VMware Workstation vs. Player: A guide to test-and-development choices

VMware Player is free. VMware Workstation is not. But in a comparison of VMware Workstation vs. Player, cost is only one consideration.

Both VMware Workstation and Player allow you to virtualize OSes and try out the features and stress-testing components before deploying the OS. You can run multiple OSes on one computer, maintaining access to legacy applications -- such as those that only operate on Windows XP -- or evaluating a new crop of OSes.

VMware Workstation vs. Player comparison

FEATURE WORKSTATION PLAYER COMMENTS
Price $99-$249 Free Upgrading a license to VMware Workstation 9 costs $99 to $119, depending on how many licenses you buy. Installing a new instance of Workstation 9 runs between $199 and $249.
Virtual machines (VMs) Up to eight virtual processors or cores, 2 TB virtual disk space and up to 64 GB of memory per VM Up to four virtual processors, 2 TB virtual disk space and up to 64 GB of memory per VM Workstation proves more capable than Player when it comes to large multi-core VMs.
System requirements

Processor: 1.3 GHz minimum

 

Processor: 1 GHz minimum; 2 GHz recommended Each guest VM requires memory when it's running, so be sure to allocate the resources. When a virtual machine is not running, it won't consume memory.
Memory: 2 GB RAM minimum; 4 GB RAM recommended Memory: 1 GB RAM minimum; 2 GB RAM recommended
Hard drive space: 1.2 GB on a 32- or 64-bit host OS Hard drive space: 150 MB to 250 MB, depending on the host OS
Networking: Any Ethernet controller that the host OS supports Networking: Any Ethernet controller that the host OS supports
Restrictions possible Yes Yes* *With a commercial license, Player users can run restricted VMs that were created in Workstation. VMware Workstation allows the administrator to set custom restrictions on VMs.
VMware vSphere integration Yes No Workstation 9 users can drag and drop a VM from vSphere to the PC, and vice versa. Consider using this feature to offload VM testing from the production environment.
New OS creation Yes Yes Both Player and Workstation support virtualizing Windows 8 and other new OSes. Even if the tool doesn't automatically recognize it, you can still virtualize a new OS.
Advanced features Yes No Upgrading from Player to Workstation unlocks features like multiple snapshots, clones and virtual rights management.
Default virtual networks Bridged/VMnet0, Host-only/VMnet1 and NAT/VMnet8. Bridged/VMnet0, Host-only/VMnet1 and NAT/VMnet8. Player defaults to only use three preconfigured networks, assigned through the Ethernet GUI. To use custom networks, manually change the configuration file.
Virtual Network Editor Included Not included* VMware Workstation includes Virtual Network Editor, which offers advanced functions like network configuration. *You can install Virtual Network Editor for Player 3 and 4, or execute these tasks in Player 5 with some extra work.

Note: Some of the features listed, such as support for Windows 8, are available only in the most recent versions of Workstation and Player. SearchVMware has installation guides for Workstation 9 and Player 5 to reference before you choose a product.

Next Steps

More resources on VMware Workstation and VMware Player

VMware Type-2 hypervisor comparison: Workstation vs. Player vs. Fusion

VMware Fusion vs. Workstation: Choosing an end-user virtualization tool

How to use VMware Workstation

VMware professionals considering a test-and-development tool usually know the main argument for VMware Player: It's free! Depending on what features and capabilities you need, however, VMware Workstation might be worth the cost.

This was first published in March 2013

Dig deeper on VMware Workstation, Fusion and Player

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