Compare VMware Workstation Pro vs. Microsoft Hyper-V

When comparing Workstation Pro to Hyper-V, it's important to consider the type of OS you use, how often you run your VMs and how much hypervisor overhead is feasible.

Many articles that compare VMware and Microsoft technologies often analyze server and data center editions of the software. However, there are editions of Workstation Pro and Hyper-V that target individuals who run VMs on a local computer -- not those that run large numbers of VMs on server hardware.

To understand the differences between Workstation Pro versus Hyper-V, you must first determine which OS types your system relies on, the number of VMs you plan to use on your local computer and how often you'll run them.

The benefits of Hyper-V for continuous VM usage

Microsoft introduced Hyper-V as a data center product with Windows Server. But Hyper-V is now also available with Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education editions. Hyper-V doesn't offer advanced server capabilities, such as live migration, but that's because it's meant for individual use on local computers.

Hyper-V is a Type 1 hypervisor, which means it runs natively on and has direct access to the hardware.

It's beneficial to have a Type 1 hypervisor because it means your Windows 10 OS also runs as a VM in the root partition. Because of Hyper-V's architecture, this does add some CPU latency, which can limit the use of applications with high graphical demands. When you use VMs on an occasional basis, you will always incur this hypervisor overhead within your VM.

Hyper-V comes with Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education editions at no additional cost. The Home edition requires you to purchase a Hyper-V license. Hyper-V doesn't require additional applications prior to installation; just add the Hyper-V role to your VMs. Hyper-V also offers a Quick Create wizard, which simplifies VM creation.

Hyper-V limits guest OS support to recent versions of Windows, including Windows 8.1 and 10, and certain Linux distributions, such as CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Hyper-V also limits the use of USB devices in guest OSes and graphical performance.

You can manage Hyper-V with PowerShell, similar to many other Microsoft products. If you can complete a task in the GUI, you also complete it from the command line. Some operations you can only complete through PowerShell, such as setting up virtual networking.

Workstation Pro offers a wide range of guest OS support

Workstation Pro is a Type 2 hypervisor, which means the system installs the hypervisor directly on the host OS.

Hypervisor types

Workstation Pro supports a broad range of Windows versions, including Home. Workstation Pro can also run on Linux. If Linux is your main OS, Workstation Pro can run Windows within VMs. VMware also offers a product for macOS, named Fusion, that has similar functionality. Though Fusion is a separate product, the license for both Workstation Pro and Fusion are interchangeable.

Workstation Pro supports most 64-bit Windows and Linux guest OSes, such as Windows 2000 and XP. Workstation Pro also supports macOS and VMware ESXi within a VM. A Workstation Pro installation is simple, and VM and different network creations are straightforward. An added benefit is Workstation Pro doesn't use any resources within your system when you don't run VMs.

Workstation Pro also supports graphical applications for Window and Linux guests, including 3D and GPU technology, as well as USB device connection to VMs.

The cost of a Workstation Pro license is around $200. You can opt for the VMware Workstation Player product instead, which is free for personal use and costs around $100 for commercial use. However, Workstation Player doesn't offer as many capabilities as Workstation Pro.

Make the choice between Workstation Pro vs. Hyper-V

When comparing Workstation Pro to Hyper-V, it's important to consider the type of OS you use. If you mainly use Windows as an OS -- both on your host and guests -- then Hyper-V is a good choice.

Hyper-V is also preferable if you use your host as a platform to run VMs continuously. When only using VMs occasionally, the hypervisor overhead might negatively affect your VM usage.

If you plan to use any Windows edition or Linux as your host, then Workstation Pro is a good choice -- especially if you require support for a broad range of guest OSes to run in your VMs.

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