virtualbox vs parallels

VirtualBox vs. Parallels: What’s the Difference?

Since Parallels requires payment before access, most users will automatically pick VirtualBox as it is free software. However, it’s worth looking into the Parallels’ features before deciding whether to make a payment or not.

You may as well try out the Parallels free trial version to see if it better meets your needs. Here is what sets them apart.

Installation Process

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VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product.


The more user-friendly the installation process is, the more probable it is that customers will purchase and use the software. At least that’s how software companies see it. Because of this, both VirtualBox and Parallels have made setting up their desktops simple.

Out of the two software, the Parallels setup process is much simpler. The company also provides users with an easy-to-follow installation guide. You have the option to choose a step or move on to the next one. This makes the overall installation process super simple.

You can customize several options that are presented to you during setup. It will be simple and automatic for you to optimize Parallels for either productivity or gaming. VirtualBox is also easy to install and set up.

You will have the option of creating a virtual machine and choosing either Windows or Linux as the OS. During setup, VirtualBox will give you the ability to modify the system settings, as well as the video memory. Once you’ve made your selections, you can install the operating system using an ISO file, a USB drive, or an installation disc.

Both these systems are simple to set up, but Parallels has a more user-friendly installation process and a detailed tutorial that will walk you through the process step by step.


VMs are used to share resources and applications with the host OS. Therefore, it’s crucial to have software with sufficient performance to satisfy your needs. For many reasons, VirtualBox’s performance falls substantially below that of Parallels. In several areas, including setup and approach, as well as quality graphics, Parallels outperforms VirtualBox.

In addition, it performs better when transferring files. Parallels also speeds up the PC startup while saving battery life. Because of its exceptional quality, it’s an excellent software to use for working with 3D graphics or gaming. When performing CPU-related tasks, Parallels also performs better compared to VirtualBox.


parallels vs boot camp
Parallels is based in Bellevue, Washington.

©Parallels, Inc., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Using a virtual machine is less efficient and slower than using a real machine. This is due to the host processor’s need to consent to some requests when Parallels or VirtualBox run on the host machine.

As VMs use more RAM, your system may run a little slower. You can usually run Windows on your Mac without issues, and the speed difference isn’t always noticeable.

Parallels has been known to be lightning fast; it boots faster compared to VirtualBox and transfers files at a more rapid rate. It does not consume extra battery life when in use, as VirtualBox does. Parallels is also faster to use as it allows you to access all of your Windows programs directly from the Dock, making everything much easier to use.

You won’t be able to do this with VirtualBox. Instead, you’ll have to launch the virtual machine to allow you to access your apps in VirtualBox. When using either VirtualBox or Parallels, Windows may start running slowly; this can be caused by several factors.

The best action to take would be to upgrade to the most recent software version. Because VirtualBox is free, it is easy to download the most recent versions of the software, improving and enhancing performance. On the other hand, Parallels offer annual updates with extra features.

VirtualBox: Pros and Cons

It is freeDependent on the host machine
Easy to set up – No advanced knowledge is required to start creating VMsLess efficient compared to similar software or the real machine
It runs in the backgroundIt can easily be affected by host machine weakness
It is easy to use – simple to add new virtual machines using wizard-based deploymentOccasional stability issues
Performs the task of running Windows effectively 
Portability – you can easily move virtual machines from one host to another 

Parallels: Pros and Cons

Easy to installYou need to pay a license fee
User-friendlyRequires better handling of network loss and USB
Appealing user interface
Suitable for graphics and gaming 
Retina support 
A free trial version is available 
Lightning fast 
Zero configurations required 

VirtualBox VS Parallels: 9 Must-Know Facts

  1. Parallels for business costs $120 annually per user. There is also access to a limited free trial for businesses.
  2. VirtualBox is a free-to-use technology for individual users, but it can be licensed for commercial use starting at $50 per user. Businesses can use the free version to test before purchasing.
  3. Both VirtualBox and Parallels can run Windows on Mac devices (can run both Windows and macOS simultaneously in one computer).
  4. Parallels offers Mac users the easiest and fastest way to run Windows applications.
    It has a user-friendly desktop, allowing you to use Windows applications and load the Windows desktop on your computer or laptop.
  5. VirtualBox is ideal for simple home use or if you occasionally need to use your Mac for business purposes. It also has several customization options, but they aren’t as fancy.
  6. Parallels will allow you to transfer files much easier than VirtualBox. Additionally, you’ll be able to boot your PC faster and save on battery life.
  7. Both VirtualBox and Parallels will allow you to run multiple operating systems simultaneously. They will also enable you to set up, configure, and save a Virtual Machine.
  8. You can use Parallels to automatically install a guest operating system driver and share profiles and apps. Also, you can install a helpful assistant and get any technical support whenever you need it.
  9. With just one click, Parallels will allow you to download and set up Windows on your Mac. It also includes straight-off support for Retina displays.

VirtualBox vs. Parallels: Which One Is Better?

Parallels is a professional software that is well-designed and easy to use. It has an easy-to-use interface that directs you throughout the installation process and available customer support if you get stuck.

It is the best choice for home users due to its enhanced features. However, both types of software are ideal for anyone who does not want to buy a separate machine for running different operating systems.

Whether you opt to install VirtualBox or Parallels depends on your personal preference and the purpose of the software. VirtualBox may be your go-to software if all you need is a simple, easy-to-use software that enables you to run your favorite Windows applications on your Mac.

But if you need CPU-related functions or use gaming applications, or other graphic software, then Parallels is the most suitable choice.

VirtualBox has the advantage of being free, which makes it an attractive choice for most people. Although Parallels is a paid software, it is user-friendly and has better performance and features.

Parallels also uses up less battery life and has more frequent software updates than VirtualBox. To ensure that you have new features and add-ons, you must continue paying the annual license fee. For some, this may be too expensive. But for others, the additional benefits and features provided by Parallels make it worthwhile.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why choose Parallels over VirtualBox?

Unlike VirtualBox, Parallels is simple to use and allows you to run both Windows and Linux smoothly. There is no prior experience required.

Parallels makes it much easier to install and configure Windows. Plus, it supports Retina displays. You don’t have to know what settings are needed. Novice users can run Windows applications concurrently, without rebooting, then quickly transfer files between operating systems.

Is VirtualBox good for Mac?

VirtualBox, like Parallels, allows you to run Windows in either a window or full-screen mode on your Mac desktop. It also has a third mode called Seamless, which allows you to run a single Windows app in a window or full-screen, hiding the Windows taskbar and desktop.

How do Parallels work?

To add Linux, Windows, or another OS to your Mac, Parallels creates a VM (Virtual Machine) – a virtual PC inside your Mac. You can then install Windows on the virtual machine the same way you would install any other OS on a regular computer.

Multiple operating systems run on your Mac simultaneously, similar to having two computers in one.

Is Parallels faster than VirtualBox?

Often, the speed does not appear noticeably slower, and you will be able to run Windows on your Mac without issues. Parallels has been described as lightning-fast; it boots faster as compared to VirtualBox and transfers files at a faster rate.

Is VirtualBox still free?

VirtualBox is an extremely feature-rich, high-performance product for enterprise customers and the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 3.

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