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
|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.|
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.
More resources on VMware Workstation and VMware Player
VMware Fusion vs. Workstation: Choosing an end-user virtualization tool
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.